This is where I start kicking the tires a little bit on the categories into which we’ve organized the full-bust market. And I’m going to start by unpacking the Juniors category. It may seem the most well-characterized of the three and the least in need of probing and tinkering, but work with me here, because I am going to start with a bit of a bombshell, so to speak.
FREYA IS NOT A JUNIORS BRAND.
I know. I’m taking some liberties with accuracy when I say that. Freya practically defined the juniors category in the first place, and a metric ton of their brand equity is still tied up in it, no doubt. They continue to provide plenty in the way of playful, girlish, sweet hyperfemininity, with lots of styles that cater to the lollipop Lolita sensibility.
Very girly. Almost teeth-crazingly sweet. They might feint in the direction of sexy with the occasional daring sheer, but they’ll take care to tamp it back down into fundamentally unthreatening territory with, you know, a nice demure pink ribbon trim (literally tamping it down, considering the fit of the Arabella) or by making it hot pink or purple.
We’re not really smutty here, folks, we’re nice girls playing at smutty:
But here’s the thing. Freya is no Curvy Kate. Curvy Kate is pure juniors, not a bit complicated, but there’s a lot more to Freya than pink lollipops and a bit of Halloween burlesque. They can play in the seasonal, fashion-forward arena when they try. (This was maybe truer a couple of years ago. The Ingrid, after all, offered a bird motif back when the bird thing still felt fresh, long before Cleo’s Meg and Lily; since then the motifs have been mostly fashion-indifferent exaggerated femininity, i.e., juniors — dolls, bows, and fans — but we have some interesting stuff on the way next spring and I think that Freya is pulling its head out.)
Look at the current Piper longline in cornflower. It’s sweet, yes, a ditzy floral in a pretty blue. But its redemptive and exciting black trim makes it a player. If that trim were just a little more assertive, and if they lost that ubiquitous stupid tiny ribbon bow, this style would belong in the same market basket with some of the tiny indie brands rising to fill the empty “middle market” fashion space.
And let’s not pretend that Freya doesn’t do basics. They do. It can get a little dowdy and Fantasie-ish when they get it wrong, but they do a fair amount of getting it right.
The older Carys and Lacey were more better-than-nothing quasi-neutrals, but at least they weren’t screaming neons. The Gem is tiresome and feels a bit Fantasie-ish, but the Lauren wasn’t a bad attempt at a basic staple, and the Rio is a fine blend of highly practical and texturally interesting. I’m putting Patsy on the board by courtesy, because the polka dots are jaunty as hell, but it only really comes out in the fashion colorways — peacock and lime and coral and so on. In the black and in ballet pink, these bras can pull their weight in a functional wardrobe. (And you can’t say polka dots aren’t on-trend. Look at hosiery. Good Lord.)
I also should point out that we have an honest to God functional adult sheer black RIGHT NOW in the Ooh La La, with not a hint of … okay, fine, there’s pink ribbon on it, but only a tiny manageable amount of pink ribbon. Plus there’s a couple of highly promising neutrals expected next spring — yes, the sheer one is pink, but in a good way, not garish or candy or little-girl at all:
So, you know, not bad.
And let’s not forget the elephant in the room: the Deco. Talk about basics.
I think that the Deco may have started as a flirty push-up intended for the good girl’s naughty night out, but it’s turned into a franchise in its own right, one of such towering value and potential that I can honestly kind of see their marketing people having a bit of a brand identity crisis about it even as they roll merrily in huge vats full of dollars. Because there simply isn’t anything fundamentally juniors about this line. It’s not a piece of candy, it’s a middle-market fashion basic. They’ve brought it back to girlish playtime with some of the cute print versions, sure, but come on:
The Deco is what has really opened up whole new territories for Freya. It’s enabled them to walk away from uber-femininity altogether. The Taylor and descendants represent the most credible steps into menswear-inspired they’ve ever managed.
That’s radically new ground for Freya. Radically. Even the Piper longline above has that heart-of-Freya girly femme thing happening. But the Taylor isn’t girly or femme at all. It’s dapper. It’s androgynous. It’s not something Freya has been able to do before. But with the Deco? They can do it.
And that opens up a lot of possibilities for the future of the brand. Because there is a lot going on in lingerie and in fashion generally that isn’t girly at all. Androgyny and menswear influence is only the beginning. Think about a major fashion wave happening now and into spring: bondage-inspired cage and harness. That’s not jaunty and sweet. It’s not good girl having a naughty night out, it’s actual bad girl. It can be anywhere from smutty to filthy and anywhere from playful to deadly serious, but even when it’s playful, it’s not a saucy-sixteen sort of playful.
Can we reasonably ask Freya to play in this space? When I saw this conversation happening over at Miss Underpinnings’s place my first reaction was, NEVER, Freya is sweet and girly at heart and they are so not going to be the ones to interpret bondage lingerie for the high street.
But after a good look at the collection I realized the Deco changes all that. Friends, I give you the next Deco-driven Freya revolution–let’s call it the Chrysler:
But hang on, you say, knowing your lingerie market: isn’t that the Marlies Dekkers Dame de Paris balcony bra? Well, yes. Yes it is. And that’s the point. Marlies Dekkers has already brought the cage bra to the high street. They’ve done ninety percent of the work here. They’ve sanitized it and attenuated it and churned it out in a lot of ice cream colors, and if they aren’t making money hand over fist from this latest huge wave of new, broad, mass-market interest in strappy cage styles, somebody there really needs to be fired.
This remind you of anything?
Deco-like, ain’t it?
And the space is still empty! Marlies Dekkers is charging through the nose for this stuff, even with their “Undressed” bridge line version, and they’re only catering to cup sizes as high as, oh, a UK E or so. That leaves a huge gap open for Freya to show up with a Deco cage spinoff in up to GG or even higher, at a nice mass price point of $70-80, and knock the full-bust market’s socks right the hell off. If I were Freya’s managing director I would be poaching marketing, creative and engineering staff from Marlies Dekkers like crazy right now and rushing this out ASAP.
Better hurry, guys.
Because Figleaves is on this shit in-house, and they’re not fooling around. I believe this is the first legit full-bust cage bra. MOAR, PLEASE.
Coming up next time: ideas for Cleo!