It took several internet meet cutes with Marie Lauchlan before I realized that she was the designer behind one of my favorite indie lingerie companies: the always charming Amuse-Bouche Lingerie. Then, as if to put the icing on the cake, she went ahead and released her Winter collection that featured pieces named after classic suspense films. As a 40’s film noir film fan and a lingerie lover, I was hooked. I’ve only recently started to buy non-matching knickers, and I foresee myself collecting several of Marie’s pieces. Last week, I was lucky enough to get some time on her busy schedule to ask her about the new collection.
Holly: Your new line is based on old film noir movies. Can you tell us more about how those themes play out in your lingerie?
Marie: My first collection was quite loosely ‘vintage’ themed and quite eclectic in style – which I think worked fine for introducing my work and what I do – but for the second collection, I really wanted to present a more cohesive look and feel. I’d had some great feedback on the debut collection from women who enjoyed the playful, and I suppose, accessible feel of my pieces. What I found the most interesting is that so many women told me they can be quite intimidated by overtly sexy lingerie and felt that they were playing dress up in a way that was uncomfortable to them. It definitely chimed with me because I’m not remotely at home in the basque and suspenders set up (I found this out the hard way via a deeply embarrassing burlesque class) although I absolutely adore the classic burlesque look. I guess I wanted to straddle the divide – there’s definitely a theatrical feel to some of my pieces which appeals to women who still want to play dress up but not necessarily at the expense of feeling like they can completely be themselves.
With that in mind I wondered if I could design the second collection with a slightly sexier edge, though a subtly different version of sexy. Naturally that led me to thinking about a darker, more eveningy palette and the use of ruffles and sheers and so on. I decided on black and white because it’s so visually striking and transitions well from the bridal to the evening styles I was designing. I knew I definitely wanted to convey a sense of drama and a continuation of the theatrical feel with the winter collection. Deciding on the palette was actually the springboard for both collections; whereas the summer designs had been all vintage teacups and tea roses, this time around I was drawn to images of dangerous film noir femmes fatales in dark, smoky shadows. It was a joy to name the pieces for the winter collection too – there’s a real sense of melodrama about the film titles which I think lends itself really well to lingerie and as a bonus, really appealed to my sense of humour too.
Holly: Your lingerie shows lots of vintage influences, from vintage charms on knickers to vintage birdcage illustrations. Do you think of yourself as a vintage woman, and what attracts you to those styles specifically?
Marie: I don’t know if I would really consider myself a vintage woman, certainly not to the extent that I wouldn’t leave the house without gloves and perfect red lipstick, a la Dita… I love to dress in that style on occasion but I’m definitely not that disciplined! I have a real love for vintage and I think I’m just drawn to things of beauty that tell a story, and those things tend not to be new or mass produced. I’ve been vintage-shopping since my early teens, so around 18 years or so, and there’s something really special about the experience of finding and owning something that’s one of a kind. I love collecting old jewellery and antique lace and often the design process for me begins with an old pearl brooch, or a scrap of lace – mostly I design from what I’ve sourced rather than sourcing for a specific design. I’m attracted to vintage fashion in general and have been for as long as I can remember. And of course vintage style goes hand in hand with the burlesque scene, which I love and is huge in my hometown of Glasgow.
Holly: What are some of the joys and challenges of running a made to order lingerie business?
Marie: There are plenty of both but the biggest joy for me is simply doing something I love. I launched the line less than a year ago and in that time I’ve met so many incredible people and new friends so that’s always a lovely and welcome thing. A lot of the work I do is bespoke bridal orders and that’s genuinely a real honour, to be part of a woman’s special day. I really appreciate the personal aspect of working handmade to order since there’s an opportunity to get to know the customer and create something unique to them. I make in very small runs, often times in a run of just one so that’s quite special and keeps it interesting and creative. Each piece is handmade with love – that’s the ethos that I never intend to compromise, which presents its own difficulties at times. Because I order materials in small quantities there’s a cost issue to be resolved with each piece. There’s an ongoing issue of making to the intended design, often with hand-beading and costly vintage embellishments, but with the end product at a sensible price point. I’m very much a one woman show, so I take care of all the sourcing, design, production, admin, everything else… I think starting out I naively thought I could design and make and that was all there was to it, but I quickly learned that wasn’t even the half of it! Having said all that though I’ve been bowled over by the response to my work and every nice comment and happy client more than makes up for the long hours and little difficulties along the way.
Holly: What’s new for Amuse-Bouche next season?
Marie: I’m really excited about the Summer 2012 collection! I’m going all out with the Art Nouveau influence with lots of floaty sheers and draping, and plenty of sumptuous embellishments. As with previous collections lots of floral motifs will feature. It’s a more literal take on Art Nouveau than before, so hopefully it’ll appeal to lovers of vintage boudoir postcards, Mucha prints and good old-fashioned romance.
I’ll also be expanding my bridal range as demand for bespoke garters and custom bridal knickers continues to grow.