Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lonely Lingerie

Sarra, Melbourne wears the Billie set
Just before Christmas and finding myself with a rare child-free day, I finally ventured to the new Lonely lingerie store in Newmarket, Auckland. I've been a fan of Lonely for years and as an avid fan of beautiful underwear, I've been thrilled to follow the success of this local label as they have developed their Lonely Hearts range from clothing staples to include swimwear and lingerie. The Lonely store front is quite innocuous - no display, no mannequins, just a wall - sleek and simple, save for a Christmas decoration in the window - a single pine branch with a red bow.
Upon opening the door, I'm faced with a musk pink passage. It feels very private and exclusive. I walk to the end and turn a corner into a beautiful little cloistered room, again in a beautiful pale musk pink with warm gold fittings. It feels like you've gone through C.S Lewis's magic wardrobe to be transported from the bustling street to your own private girly salon. Something that makes me feel uncomfortable is public lingerie departments, where other shoppers (or loitering partners) sometimes watch what you are choosing - so the fact that this beautiful little store is "hidden" away from prying eyes is a relief and a breath of fresh air. It's almost womb-like when you reach the end of the hallway and come to this small rounded space, with matching round chairs in deep blue velvet, a circular gold desk and round shelving. I also noticed the cool quirky choice of music - 'Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys', the Willie Nelson version I think (makes a change from Norah Jones or Buble) - and delicious Maison Louis Marie enveloping the air and beautifully displayed on a huge round gold shelf.
My images
Of the layout, the designer responsible (Rufus Knight) explains. "Privacy, intimacy, softness, beauty, curiosity, simplicity … these were all words we used to describe not only the feelings that we wanted to evoke, but also the material and colour palette. Our brief was all about providing a beautiful customer experience - a journey that was thoughtfully designed to ensure the customer really felt special and cared for our way.” They've nailed it.
There's no counter, just a round desk where staff use an iPad and wireless Eftpos machine to process your orders which are then carefully swathed in white tissue and put into an elegantly subtle white paper bag. As founder Steve says “We’ve always been ones to go against the status quo.” I took my talented artist and design teacher friend Nikki Dee to the store. "The fit-out and colour scheme of the interior is a nod to the new Feminine Brutalist style that has been coming through strongly from Europe. The rugged raw concrete of traditional Brutalism has been softened by dusky rose walls and gold metallic trims. The heavy blue velvet ottomans bring in a luxurious touch drama. It's a stunning backdrop for the delicate fabrics and laces of the Lonely collection". 
Founded with Wellingtonian Helene Morris, Aucklander Steve Ferguson met Helene in Aspen where he was competing as a pro snowboarder and working as a designer for New Zealand brand Huffer. Helene's background is in graphic design. Her friend was photographing Steve.
In 2003 Helene and Steve started their fashion label Lonely Hearts Club together in Wellington, producing bags and printed tees. They moved to Auckland 3 years later and rapidly developed a cult following here and in Oz.
In 2010, Lonely Lingerie was launched. “For women who wear lingerie as a love letter to themselves” says Helene Morris. They felt that underwear imagery was all photoshopped and showing unrealistic bodies, or sleazy and un-relatable to most women, who still want to feel sexy no matter what their age or size. Following their rebellious ethos, they launched Lonely, gorgeous delicate beautiful underwear to fit all shapes and sizes.  Their aesthetic is simple, yet sexy. "No padding, no push-ups, no G-strings." Their pattern-maker Ella Sarjant had worked on Stella McCartney at Bendon (the brilliant New Zealand lingerie label). Ella approached them during their second year, bringing her considerable talent to the range. The quality is evident in each piece which is delicate and pretty, yet feels well-made and long lasting. The bra I bought has velvet straps and exquisite lace. I feel like a rock star and a supermodel when I wear it - even if I'm in my sweats, ugg boots, food smeared hoodie and have two kids hanging off me. That is the joy of beautiful underwear.
Black Lulu soft cup bra and Winona underwire bra in Amethyst
Long-time collaborator New York based ex-pat, super stylist/photographer Zara Mirkin shot 2016 campaign. The range during a road trip through California with no glam squad in tow, and the intimate vibe of the shoot is reflected in the photos. 
"We want to empower women, make them realise that they don’t have to be a certain way to feel beautiful. Lonely Girls come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages and backgrounds, and they are all magnificent." Helen Morris, Viva
The Lonely Girls Project was launched soon after the label, which Zara Mirkin began. It showcases photographs of real women in candid shots in natural environments such as at home or the beach wearing Lonely lingerie, embracing "real" bodies of all sizes, ages and ethnicities. "It's really hard to remember the exact conversation that started it" says Zara, "But I want to say it was almost five years ago, and it was something that Helene (co-owner of Lonely), Keya (a long term Lonely staff member) and myself came up with. I guess we saw it as a really refreshing way to make content for their lingerie - that wasn't stereotypical advertising, and could include every kind of women no matter what age, body shape, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender fluid you are." 
“We’re trying to show women as they are and not trying to change them. We want to celebrate our flaws and see the beauty in our differences. It’s so important and empowering for women to celebrate their shape.” says Helene"Each of the women who participate in this project is empowered because they are not objectified; they are part of a conversation that disrupts paradigms around the way lingerie is typically presented. Giving a glimpse into their worlds, we hope, amplifies this conversation and makes us all feel a little more liberated and comfortable in our own underwear...It was a reaction to traditional lingerie imagery. We want to empower women, make them realise that they don't have to be a certain way to feel beautiful." Helene Morris.
When Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke appeared in the project in August, the Lonely website crashed.
Lena wears Penny Mist and Winona Oxblood. 
Jemima wears Bonnie Powder Blue and Gigi Underwire. 
 "Love my @lonelylingerie and I think I will wear it to dinner with some boots and a smile because we are all very lucky to be free" Lena Dunham Instagram
Lena Dunham in Lonely Alma Swimsuit, Nylon Magazine February 2017
Jemima Kirke in Lulu bra for StyleULike's What's Underneath project, January 2017
(for Calvin Harris video for 'How Deep Is Your Love')
Lonely's flagship stores are in Wellington and Ponsonby Auckland, with a third retail store now in Newmarket in Auckland.


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