Underdaaks unloosens undies
An outfit just isn't complete without the right...shoes? Earrings? Lipstick? No, silly. True fashionistas understand that putting together a look that makes a unique statement must start with the stuff no one, or next to no one, sees. Underdí¤aks, Leanne McElroy's new lingerie line, fills the gap between where La Senza leaves off and La Perla begins. (The name comes from the Australian for "underwear".) "My target is the sophisticated career woman with personalized style and who adds designs to her wardrobe rather than having the design be her. She is socially active, fashion-conscious, and wants something new...fashion-forward pieces that are still timeless," McElroy explains at a Main Street café next door to her shared atelier.
The business concept was not determined solely on the basis of fashion, however. Part of McElroy's strategy and eventual decision to focus her designs on lingerie was an attempt to find a niche where she could fully exploit her talents. As she recounts "a bit of a fluke", she did an introductory line last Christmas for Sara Robson Francoeur at Narcissist (3659 Main Street); at that time, Francoeur was looking for accessories to complement her store. Celebrated by the press and customers in town, McElroy did a bit of reflecting overseas before she came back with the firm commitment to make Underdí¤aks work.
"I'm not a fan at all of mass production," the designer says, which also accounts for her choice to hone in on lingerie. Although the idea is not one-of-a-kind, the order process she is establishing leads to hundreds of optional combinations. With dozens and dozens of fabrics and trimmings, three styles of tops, and four bottoms to choose from, "it's math," she says.
The young Helen Lefeaux School of Design graduate is making this all happen partly through hard work and ingenuity and partly with the assistance of the federal-government-assisted Youth Entrepreneur Program (www.success.bc.ca/yep/). McElory explains that she is a member of the third intake of that program and that her classes consist of 16 students. These courses include instruction in marketing, promotions, public speaking, and accounting.
In the end, however, the product must speak for itself. The three styles of camisole tops range from sporty to more overtly sexy, but the result relies on the fabrications and combinations the customer chooses. Berkeley is the casual, tanklike camisole; Brooke has a risqué lace-up front; and Mahalia is almost a halter with a low V front. What needs to be seen to be understood, however, is the degree to which the various fabrics seem to change each style. The Mahalia, for instance, can go from sultry in micofibre to casual in cotton mesh.
The bottoms are made to mix and match with any of the three top styles: Cadence is a boy short with a small front lace-up that can be matched with Brooke (or not), Georgie is the straight-ahead low-rise boy short, Dabuku is similar to Georgie but with a peekaboo in the back to expose bum cleavage, and Abigail--which sounds innocent enough--is the low-rise, wide-sided thong- back bottom.
The styles are, in a sense, the easy part: the selection is not too overwhelming, which is smart because the materials are really where all the fun is. Just a sampling: lace in cotton-candy pink or antique white, to name only two; mesh in tropical patterns, snow white, or Merlot; microfibre in pistachio, sapphire, or magenta; cotton spandex in pink, sea foam, or naval stripes... And, of course, there are always polka dots. That's not even mentioning the trims. Think of the candy treat you can create of chocolate-brownie lace with spearmint edging. Or the sexy nightie you could make of the pink-froth lace, a beige foundation colour with pink highlights throughout. For those who are daring, any of these camis could actually double as outerwear, without having to make reference to Madonna. Fortunately. (Camisoles range in price from $58 to $65; bottoms run between $29 and $33.)
How to get some? McElroy plans to have the collection on-line by the end of November (www.underdaaks.com/) and to sell it in Life of Riley (3697 Main Street) this season, but currently the line is available by hosting a good old-fashioned lingerie party. Contact McElroy at email@example.com or by calling 604-617-5169.