|John La Gatta for Laros Lingerie, c. early 1940s.|
As bleak as it looks, this market isn't completely empty: independent brands like Britain's Miss Mandalay, Poland's Avocado, and Germany's Fraulein Annie do an excellent job catering to the middle market and two new brands, Sunday Intimates and All Undone, are joining them. They're providing full bust women with understated and comfortable basics, truly striking fashion, risky color combinations and they're unafraid of stepping outside mainstream taste. I also worry that they're struggling to break through because they're so ahead of their time and buyers don't understand who their customer might be. After all, if a full bust brand isn't known for their tediously dependable fit or they can't be counted on for precious flirty fashion, what are they good for?
Meanwhile, Freya, who invented the youthful market and dominated it for years, has outgrown it's own niche. Their direction isn't floundering because they're a bad company, they're simply lost and without a clear vision, they're clinging to an old one. As irksome as their recent missteps have been, it's a wonderful opportunity for the brand to steer into unchartered territory and regain their reputation as an innovative market leader. All the big brands are committed one way or another and they've decided which team they're playing for, but Freya's allegiances are more ambiguous. Freya also possesses the
power to steer the entire industry in a new direction and with worldwide distribution and modest price points, they could bring this aesthetic to a broader demographic.
I've made a series of collages to help define what the middle market means to me and how Freya's designs have strayed from what feels current and fresh. I know this won't apply to every women who is a middle market customer, but I thought it would be a good way to start the conversation.
|First Column: Avocado Vedette Bra, Beaujais Inking Bra, Madewell Honeydew Exclusive Brief (sold out)|
Second Column: Stella McCartney Tammy Tickling Bodysuit, Arabel Petites Gwenhyfar Knickers and Garter Belt
Third Column: Huit Mrs. Wang Full Cup Bra, Topshop Bodysuit (sold out), Huit Rhapsody Full Cup Bra
Fourth Column: Huit Melisande Half Cup Bra, Huit Cupcake Set (sold out), Avocado Kyoto Short (sold out)
Freya hit a home run with the Arabella but since it's semi-retirement, their sheer bras have continually missed the mark. Brands are constantly telling me that teenagers vastly prefer padded bras and older women are the ones who are really buying this style up. My own experiences back them up, I only began wearing sheer sets when I felt comfortable in my body and sexually self assured. However, Freya's latest designs look like they're intended for younger girls, who might be into glittery embroidery, purple butterflies or bright candy pink trim. Instead of trying to win over a reluctant and inflexible clientele, they should concentrate on what women want.
I love sheer lingerie because, unlike padded or opaque styles, they frame my body rather than overwhelm or hide it. Their design doesn't need to be overly complicated or fussy so simple geometrics, graphic lines, scalloped contrasts, and any stark recurring pattern are wonderful. I'm also a HUGE fan of tattoo effects so I'd die from happiness if Freya released a sheer bra made from beige or transparent fabric with a contrast pattern throughout, like the Stella McCartney bodysuit.
|First Column: Elle MacPherson Intimates Dentelle Contour Bra, Avocado Lingerie Kyoto Set, Fauve Chloe Bra|
Second Column: Anthropologie Embroidered Branches Set, Stella McCartney Jodie Rocking Bra (sold out), Sunday Intimates Dottie Bra
Third Column: Claudette Sophia Bra, All Undone Didi
Fourth Column: Panache Dahlia Bra, Avocado Lingerie Nina set, Marlies Dekker Dames de Paris
The Deco craze aside, Freya's basics are weak and in the last few seasons, I've watched as they've tried to work it out. This season's black Ohh La La was planned as a continuity, but has been replaced with a pink version for next year. The Marvel has been repeatedly delayed, the Rio has mysteriously returned, and the all new Enchanted boasts "higher under arm coverage" which is a frequent Freya fit complaint. The creators of the Arabella, the Jolie, and the Deco should have a firmer grasp on what we'd like from our basics.
Everyday bras would be a great place for Freya to experiment with androgynous or sporty styles that employ color blocking, straps, larger hardware or pinstripes rather than floral prints and bow accents. Even though it's not traditionally my cup of tea, sleeker or menswear-inspired designs would be a refreshing sight. I'd also like basics with a thinner and more comfortable padding too, like the Sunday Intimates Dottie bra above.
|First Column: Pinterest (source unknown), Stella McCartney Sam Partying Bra (sold out), Huit Interview Bra|
Second Column: Miss Crofton Picture Perfect Shorts, Stella McCartney Irene Gardening Bra (sold out), November Lingerie Brief (sold out)
Third Column: Huit Arpege Bra, Princess Tam Tam Graffiti Bra, La Lilouche June High Brief
Fourth Column: Avocado Lingerie Annick bra (one size left), Sunday Intimates Sara Set
Even when they're down, Freya's fashion is some of the best in the business and I can't complain too bitterly when they've made the Russian doll print, kissing flamingos, and a black and tan fan pattern. But, like the Deco situation, I've begun to wonder if they're using their fashion to coast by. Are they releasing prints simply because it's what they've done in the past? Are they adding lace accents because that's what they have on hand, even if it doesn't compliment the rest of the design? How many tiny ribbon bows does the world really need? At market, fashion is the trickiest to sell, but I've heard buyers gasp at the sight of Huit's debuts and I've seen them collide with one another to get a good look at something phenomenal. Freya has the potential to inspire similar reactions, but their bar isn't set high enough.
I want my fashion bras to reflect the rest of my personal style so in my collage, I included several '40s inspired pieces since I own a lot of peplum, puffed sleeves, and pencil skirts that reference that period. I also gravitate towards uncommon colors and textures, but only when they're presented in a straightforward and sophisticated manner. For whatever reason full bust brands refuse to see this essential piece of the puzzle, middle market women want their lingerie to reflect the trends they wear in outerwear. I'm in my mid-twenties and I dress like most people my age, so why wouldn't that concept extend to my lingerie drawer?
What do you think, is there a gap in the full bust lingerie industry?
Are you a member of the middle market?
Do you think Freya should begin designing for this demographic?