Even the most devoted of lingerie fans know that there are some occasions where high-end lace and suspender belts aren't quite going to cut it — like, say, lounging around in sweats, as many of us have been doing since the Covid-19 crisis shut down life as usual nearly a year ago.
Of course, fancy lingerie is Agent Provocateur's bread and butter; this is the brand who provided undergarments for the over-the-top Love Advent calendar year in and year out, after all! (Remember Love Advent?!) "Basic" hasn't been a part of their vocabulary — until today.
This week, the luxury lingerie label launched "All Hours," a line of five different styles meant to fill the gap in your underwear drawer. (Well, your underwear drawer, if you're the sort to collect frilly, strappy things.) "It's been something that I really always wanted to do anyway," says Agent Provocateur creative director Sarah Shotton. "I've got lots of lingerie to wear, but my life is really on the go; like my wardrobe, I need my underwear to take me from A to B."
Done in basic shades of blacks, whites and beiges (and, alright, a few leopard prints — this is still AP!), All Hours marks the entry into a completely new category for the brand more known for its boudoir-ready pieces than for everyday undies. While Agent Provocateur typically uses runway-ready laces for its lingerie, All Hours sees the brand turn to more typical lingerie fabrics, like stretch tulle and microfiber. Prices clock in around $45 to $125 for underwear and $120 to $180 for bras.
Each style is named after a Jackie Collins character. There's Lucky, which offers a padded plunge bra and an underwire full cup; Paige, which comes in a wet-look microfiber; Brigette, which is available in both a soft cup and padded plunge; Leni, which uses plenty of lace and also includes a bodysuit; and Ginah, which boasts a high-waisted panty made of one swath of lace. And the brand isn't completely abandoning its sexy roots: A few designs include suspenders or ouvert panty styles. Still, these are less precious than other Agent Provocateur pieces.
"I have Paige and I have Lucky on all the time and they're really great. The knickers are really nice. They're kind of sexy, but comfortable," Shotton says. "And the other good thing is you can stick it in your washing machine, which I need right now! It's fantastic. These are the perfect pants for the pandemic. It's something that I think is really exciting for the brand."
All Hours also slightly extends Agent Provocateur's sizing, a process which has been slowly rolling out across the brand's offerings over the course of the new year. Bras range from 32A to 38G, and bottoms go up to a size 7, which corresponds to about a US size 14. (In the past, bras have not included A or Gs and stopped at band size 36, where bottoms topped out around a size 4.) It's not enough to make the line truly size-inclusive, as was pointed out by experts of Lingerie Twitter, like Cora Harrington, Jeanna Kadlec and Sweets of Sweet Nothings. But Shotton is optimistic this is another step in the right direction for the brand.
"Back in the day when I first started, we did go to the G cup and it was something that stopped 10 years ago," she says. "We were really conscious of bringing it back. And I hope to keep getting bigger, to be honest."
We hopped on Zoom with Shotton to chat all things All Hours, from the inspiration behind the line to the importance of extending the size offerings.
How did the idea to launch All Hours come about?
Michelle [Ryan], the new CEO, started just a month before we went lock down last year. She came in and she was like, "Do you think we could do an every day range?" And I was like, "Yeah we could, we just need to do it in our way."
When the brand started in '94, it was very against everyday lingerie. I mean, it was the total opposite of everyday lingerie. So for me, I was really excited about it because I was like, "Wow, this really goes against the grain a little bit — how can we do something that is supportive, comfortable but still makes you feel good and has AP DNA?" That really excited me and I wanted something, I think for myself as well, that was a little bit more basic, but still looked good.
Through the campaigns, I've worked with and met so many amazing women and the biggest topic that most people have said to me is: Will AP do a more everyday range Is there something that I can wear not just for in the bedroom? I just got into my head. I was like, 'What could this look like? Who is the woman and how would it look and how can I get more women wearing AP more hours of the day?' Because they all say that it really empowers them and it makes them feel good, and if I can help women feel good about their body and themselves every day — well, that's a plus.
I've gone and shopped for many supportive bras. When you go on the high street and you actually go bra shopping, if you were of a certain size, it's almost like somebody's designed the bra and somebody else has designed the knicker. You might get a bra that fits good and it looks okay, but then the knicker that goes is horrendous. It's not doing anything for my bum. I wanted to do an everyday range that didn't look frightening, but also that the bottoms and the tops worked really nicely together and it wasn't frumpy. Everyday lingerie can look really good, but not be supportive, or be a bit young or it's really frumpy.
I was quite hands-on with this; I've fitted it, and I've been trial-ing it right through the lockdown. It's really nice. It's really comfy. It's really supportive. We started using actual lingerie fabrics, which for AP, we normally use runway laces, embroideries. So we actually use proper lingerie fabric. You don't fall out a bit, you can go and bounce with your kids on the trampoline wearing it. It's exciting for us because we're trying to get people to think of AP as this dynamic store that does lingerie for you, not just for in the bedroom. It can take you to the bedroom, because it does look good!
How did you approach the design so that it was a more every day style, but still feels AP?
I was thinking back to when I was wearing lingerie that was sort of every day and made me feel good, and I was literally going back to when I was 18 — I was like, "Oh, the '90s, I loved that." I started primarily building a board in that era, because I knew the leg line needs to be high, because the high leg line makes your legs look longer and a high waistline makes your waist look smaller. So I was trying to design it in a way that would be appealing to young and old women now, and just trying to get my head out of not doing frumpy because you could quite easily go frumpy.
I built this mood board that had women from all the years that were on the go. I had Cindy Crawford on there, Naomi Campbell — I had all the supermodels. I had Lady Diana, when she was running around in the cycling shorts with jumpers on, and I have Kim Kardashian, Hailey Baldwin, representing women that really dress up and dress down. I had a few images of a woman with a baby under her arm that was shutting her car boot; I was thinking about Sports Illustrated, athletic bodies. I was getting my head around that a little bit, because I'm so on the go as well. The reason that I picked so many women and built a board like that was to really get the silhouette right. I always think of characters anyway when I design, but it was different. When I design the main range, there's always something that's a bit more fantastical, and this, I wanted it to have the escapism of AP, but in a really kind of basic way.
Then also I took shapes, for example, that were iconic to the brand. The Paige bra was taken from the Nikita shapes; when I first started at AP in '98, it was a really famous bra called Nikita, which is a three-part cup. We use that shape, but did it in a stretch fabric.
Agent Provocateur is extending its sizing a bit with this line, right? [Ed.note: Fashionista spoke with Shotton before the brand released the campaign and received feedback about the new sizing on social media.]
Yeah, we're going up to a 38 G — so 32 A to a 38 G — and size one to seven bottoms. We hope, as it goes, to actually go bigger. Also, we're using lingerie fabric, because sometimes we're using a fabric that's rigid, and it doesn't have the stretch, whereas I'm wearing Paige today and it's really brilliant because it's stretchy, so it stretches around your back. It's got a lot of give, really, so I think it'll fit a lot of people.
Why was it important to the brand to extend that size range for this?
Because the national average is not 34 B anymore. That was after the war. Most women I meet are all above a D cup. Also, we've always been about celebrating women's bodies, and the dancers that we photograph, the athletes who were in the last campaign, they're not a 34 B. So there was a big demand. People were asking for it.
Then the other thing that we are trying to make sure as well — which I always do with the main line — even if it goes to a G cup, it looks very similar [to the A or B cups], because that's another thing that annoys me when you go shop. We are about celebrating women, so we need to reach out to more women.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.