NEW YORK, United States — For a generation of supermodels who dominated the industry in the 1990s, lending their names to sexy lingerie lines has become standard practice. (See: Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson, Gisele Bundchen.)
Stephanie Seymour, the all-American bombshell with an oft-dissected personal and professional life, is an aberration — until now. In February, the former Victoria’s Secret model’s self-funded line of vintage-inspired lingerie, Raven & Sparrow, launches at Barneys New York, Los Angeles and online.
“I was very interested in the idea of creating a brand besides my name,” said Seymour. “I didn’t want it to be viewed as a celebrity brand.”
Indeed, one of the reasons the model decided to launch a brand with partner and designer Casey Paul was her desire to get on the other side of the camera. “I love the fashion industry and it’s a business I wanted to stay in, and as you get older you don’t work as much,” said Seymour.
Also, the idea of a high-end sleepwear collection in washed silks and georgette had been percolating in Seymour’s mind for years. While there are many bra and underwear lines on the market already, she said dressing for bed has become a lost art.
“My forte is more in nightgowns and robes and pyjamas,” she said. “It’s something that’s sort of a ritual for me.”
Everything is produced in New York, largely by hand, and fit by the model herself. “There are a lot of hand-sewn elements, like lace, and everything is cut on the bias,” she said. Pieces are priced under $1,000, with most of the nightgowns in the $500 range.
Seymour is careful to explain that Raven & Sparrow is not a collection with seduction in mind. “I think, for me, what is really sexy is modesty,” she said. “Being a mother, I can’t wear lingerie that’s too skimpy.”
Seymour’s emphasis on wearability reflects changing consumer preferences. “What it means to be sexy to feel sexy [today] is fundamentally different than what supermodels from the 80s and 90s represented,” said Jeetendr Sehdev, marketing professor at the University of Southern California.
He said audiences today connect with brands and designers that encourage vulnerability and imperfections, not just the overt sexuality popularised by Victoria’s Secret. There is an opportunity to be the “first supermodel to redefine this new lens of sexiness.”
While Seymour hopes to offer a larger range of prices in the future, she is confident the debut collection will find its customer at Barneys, which will carry it exclusively for the first season. Seymour told creative director Dennis Freedman about the line on the set of a campaign for the department store a year ago. “He said, ‘I’d love to take it,’ and he’d never even seen it,” she said.
“Stephanie’s collection of lingerie was perfectly edited,” said Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s at Barneys. “You’re not necessarily wearing her pieces in a traditional way, but rather incorporating them like ready-to-wear, such as the lace slip dresses, silk kimonos worn as jackets, or bralettes and camisoles as underpinnings.”
To further demonstrate the line’s versatility, Seymour cast Bella Hadid in the debut campaign in one of the model’s first ever jobs. “She was very professional and naturally beautiful in front of the camera” said Seymour. “I wanted a brunette — maybe I was mirroring myself in a way.”
Seymour stepped back in front of the camera for the campaign, too, shot in her loft in SoHo by Patrick Demarchelier. The photographer was one of many friends, including hairdressers and makeup artists, who lent their talents to the model’s new venture for free.
“Modelling is really a collaboration,” said Seymour, adding that the same can be said of Raven & Sparrow. “It’s not about me trying to use my name or take all the credit. I feel like the product will speak for itself.”
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