If you have ever thought,
Then this post is for you.
Lingerie market -- or “Curve” -- happens twice a year. There are two events, one in NYC and one in Vegas, but the NYC one is the event: it’s huge and everyone comes -- or at least, all the major brands and a fuckton of East Coast retailers and buyers for all the majors like Nordstrom and Zulilly. Market is where brands show the next season’s collection, and buyers order the pieces they think will do well with their customers (this is also where some designs and sizes get dropped due to a lack of orders).
It seems simple, but it’s probably one of the most political events I attend all year -- and I’m someone who goes to rallies.
This was my second ever Curve. (I wrote about my first time in February.) This time around, I knew what to expect: lots of bougie white people who think nude means white and stare at me blankly when I use the word “queer.”
But I also knew what to do to circumvent that: surround myself with My People. This meant staying with Sweet Nothings (and her cats) and lots of one-on-one time with my lingerie friends, old and new.
Look at all of these beautiful people! L to R: Elisabeth Dale of The Breast Life, me, Sweet Nothings, Quinne Myers of She and Reverie, The Lingerie Lesbian (Cora of The Lingerie Addict behind the camera) (via @thelingerieaddict IG)
Not all of My People attended Curve or were in NYC for Curve, and with good reason: it’s a super corporate thing that doesn’t really lend itself well to independent brands and designers or to meaningful catch-ups with the community many of us have cultivated on social media. I mean, on the one hand, it’s a trade show, so to expect any differently is kind of ridiculous. In many ways, I would liken Curve to a family Thanksgiving: you’re expected to go and you want to catch up with people, but you find out that mostly, it’s the same old shit.
But by the same token, don’t you want your racist aunt to maybe have developed a conscience in the year since Mike Brown’s murder? Wouldn’t it be great if you could use the word “queer” or the much better known acronym “LGBT” without people staring at you like you have horns coming out of your head?
You love your family (maybe). At the very least, maybe you want them to be better -- if not for you, then for society.
So, without further ado, here are nine observations from Curve. And since I do love this industry, we’re starting with the bad and ending with the good.
how curve makes me feel
What I Didn't See at Curve
1. Brands expressing interest in gender neutrality
As ever, the brands at Curve are usually corporate (very few indies) and are often strictly gendered in their presentation. I didn't see any brand presenting both traditional men's and women's styles (like Bia Boro, which showed last season), let alone exploring gender neutrality or androgyny. But then again, Curve is a very traditionally feminine show. Saxx -- the most predominant boutique men's retailer that shows -- is typically shoved off to the far end of the floor.
Me & Abby Sugar of Play Out (R) (Sylvie behind the camera!) via @PlayOutNYC (IG)
I did, however, have coffee with Abby and Sylvie, the founders of Play Out (they weren’t showing at Curve, but they are based in NYC). I got to hear about the super-exciting things they have lined up for Play Out, and y’all are going to BURST, I tell you. I can’t wait for Play Out to unveil their 2016 plans.
2. Binders or any chest compression gear
None whatsoever. Not surprising, but it would have been so cool.
3. Androgynous bras in full bust or plus sizes
The only full bust bra I saw that was remotely andro-friendly, which also meets Bluestockings' ethics and sustainability policy, was Claudette's Fishnet style, which they are doing in black for SS16. I think that’s a great call: they haven’t done it in black for several seasons; black is the bestselling color, period; black helps minimize any potentially feminine detailing on the bra.
Black Fishnet Bra, second from right (via @love_claudette IG)
I appreciate that Claudette tries out a variety of styles, some of which are more andro-friendly than others. Y'all love Claudette, and I do, too.
Unfortunately, other full bust and plus size retailers are staying firmly on the super-traditional feminine end of things.
4. Less traditionally "feminine" plus size lingerie, period.
So, this is a tough topic. As a femme-presenting person, the last thing I want to do is ever imply that feminine lingerie isn't queer-friendly. Far from it: it’s the person who makes clothing or lingerie or their own style queer, end of period.
But I get a lot of requests for androgynous underthings, by which people can mean something as simple as “no bows or lace” to more extravagant “not a compression binder but not a traditional bra, either.” I also get a lot of those requests for plus size options in this style spectrum, because they’re harder to find.
Unfortunately, I, as a retailer, have trouble finding them, too.
