Open for Business: Agent Provocateur

*New Boutiques, *The Nationals, -Lingerie No Comments »

It may be the middle of December, but upscale London-based lingerie brand Agent Provocateur is steaming up the city with the launch of its first Chicago boutique. The shop has been here just one week but the brand has been at the pinnacle of the lingerie hierarchy for years. “Other lingerie companies often follow what we do and try to copy what we do,” says Danielle Boholst, United States training coordinator for the company. “[We] set the standard for the industry.”

Imported from London’s Soho district, the brand made its way to America in 2000 with a flagship store in Los Angeles. Hitting the Oak Street scene eight years later, the line’s reputation precedes it. Granted, this is not your everyday underwear—a single bra can set you back $110. Made from only the finest fabrics and lace, product quality is key. Boholst, for one, says you get what you pay for. “Initially, like at Victoria’s Secret, something may look the same as something of ours, but it will be falling apart within weeks whereas our threads hold together for years,” she says. “It’s the difference between buying from H&M and Barney’s. It may be cute and trendy, but overall you’re also buying for the quality and longevity.”

Store “agent” Helena Barber agrees. “I think it takes a lot of engineering to get these little details right,” she says of the largely English cuts and designs.

Featuring Dita Von Teese-esque tuxedo-style corsets and lace-infused brassieres, the line is one part nice and two parts naughty. Barber points out some of the store’s riskier pieces. “Masks, whips, latex stockings with a paddle,” she says with a laugh. “It’s tastefully done. Nothing trashy—we’re not in competition with those types of places,” she says. “Our clientele has always been more higher end.”

Which may explain why Agent Provocateur doesn’t seem to be receding with the economy. “The company will only open doors where it already has established clientele,” Boholst says. “Chicago showed a lot of interest.” (Nicole Briese)

Agent Provocateur, 47 E. Oak, (312)335-0229

Agent Provocateur

*The Nationals, -Lingerie No Comments »

47 E. Oak, (312) 335-0229, agentprovocateur.com [ratings]
Goods: Lingerie, loungewear and accessories for women. Designers: The store is stocked with largely European cuts and designs from the brand’s own label. Owners: Joseph Corré and Serena Rees opened their first store in Soho, London in 1994. Vibe: Super sexy. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: The collection has a very burlesque air reminiscent of glam-girl goddess Dita Von Teese. Shopper’s Perks: The store “agents” insist on in-room fittings with each and every customer to ensure a more personal experience and great fit.

UPDATED OCTOBER 2009

Agent Provocateur, 47 E. Oak

Underthings

-Lingerie, Lincoln Park No Comments »

804 W. Webster, (773)472-9291 [ratings]
Goods: Pajamas, robes, chemises, nightgowns, camisoles, bachelorette gifts and, well, under-things. Designers: Hanky Panky, Eberjey, Natori, Elle Macpherson and Flirt. Owner: After working as a manager under the previous owner, Maria Ashby rose through the lingerie ranks and now owns the shop. Vibe: The small, light-flooded space sparkles with friendly staff and pretty pieces. Cherry cabinets display one of each item. Price Range: Moderate. The Look: Comfortable and chic. Shopper’s Perks: With more than twenty-five years of bra-fitting experience, Maria Ashby is a master at her craft; nobody leaves her shop sagging or stifled. Another Perk: Subscriptions to the Underthings Panty Club and the Hanky Panky club make great gifts. Customers can sign up for six- or twelve-month subscriptions and expect a panty the first week of every month.

UPDATED OCTOBER 2009

Underthings

Samantha Chicago

-Lingerie, -Womenswear, Gold Coast No Comments »

64 E. Walton, (312)951-5383, samanthachicago.com [ratings]
Goods: Clothing, lingerie, swimwear and accessories for women. Designers: Milly, Kenneth Jay Lane, LnA, Catherine Malandrino, Ya Ya, Vince and Genetic Denim. Owner: Samantha Mittelman opened the California-cool boutique in an effort to infuse the Midwest with West Coast style. Vibe: Samantha channels Barbie’s dream house with a white ostrich-skin couch, slick pink chairs and shaggy pink rugs. The walls are dressed in a girly flower print and mod white lamps illuminate the space. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: Trend-driven and youthful. Beach babe by day, party girl by night. Gold Coast girl with California dreams. Shopper’s Perks: Starlets love this place, so you may just have a celebrity sighting. Also, the store’s Web site allows for online shopping.

UPDATED OCTOBER 2009

Samantha Chicago

Isabella Fine Lingerie

-Lingerie, Lincoln Park No Comments »

840 W. Armitage, (773)281-2352, shopisabella.com [ratings]
Goods: Lingerie, swimwear and loungewear for women. Designers: Cosabella, Le Mystere, Honeydew, Fantasie, PJ Salvage, Barefoot Dreams, Prima Donna and Marie Jo. Owner: In 1999, Lauren Amerine came back from a trip to Italy full of inspiration: she realized that Chicago was missing a shop staffed with expert fitters and dedicated to fine lingerie. Thus, Isabella was born. Recently, Deborah Urban joined Lauren as an owner. Vibe: The sun-filled, storefront shop is filled with ruffles, flutters, ribbons and silk. Help is attentive, focused and never pushy. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: This woman understands that underpinnings lay the groundwork for a great outfit. She loves classic style with bits of lace and feminine flair. Shopper’s Perks: Lauren’s innate size-savvy has earned her the title of Chicago’s “bra psychic.” (She can tell just from looking at you; really, she’s a master.) A huge size selection goes way beyond the double D.

UPDATED OCTOBER 2009

Isabella

G Boutique

-Lingerie, Bucktown No Comments »

2131 N. Damen, (773)235-1234, boutiqueg.com [ratings]
Goods: Lingerie, sex toys, books, videos and DVDs, massage oils and whips. Designers: Lingerie comes from Simone Perele, Huit, Betsey Johnson, Elle Macpherson, Chantelle, Only Hearts, Hanky Panky, Felina, Aubade, On Gossamer, Madame V and Jane Woolrich. Owners: Cheryl Sloane and Kari Kupcinet-Kriser started G Boutique as a “girlfriend thing”—they envisioned a spot where ladies could stock up on erotic paraphernalia in a comfortable environment. Vibe: A provocative ambiance prevails with deep red and gold hues, old armoires, chaise lounges and items that could blind virgin eyes. The frank and completely relaxed staff helps quell any sex-store jitters. Price Range: Inexpensive-Expensive. The Look: Romantic, sensual, spontaneous. Lingerie ranges from prim and proper to been-around-the-block. Shopper’s Perks: G Boutique hosts private parties (either at the shop or in your home) for ladies to “drink, eat, try on clothes and talk about sex.” Their “How to Please a Man/Woman” classes are also popular.

UPDATED OCTOBER 2009

G Boutique

Bosom Buddies: Bra-fittin’ in Ravenswood

-Lingerie No Comments »

Pear-shaped blue and green balloons are filled to capacity and bob throughout the ShareWear Consignment Store in Ravenswood, inviting people inside to the event announced by a sign in the window: “Bra Fitting Party! Join Us.” Hourglass-shaped women step in and out of the dressing room, half naked. Some timidly pull the multi-colored curtain aside and step out, while others smooth their chest with their hands and admire themselves in the mirror.
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