Between wholesale bikinis the founder of Net-a-Porter, Natalie Massenet, last month investing in a stocking brand promising to disrupt the tights business (Heist has so far raised US$2.6 million for their troubles), start-ups using data and algorithms to help women find a bra that actually fits, a New Zealand lingerie label breaking the internet by daring to cast a 56-year-old model in its campaign and the arrival of the fourth global boutique for French label Simone Perele in Westfield Bondi Junction, there are some big things happening in the world of smalls.
It makes sense. According to research from Euromonitor, women’s bra and underwear sales reached US$12.4 billion in 2016, up 30 per cent from $9.5 billion in 2009. Another British study found that the average woman will spend about $4000 on bras in her lifetime.
Though she might be spending it a little differently now. Especially when you consider that the lingerie as outwear trend – with famous types like Jennifer Lawrence, Bella Hadid and Olivia Palermo leading the charge of making underwear the hero of their outfit – shows no sign of abating.
For Helene Morris and Steve Ferguson, the duo behind Lonely Lingerie, whose campaign starring 56-year-old model Mercy Brewer went viral in March, success means redefining how women see – and shop for – themselves.
“It’s been a conscious decision of ours to represent as many of our customers as possible through our imagery. If people can’t relate to imagery or see themselves represented, then how can they feel confident?” says Morris.
The brand, which is set to launch maternity lingerie – a collection in development for the past year – also plans to expand internationally to offer customers around the world the “full Lonely experience”.
The ‘experience’ of buying lingerie is one that managing director of Simone Perele, Matthieu Grodner-Perele, the grandson of Simone Perele, believes is integral. Following the launch of the Bondi boutique in September, the label, which is still 80 per cent wholesale, will launch up to15 new stores in the next two years.
“Bricks and mortar retail gives us the opportunity, through our staff … to translate the technical know-how of the products to customers,” Perele says.
That doesn’t mean the lingerie business is resistant to the pull of the online shopping cart. Far from it. Eloise Monaghan, founder of Australian lingerie label Honey Birdette, says that while she has 50 stores in Australia and four in the UK, online shopping now makes up 30 per cent of her business. A growth of 230 per cent in the past year.
Honey Birdette works in the fast fashion space, putting out a new collection each week, because “customers get bored after a week”.
“[We see] shopping online and in-store complementing each other,” says Monaghan.
Karen Brewster, Myer executive general manager merchandise buying, says the department store is also seeing growth in online shopping for lingerie. Partly because brands are better at engaging with their customer directly on social media.
“Dita Von Teese is a great example with strong marketing that drives many of our customers to shop for this brand on the Myer website. Dita posts images of herself in new season styles regularly, and we see a great uplift in sales following each post,” she says.
Brewster believes innovations, like the new Spacer technology used by Berlei – a fabric that uses a dual layer of mesh to create a bra that feels weightless and is more breathable – is key.