Holly Jackson, the plus size columnist at The Lingerie Addict, talks often about the limited options facing the plus size market. The need for more options in style is dire, especially with less feminine-presenting folks. In our interview, Holly talked about how plus-focused brands tend to go conservative-feminine or burlesque, and that's definitely been my experience as a retailer looking for new brands to add to the Bluestockings family.
5. Ethically made full bust or plus size lingerie
It should be noted that Panache and their many subsidiaries (Sport, Sculptresse, Cleo) and the Wacoal (formerly Eveden) brands like Freya, Fantasie, and Goddess have high manufacturing standards, but they are also selective about their retailers. (To put it bluntly: they won’t sell to Bluestockings.)
I saw a number of other plus size brands and some emerging full bust brands, like Maven. Unfortunately, these brands are often manufacturing at a price point that make ethics impossible to guarantee.
Something is sacrificed on the road to a low price point: usually, it's ethical labor.
What I Did See at Curve
1. (Some) Andro-friendly lingerie in "standard" sizes
I saw some really cool androgynous bras from brands like Erica M., KissKill, Relique, Underprotection, and, of course, Claudette (the fishnet set, y'all). As all of these brands ethically manufacture, their items are also on the pricier end of things.
Claudette, of course, is a favorite here at Bluestockings (you all love them, I love them, and they love Bluestockings: it’s the happiest of relationships).
Laser Cut Bralette by Erica M.
Also also also: I'm thrilled to announce that Erica M. will be joining the Bluestockings family this fall. Erica has been so supportive of what we do here, and is such a staunch LGBTQ ally, and her work is so unique -- some of the most innovative in the industry, imo. I’m so, so excited for you all to try her gorgeous underthings.
2. Crop Tops
The Petalos set from Clo Intimo, for SS16
For those of you who like to rock innerwear as outerwear, you are in for a good time. There are a ton of crop tops, of all styles: from the Bonnaroo-friendly to urban street style to traditional French-inspired femme, there’s something for everyone… within a certain size range. Most of the brands I saw these from (Erica M., Clo Intimo) only go to XL. (Again: see the generally traditional, conservative offerings from plus size retailers.)
3. Bras Without Bows
Y’all: I saw some bras without bows, and this is how I felt about that:
except not as cool as Nicki
The Kali Bustier by Clo Intimo: reworked and absolutely amazing in person
The brand new Coco Longline by Clo Intimo - super clean and a soft peach neutral
Of course: the Zip Bra from KissKill
4. Indies Who Care
Independent brands and designers are the lifeblood of this industry. They are the most fashion-forward. They take the risks. They do all the things the bigger brands may want to do but refuse to do until it’s “proven” (at which point, obvi, it’s no longer a risk -- just a “trend”).
Indies are in short supply at Curve. (Predictably, it costs a lot of money to show there.) But it's a total joy to connect both with indie designers at Curve, with those who are NYC-based, like Play Out, and with those who are visiting NYC, like Dottie's Delights. The conversations are real, and often multiple; we actually know each other and care about each others’ business; this isn’t just a business conversation -- it’s connecting on the level of being driven #girlbosses who are in this crazy industry together.
I had the absolute best, most heartwarming, soul-feeding, encouraging conversations with the folks behind some of my favorite brands. Starting a business is tough, and talking to folks who get it - and who encourage me specifically - is so huge. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to get to sit down with some of these women, and I'm so excited to see what they have in store for all of us in the coming year.
Curve isn't a bastion of innovation or inclusivity, and honestly, I doubt it ever will be. It's too corporate. It's, generally, not indie-friendly, and not just for the brands showing -- I'm a super-small indie retailer and had every single one of my appointments interrupted by buyers who, upon inspecting their nametags, seemed to be from larger stores. (Example: Zulilly.)
Even though I don't think I'll ever be able to go to Curve without criticizing it, it's still an important industry event. Notably, it's the only event that brings everyone together: the entire industry - brands, buyers, press - descends on NYC for three days, and everyone who is in NYC clears their schedules because they know folks are in town. It's just a complete pleasure to walk the floor with friends like Kim Caldwell of Hurray Kimmay and Sweet Nothings, to digest what's happening in lingerie with My People and talk out what we're all seeing.
Kimmay (of Hurray Kimmay) and I got drinks at a schmancy rooftop bar, natch
Curve was, generally, a positive experience this time around: not because the industry is becoming more inclusive, but because I am finding my place in it. I'm finding friends and community who support me and who I can support.
Together, we are all trying to make this industry a better and more welcoming place.
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