From Lingerie to Lifestyle: The Rebirth of The Underwear Industry

From Lingerie to Lifestyle: The Rebirth of The Underwear Industry


Kim Kardashian launches shapewear company, Skims.
Kim Kardashian launches shapewear firm, Skims, in 2019. Photograph: Twitter @KimKardashian

Information of the return of the controversial Victoria’s Secret Vogue Present was launched to the general public earlier this 12 months in March in the course of the lingerie firm’s investor call for 2023 Q1. Reactions are blended with some contemplating the lingerie enterprise to have entered its sundown years, whereas others are plainly and vehemently in opposition to the corporate making an attempt to place up a present of any variety. Between body-shaming, transphobia, misogynistic practices and alleged ties to the late high-profile intercourse trafficker, Jeffery Epstein, Victoria’s Secret has a greater than sticky historical past to climb out of. 

Bella Hadid and Halsey walk the runway during the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Nov. 8, 2018 in New York City. 
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Bella Hadid and Halsey stroll the runway in the course of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Vogue Present at Pier 94 on 8 November 2018 in New York Metropolis. Photograph: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

The present loved a 24 year-long run which peaked at 12.4 million views in 2001 within the US, although declining sales and record low viewership in 2018 in gentle of the mounting controversies led to the present’s cancellation in 2019. For higher or worse, the Victoria’s Secret runway was at one level the underwear trade mecca the place popular culture and vogue intersected. A-list performances have been interspersed in between rows of tremendous fashions marching down the catwalk every year, however main feminist voices in music like Rihanna and Woman Gaga in 2012 and 2016 respectively. The autumn of the VS Vogue Present and, concomitantly, the Victoria’s Secret Angel, therefore represented a basic shift in vogue’s positioning in the direction of underwear. 

Jasmine Tookes and Shawn Mendes walk the runway during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Nov. 8, 2018 in New York City
Jasmine Tookes and Shawn Mendes share the runway on the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Vogue Present. Photograph: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

Horny Turns into Cheesy

The mediatised physique of the Victoria’s Secret Angel constituted many issues suddenly. Unrealistic, Eurocentric magnificence requirements and the encroachment of the male gaze in nearly each nook of mass media have been certainly of concern, nevertheless it additionally pushed underwear out into the mass market highlight considerably in an period of intercourse being taboo with a single, highly effective message — “intercourse sells”. 

Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham. Photo: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic
Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham. Photograph: Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

Extra than simply supermodel glam, the Angels have been so magnetic exactly as a result of they have been so provocative. The risqué core of the present drew in as they compelled open scandalised eyes by a mixture of shock and awe, imbuing in underwear energy and status-conferring qualities. But, with mounting controversy over body-inclusivity transgressions and a normalising of intercourse with Third Wave Feminism, showcasing our bodies with nothing however underwear on began to turn into virtually just a little boring. Worst, it was deemed to be hypersexualised. In any case, what’s overdone in any respect routinely turns into ill-informed, outdated and cheesy. The period of the hypersexy underwear trade was over. 

Photograph: Calvin Klein

It was not mere coincidence that the autumn of Victoria’s Secret aligned with the rise of Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein. The eminent Belgian designer loved a two-year stint with the American vogue home most recognisable for his or her racy underwear campaigns from the 90s all by the 2010s. Notorious of those is the 1992 Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss marketing campaign. The marketing campaign video featured the then rap artist and nascent would-be supermodel naked chested in a playful dance strategically obscuring Moss’s bosom, wearing low-rise denims iconically exposing the bands of their Calvin Klein underwear. Different notable examples embody the 2014 #MyCalvins marketing campaign that includes celebrities like pop-star Justin Bieber posting attractive footage of themselves donning solely Calvin Klein underwear. The #MyCalvins marketing campaign alone is approximated to have introduced in US$69 million in income.

Feeling Good Over Feeling Horny

With the risqué premise of promoting intercourse falling out of vogue, Simons’ takeover as Calvin Klein’s artistic director appeared virtually serendipitous along with his distinctively inventive, softer tackle advertising intimates and design as an entire. His breakout spring present in 2017 was critically lauded for its presentation of a superbly epicene imaginative and prescient of Americana, cinema and artwork, successful him the Council of Vogue Designers of America Designer of the 12 months Award for each womenswear and menswear. 

