As a final piece of my Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter ’14 coverage, I’m really happy to resurrect my sadly neglected interview series to share a conversation I had this week with Lauren Rich, the mastermind behind Lingerie Fashion Week. She shares her thoughts about some of the huge strides the event has made in a single year, as well as some hopes for future seasons. Take it away, Lauren!
1. What drew you to lingerie? I know lots of people have very individual stories about why they love it or why they think it’s important.
I think it’s more what drew lingerie to me! It seems to have been a recurring theme in my life – starting with a part time job in high school working in the intimate apparel department of the Bon Ton, then interning for FreshPair.com’s National Underwear Day in college, and ending up with an influx of lingerie brands early on in my PR career. I actually started (RICHPR) doing womenswear, but after working with so many great lingerie brands and really loving the market, I decided to focus on intimates exclusively.
2. How did the idea for Lingerie Fashion Week come about? Did you ever see yourself working in the lingerie industry specifically?
Coming from a womenswear background where there is so much focus on Fashion Week, one of the first things I noticed when specializing in intimates was – where is a Fashion Week for lingerie? Swimwear has one so I thought surely someone will do one for intimates. After a few more years went by expecting to see one emerge, I never did. So I pulled on my PR & events backgrounds, merging my womenswear experience with intimates experience, to launch the first Lingerie Fashion Week – with the goal twofold: to elevate the profile of lingerie designers amongst both industry and the greater consuming public, and to merge the lingerie, fashion and creative communities.
3. You’ve got three seasons under your belt now, with new designers and more press each season. How do you feel about these successes? I know it’s mean to play favorites, but do you have a favorite show (or shows) that you really enjoyed or that surprised you?
Seeing a steady growth of brands, sponsors and press results each season is really rewarding. In one year alone we went from 6 designers to 17 designers, press mentions now totaling over 900 million media impressions to audiences from North & South America to Europe and Asia. It’s hard to choose favorites – I honestly have to take my hat off to ALL designers that have jumped on board thus far. It’s never easy to be the first to try a new concept and we are truly indebted to those who have taken this leap with us so early on. But, I have to say the shows that stand out the most are the ones that do something particularly unique. You! Lingerie putting (beautiful!) expecting models on the runway in August, Secrets in Lace holding a “halftime” burlesque performance in the middle of the their runway show (not to mention a video intro by Dita Von Teese), NOE Undergarments staging a futuristic presentation, Kix’ies Thigh Highs showcasing their collection on hoop artists and contortionists, Affinitas & Parfait this past season turning their runway this season into an “enchanted forest,” and LAYNEAU making their collection debut on models up to age 60. I also really loved FYI by Dani Read’s unique utilization of a presentation this season, staging a grand entrance and consistently transitioning her convertible pieces throughout the one-hour show.
4. What did you feel were the successes and challenges of the most recent season of Lingerie Fashion Week?
The successes are as mentioned above – growth! Increased designer and sponsor participation, a bigger and more efficient venue, greater industry attendance, more press coverage, etc. But with growth comes growing pains, which for us this past season translated into a few logistics glitches, primarily timing delays. We also had greater on-site attendance from press and industry than ever before, but also an influx of non-industry guests that we previously didn’t experience.
We do hold one show each season that is specifically designed for and open to the public – the Closing Benefit, where of course we expect and encourage consumer attendance. All of the other shows, however, are designed to target (lingerie and fashion) press and industry members only. That said, we as Lingerie Fashion Week do not control the guest lists. You can think of us as an umbrella – we are the platform that hosts individual shows and events. When a designer comes on board, they are in control of their show, from creative direction and models, décor to guest list. We as Lingerie Fashion Week do however receive many incoming inquiries from press wanting to attend. For these individuals we send a Press Application, which, if approved, puts them on a Press Accreditation List that is distributed to each season’s designers. Designers can then review the list and reach out to those they’d like to invite – all of whom, of course, have been pre-screened by us. Many individuals, however, will reach out to designers (and/or their PR teams) directly, in which case it is up to that designer’s direction alone to accept or decline an RSVP. While we cannot completely control a designer’s guest list, we will be taking steps to better monitor and advise in seasons moving forward to streamline attendance.
5. I know you were as dismayed as I was by the incredibly misogynistic blog post that was written about LFW, its designers, and its models. What is your response? I know free speech and all that, but do you have any plans to further enforce some journalistic standards for future seasons?
Well. Of course constructive criticism is one thing, but talking about models (and women, for that matter) in a misogynistic way is never acceptable, especially in the sensitive context of lingerie. We are proud that our designers hire models of all body shapes and sizes, and wouldn’t have it any other way. As with any venture, along with growth also means being further out there in the public – resulting in a greater opportunity for anyone to say anything. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to prevent people from saying what they want, positive or negative, appropriate or inappropriate, true or untrue. We hope the public can use best judgment to discern for themselves what is constructive criticism, and what’s simply inappropriate. And we can of course do our best in future seasons to advise designers on guest lists per above, and continue to implement our Press Application process to pre-screen press members on our end.
6. Where do you see the show in five years?
Hopefully continuing to grow by leaps and bounds! What exactly those leaps are – I couldn’t predict. Generally speaking however, I hope each season to bring on even further diversity in brands and models, more creativity in show concepts and execution, building on greater and greater press coverage, and of course offering a seamless, valuable experience for designers, sponsors and guests.
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A huge thanks to Lauren for sharing her thoughts with me this week in response to my post about the final runway show. Now that I’ve wrapped up coverage, are there any shows that really stood out to you? Brands you’d like to see in person? Pieces you loved? I’d love to hear what you think!