From a small kink shop in London’s Soho to global mega-brand, Agent Provocateur is one brand to associate yourself with, if you haven’t already. Founded in 1994 by Joseph Corré, son of Dame Vivienne Westwood, the lingerie brand shook up the establishment with sexy and desirable lingerie, contributing in bringing undergarments into the world of fashion and haute couture. In 2010, Corré stepped back and Sarah Shotton took over as Creative Director. Having worked for the brand since 1999, Shotton already knew her way around the bras and bustiers, and has managed to successfully guide the brand’s femme fatale aesthetic through to the modern world, where women no longer wear flattering lingerie for the male gaze but as a mean of empowerment.
For its latest collection, Super Natural, Agent Provocateur transports you to new realms of pleasure. The campaign, shot against a backdrop of the morning sun’s pink sky, stays true to the brand’s DNA of being different at every opportunity. Classic AP pieces have been giving an update with bright pink, shimmering golds, royal purples, and wild-leopard print dominating the collection.
To welcome Agent Provocateur’s alluring line in ILLUM, we spoke with Sarah Shotton about lingerie design, inspiration, and her best piece of advice when lingerie shopping.
What drew you to lingerie design initially?
I studied fashion in the 90s at Central Saint Martins and I had always been interested in corsetry and body manipulation. Being curvy myself I had always worn minimizer bras and control wear because in those days it just wasn’t fashionable to be curvy. Thank goodness times have changed! Being a 32F I couldn’t find anything exciting or sexy, and on a few occasions when having lingerie fittings I had been made to feel bad about my body and my bra size. So an obsession began, and when I got the chance to start designing for Agent Provocateur I wanted to make sure you could still get great sexy and fashionable lingerie that did amazing things to your body even if you were a large cup size.
You worked your way up the ladder at AP. What was your ambition when you took over as Creative Director?
To get more women wearing and loving Agent Provocateur internationally. Times had changed since the brand started in the 90s and I wanted to really put the strength of the woman at the forefront and create a much more fashion-forward and technically challenging collection that suited the modern woman's lifestyle.
Where do you find inspiration?
I listen to what the customer is asking for primarily, but some of the time it's from my own needs and what I want from my lingerie wardrobe. Creatively, I'm also inspired by strong women, books, music, film etc. The ever-evolving world is also an inspiration to me.
What is the ideal AP woman like?
The AP woman has many facets to her personality. She’s strong in body and mind, she knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it.
In your opinion, what is the greatest power of lingerie?
Great lingerie can transform the way you feel about yourself and your body. It can make you feel confident and positive. It’s like what a shoulder pad did in the 1980s or a heel in the naughties. It makes you feel strong, confident, and powerful, and helps you achieve your goals.
How have you felt the market changing in recent years?
The market has totally changed since I first started working for Agent Provocateur. Back then there were very few sexy lingerie brands. Agent Provocateur was the first of its kind when it launched and then more and more have emerged over the years. Lingerie shopping then was dressing for the bedroom, and maybe the man. Today, we buy and wear lingerie for ourselves. Lingerie is now seen a lot on the catwalk and has become a very important staple for your fashion wardrobe. Women want much more from their lingerie now. They don’t want just one style they wear everyday, they want many shapes; everyday lingerie, contour lingerie, kinky lingerie, pretty lingerie, sporty lingerie. The list is endless. It really needs to work with their lifestyle.
What is your best advice for lingerie shopping?
Be open to being fitted properly. There is nothing better than a well-fitting bra, it really changes your posture. Don’t try and downsize yourself, badly fitting and a double busting bra is the worst under clothing. Be experimental with your underwear, try different styles and colours. The lingerie that you thought might not be for you could be the lingerie that makes you feel you could run the world.