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Alexa Chung on How Wearing Lingerie Isn't About 'Male Validation'

Plus, Sarah Jessica Parker unveils her empowering Fall 2018 campaign for Italian intimates brand, Intimissimi.
Looks from Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

Looks from Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

"I'm so happy because I never stopped doing it," said Sarah Jessica Parker, actress, producer, publisher, fashion designer, general icon extraordinaire and face of the fall Intimissimi campaign, of the return of the bra as a fashion trend. It's a bit of a full-circle moment for the actress, coming 20 years after her iconic "Sex and the City" character, Carrie Bradshaw — along with the show's legendary costume designer Patricia Field — experimented extensively with the undergarment-as-clothing look.

"I'm liberated by it," she continued, during a press conference for global media in Verona, Italy celebrating the homegrown global intimates brand before its Fall 2018 runway extravaganza. "But everybody has their own version of that and everybody is different — and everybody's body is different — so everybody should do what they want [with the look]."

After inspiring countless women to wear their bras peeking out of their baby doll tanks or as crop tops under overalls, Parker updates the trend with her Intimissimi Fall 2018 campaign to introduce the brand's new balconette bra. The longtime New Yorker strolls through her downtown haunts — including a stop at The Public Theater for the self-professed theater nerd — in a black-and-white piped silk pajama set with said bra peeking out. So, basically, an irreverently glam-meets-comfy-bodega run look that's actually pretty Carrie, two decades later.

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"I wouldn't dress necessarily like Carrie Bradshaw," Parker said, emphasizing multiple times that she is not her iconic "SATC" character (to which co-star, friend and New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon could probably also attest). "But it was fun to be bold in this campaign, especially because I do walk my kids to school on those streets — and I don't typically wear pajamas when I'm walking my children to school — so it's fun." 

Despite her legit accomplishments in the fashion industry — her successful shoe line, SJP, and recent second collaboration with Gap Kids (complete with a mini-tutu) — Parker remains reluctant to consider herself a fashion icon. "[Fashion has] played a huge role," she responded to a question asking how she feels about fashion shaping the audience's perception of the award-winning actress. "For the most part it's not been really burdensome and it's not a problem, but there is a fuzzy line between characters I've played and — obviously primarily Carrie Bradshaw and myself — we're very different." And she'd never presume how to tell a woman — especially a young one — how to dress.

Sarah Jessica Parker at Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

Sarah Jessica Parker at Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

"I would never give style advice, because first of all, what's right for me [is] what feels good for me," she said. "The point that I always make is be yourself. The most arresting and compelling person is the person that is themselves."

Because her Intimissimi campaign is also about celebrating the power of women, it's supported by the backing soundtrack, the 1966 Italian song, "Nessuno Mi Può Guidicare" (Nobody Can Judge Me) by super chic (and so mod) singer-actress-musician-producer Caterina Caselli. During the press event, Sandro Veronesi, Founder of the Calzedonia Group — umbrella corporation of seven international brands, including Intimissimi, Calzedonia, Falconeri and contemporary line Atelier Emé, which Parker wore to the conference — said he chose the multi-hyphenate icon as the face of the collection to celebrate "real women" with their accomplishments, careers, opinions and, yes, a love for fashion. (He also perhaps threw a splash of shade by referencing industry competitors offering up unattainable images or "Angels.”)

There's also the pressing question in 2018: How can lingerie be empowering and inclusive for women in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp?

"So much of what I want for other women is to be able to choose," said Parker. "To have a choice is what makes people feel most in control of their lives and that's what this campaign is about."

"It's not using that word, but it's saying, 'This is who I am," she continued, while also emphasizing the importance of diversity — age, shape and background — in the intimates market. "'This is what I want to say when I walk out the door.' 'This is what makes me feel like me.' In doing so, I feel more confident in the world. That's the case, probably, with everybody in this room. They all chose something [to wear] to walk out the door in today because that's who you are." 

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Irina Shayk walking in Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

Irina Shayk walking in Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

The Intimissimi Fall 2018 show — a verdant, fantastical "Enchanted Forest" theme recreated in the sprawling, Calzedonia campus — featured different lingerie and lounge looks for a range of women to express themselves. That translated to dramatic Josephine-Baker-inspired, lace-detailed near costumes (complete with gigantic feather plumage), silky and lacy matched sets, a sequined, leopard-print tank and briefs and a grungy, early-aughts Christina Aguilera/Britney Spears-type situation of an exposed lace thong paired with low-slung PJ pants. The collection was presented by a fairly diverse set of models, plus headliners Irina Shayk (who opened and closed the runway), Anne V. and Isabeli Fontana.

The front row featured multitasking fashion professionals and entrepreneurs, too. Parker, of course, sat next to Veronesi at the end of the runway, and gave an introductory welcome to the 600-plus eager audience members. Model Jourdan Dunn chilled along the side of the runway. Then, just-married de facto royal (if media numbers have anything to say about it) Chiara Ferragni happily greeted Alexa Chung, who's prepping her first runway show for London Fashion Week. (She sheepishly apologized for not being allowed to spill any details on her LFW debut just yet.) 

Chung, did however, put her own signature spin on the bra-as-fashion-item look by building her sheer black lace dress around her Intimissimi piece, as opposed to vice versa.

Alexa Chung at Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

Alexa Chung at Intimissimi's Fall 2018 runway show. Photo: Courtesy of Intimissimi

"I would usually wear a black lacy bra with a kind of open shirt and do a more '70s thing with a pair of jeans. That's more my style, but this is an evening event, so I should probably make it look a bit more 'party frock,'" said Chung, on the post-show red carpet, as I made a mental note to copy the former look (contrary to Parker's earlier advice to be an individual when it comes to fashion). "I had to go about searching for a party frock, which is actually see-through; [it's] easier said than done. Thankfully, Simone Rocha came through and here we are. I'm standing here in front of you in a black lace dress, asking you to love me." Oh, Alexa, I do. 

Chung also had some thoughts about the intersection of lingerie and feminine power. "The more confident you feel about yourself, through whatever means that might take — usually it's clothes for me — I feel like it's an extension of your confidence, so with lingerie, I utilize that to feel sexy and, if I feel sexy or desired, I feel pretty good about myself."

"See, it's a complex loophole, actually. That's not to say you need male validation to feel good about oneself," she added, after a pause. "You kind of caught me in a trench there. What could I say that's not depressing?" 

I pointed toward fellow attendee Parker, who via Field and "SATC," inspired women to wear bras as a means of self-expression. 

"You could reframe it as a styling tool for an outfit, so it's not just being objectified and putting on some stockings. But rather, you could be playful with it," Chung agreed. "The way Sarah Jessica Parker styled it in 'Sex and the City' was a good fashion note."

Disclosure: Intimissimi provided my travel and accommodations to attend the press conference and fall 2018 runway show.

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