2017 Calvin Klein Spring campaign: American Classics.
Calvin Klein’s 2017 Spring marketing campaign, “American Classics”. Photograph: Willy Vandeperre

His adjoining spring marketing campaign titled, “American Classics”, departed from Calvin Klein’s routine hypersexualising techniques and shifted the highlight to the works of three main American artists as an alternative: Richard Prince, Andy Warhol and Sterling Ruby. The marketing campaign appeared extra to showcase the artwork works, with the slender but androgynous our bodies of fashions with muted wardrobe staples and denim solely serving as adornments on the facet, their faces and torsos principally turned away from the digicam as if to de-emphasise their sexuality in choice for the softness of their silhouettes. The end result: a privileging of epicene sensuality over hypersexuality; of feeling good over feeling attractive. Calvin Klein’s advertising techniques and the underwear trade at massive have been about to endure an enormous shift. 

2017 Calvin Klein Spring campaign: American Classics.
Photograph: Willy Vandeperre

Whereas Simons left Calvin Klein in 2019 below criticism of manufacturing collections that have been deemed “too elegant” to convey internet revenue to the Home, his affect on the underwear trade continues to be felt until immediately not least in Calvin Klein’s intimates line itself. The Home’s Spring 2022 marketing campaign featured a motley crew of different multi-disciplinary artists of color, akin to Ok-pop star JENNIE and hip-hop artist Dominic Fike, in an avantgarde interview montage slicing from up to date dance scenes in an open subject to floating in a lake surrounded by an unlimited mountain vary, interspersed with shut up snapshots of the artists speaking about intimate subjects like neighborhood, belonging and love. Slightly than sexualising unbiased physique elements, the underwear on this marketing campaign was stylised as versatile, easy and most significantly — snug. 

Video: Youtube @calvinklein

New Markets for Inclusivity and Luxurious

With the departure from its hypersexualised previous, underwear was lastly allowed to be snug once more. Stylish but straightforward — effortlessness has turn into the brand new attractive. This new iteration of underwear advertising therefore noticed it be part of the ranks of life-style merchandise, an on a regular basis merchandise that was without delay informal and of paramount significance to the wearer. You didn’t put on underwear to be attractive anymore, however what sort of underwear you wore did decide how trendy you have been. 

JENNIE's personal capsule collection for Calvin Klein. Photo: Hong Jang Hyun.
JENNIE’s capsule assortment for Calvin Klein. Photograph: Hong Jang Hyun

Kardashian clued in early on this phenomenon in 2019, strategically launching her personal “solutions-oriented” attire model, Skims. Skims reframed underwear as “shapewear”, advertising their intimates as “second skins” not solely designed to be pores and skin color inclusive, however physique inclusive as properly. The physique positivity wave adopted carefully after the intercourse positivity wave, opening up a by no means earlier than tapped into inclusivity area of interest within the underwear marketplace for Skims to dominate early on. As of July 2023, Skims is valued at US$4 billion and enjoys a semi-luxury standing in not simply the underwear market, however the wider attire market as properly with their bodysuits marketed as versatile items all on their very own. 

Skims' 2022 Adaptive Collection targeted at people with disabilities. Photo: Skims
Skims’ 2022 Adaptive Assortment focused at folks with bodily disabilities. Photograph: Skims

With the physique constructive growth into the approach to life merchandise trade, promoting underwear instantly turned considerably extra accessible to an entire vary of gamers. It had been elevated from sleazy boxer briefs to assertion items, with luxurious homes like Dolce & Gabbana hopping on the underwear band resurgence wave. The Italian home featured their intimates line prominently of their Spring 2023 menswear present, sending the primary mannequin of the present down the runway barefooted with nothing however briefs, a tank prime and a rosary hung across the neck. Actually, in relation to underwear, much less is extra.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring Menswear 2023.
Photograph: Isidore Montag/

Whereas this isn’t the primary time the Home has despatched fashions down the runway, it was the primary time the underwear band itself was featured as a stand alone piece. Fashions on the runway donned  Dolce & Gabbana underwear bands as a belt on prime of tank tops already tucked into the underwear. Such a hyper emphasis on the underwear band solely speaks to the ever present place underwear maintain in not solely popular culture but additionally luxurious vogue immediately. 

Dolce & Gabbana Spring Menswear 2023.
Photograph: Isidore Montag/

Way of life merchandise are key for luxurious homes for which entry degree merchandise supply additional attain to new market audiences than their predominant merchandise. Underwear appears to suit the posh life-style product mannequin completely in how it’s priced on the entry degree and but stays an “important” on a regular basis merchandise that may all the time be in demand.

From lingerie to life-style, the underwear trade now operates below new paradigms with ample house on each ends of the market. It has turn into a product that redefines attractive even because it symbolises it, increasing the notion of consolation from the merely materials to additional, being snug in a single’s personal pores and skin. 

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Alex Lorel

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