The primary feeling I had when first viewing the Agent Provocateur collection was disappointment, then deja vu. And then I felt bad about feeling that way, attributing it to being jaded or having impossibly high standards and expectations for my lingerie.
But then I looked again. And the feeling of deja vu grew stronger, into a conviction that I had seen extremely similar designs before.
If you look at these two pieces side by side, the similarities are obvious. The one on the left is the Whitney bra and panties from the Agent Provocateur AW12 collection. On the right is the Nichole de Carle Last Testament underwired bra and knickers from Spring/Summer 2012. You can see that the bras are not exactly identical, but the resemblance is uncanny.
What upset me the most about this discovery is that I have very much admired Agent Provocateur. And they have been interesting and original in all of the seasons I have seen up to now. They were only founded in 1994, which means they’re younger than I am and yet have become one of the premiere luxury lingerie brands around the world. Compare that to La Perla (founded 1957) or Wolford (founded 1949), two of the other most well known designers of luxury intimates– Agent Provocateur is basically a baby! I also think that their marketing and PR teams are geniuses, hitting just the right note of risqué and upscale. And of course, they do have some killer designs.
But if you look at these comparative photos, you can see how derivative Agent Provocateur has been. Although I generally shy away from the word “copy,” these designs definitely fail the squint test. And if I were the designer of the original pieces, I might feel miffed or even cheated by the evident “inspiration” taken from their designs.
That’s why I’m feeling a bit… disappointed by this season’s collection. I feel like it’s kind of unpopular to criticize brands in the fashion (and specifically lingerie) blogosphere. And, as someone who absolutely adores lingerie, it’s hard to go out there and say that there is stuff that doesn’t live up to my expectations– or that their designs are not original. But I feel like I owe you guys the unvarnished truth. And if people who care and write about it won’t offer critique, who will? If we were all self-congratulatory and let these things pass it might get a bit dull. A member of the general public with a lesser lingerie obsession would simply think that Agent Provocateur was being entirely original.
It’s actually a bit ironic that a collection whose tagline was “Show Your True Self” is so unoriginal. I think the line “show your true self” is really rather a good one– very much in the vein of my own piece about why I love lingerie. But really, how is Agent Provocateur showing its “true self” if it’s so similar to that of other (lesser-known) designers?
I’m willing to overlook this as a momentary lapse on one condition: that they really impress me in the next collection and show that creative side that I’ve enjoyed so much in the past.