For New York Fashion Week where the focus is all on the clothes -- layers upon layers of them to be exact, based on my trend radar so far -- outsiders may be surprised to learn that one of the most esteemed shows of the week was not in fact about apparel or accessories but rather what's underneath.
And at the La Perla Presentation on Thursday at The Dream Hotel Downtown attended by Kelly Rutherford, Olivia Palermo and Zoe Kravitz, what was underneath was undoubtedly sexy.
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Creative Director Giovanni Bianchi presented his Fall 2013 line of the coveted lingerie brand with nightgowns, bodysuits, robes, garters and, of course, bras and panties, radiating seduction the way only La Perla can, and does. But this time, Bianci steered the luxury Italian brand to its neighbor Spain for inspiration, along with a bit of the culture's passion and desire.
"I fell in love with the Spanish mood because I think Spain has such strong soul that means love, fashion, femininity," Bianchi told me during the presentation.
But evoking the Spanish mood was merely the stepping stone for Bianchi, who did "very strong research" about toreadors in Spain. Merging themes from the lace on shawls frequently worn by Spanish women to the tassels and fans on toreadors' jackets, Bianchi's vision of mystery and seduction was evident through the impeccable eye for detail La Perla is best known for.
"We took inspiration from the jackets, 'traje de luz,' that matadors wear," Bianchi said. "We researched old documents showing lace that they used like shawls called 'mantilla' and we tried to remake this kind of lace," which was incorporated in the embroidery of each piece. Bianchi further achieved the Spanish mood through the color palate of greens, reds and black while playfully teasing through the cuts of the lingerie, which when mixed with lace, showed skin without revealing too much at all.
And if for some reason the La Perla collection wasn't sexy enough, behind the wall where the models were standing was an entire other lingerie line, La Perla's Black Collection. Showing the brand's "dark side," Bianchi said the label was relaunched this season to revive the even more sultry nature of La Perla's mysterious counterpart.
"When we created this label many years ago, it was something very transgressive. At that time we wanted to show the black, something even more mysterious," Bianchi said. "This time we made a new addition: We wanted to mix the lingerie and the sexiness of the black label with the heart."
But while the Black Label, believe it or not, was undoubtedly sexier than the main line, it's purpose is not to be X-rated. "It's erotic but always not vulgar. This is very important," Bianchi affirmed.
Drawing from Salvador Dali's Surrealism, the collection itself was surreal in that it was standout erotic without a hint of tawdry; Even one look, a lace-up bustier with an ultra slim boning detail just covering the model's nipple, exuded a seductive aesthetic, which Bianchi said is the most important goal for women's lingerie.
"Every woman must be very seductive but not only for the men but also for themselves," Bianchi said. "The modern woman who wears lingerie must see herself as beautiful and we try to do that for all of the women in the world."
While "all of the woman in the world" may seem like a stretch, this affirmation is true of the high-end luxury line, according to Global CEO Tim Brashner, who joined La Perla one year ago.
"There's a universal appeal for the brand and the product," Brashner said, adding that Asia has become a market in which La Perla is "very rapidly expanding."
Brashner said the future of the brand is to maintain its status "at the very top" as the "trendsetter in intimate apparel" while simultaneously introducing its more accessibly-priced Studio La Perla brand into China, where the lingerie is in high demand.