Marlies Dekkers talks about her lingerie revolution

Photo courtesy of marlies|dekkers

Today, SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to publish the second interview in the series of funky brand interviews. As you may remember from the first piece that launched this series, funky brand interviews are meant to give you some insights into the real people behind some of the funkiest brands out there. My interviewee today is Marlies Dekkers, an astonishingly talented fashion designer and accomplished entrepreneur from the Netherlands, whose luxury lingerie brand marlies|dekkers has won the hearts of many women (and men) around the world. Last year, I published a review of the marlies|dekkers brand, and have been watching its growing success ever since.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Marlies, each of your lingerie collections has a story. What is the story behind your latest Autumn-Winter 2009 collection inspired by Peggy Guggenheim?

Marlies Dekkers: I took some of Peggy’s favourite artists and interpreted their styles into a collection of four key stories and a girls line. The French surrealist Jean Cocteau was one of Peggy’s first artistic loves and forms the background to the cocteau collection. The calder line takes its cue from the 3D mobile sculptures of the American artist Alexander Calder. Gates to the palazzo is my homage to the dramatic entrance gates of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Peggy Guggenheim’s home in Venice and now home to her museum. Ship of dreams is enchanted by the glittering diamonds of Peggy’s Socialite friends. Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, famous for his machine-like sculptures full of cogs, wheels and springs, inspired me for my girls collection this season. You can find all collections on my website.

SCHMOOZY FOX: But what is YOUR personal story? When and how did it all start?

Marlies Dekkers: At already a very young age, seven to be exact, I was fascinated by lingerie and asked my mother for suspenders. You can imagine that my mom declined my odd request…Nevertheless it kept captivating me. I just found lingerie so beautiful and yet so mysterious. For me it was a big mystery I couldn’t understand at the time. During my studies at the Sint Joost Academy for Art and Design my work was very conceptual. I always liked to design close to the body which became my signature right from the start. But it was not before I graduated that I had a clear vision and recognized my work as lingerie, this was the start of something big… I persisted with my dream and set to work designing my way of lingerie: strong, sexy, self-confident and with a perfect fit. In 1993, I started my own Undressed label with a subsidy from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, out of my top floor apartment in Amsterdam.

Photo courtesy of marlies|dekkers

As early as 1994, I was awarded with the Dutch Body Fashion Award for my collections. In 1997 I received museological ecognition with a solo exhibition in the Rotterdam Art Hall. My work was crowned by ELLE Magazine’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2004. In 2007 I  felt honored to be awarded the Prix Veuve Clicquot Business woman of the Year Award and to win the New York CILA Award for ‘Best Fashion Lingerie’. In 2008 I started off with the Parisian Creator of the Year Award, followed by a second New York CILA Award for ‘Best Maternity collection’. The year ended in style with the Prix Marie Claire for ‘Best Fashion Entrepreneur’. In January 2009 I won the Dutch BIDLEF Award as ‘The Most Daring Entrepreneur with an Innovative Business Approach’. This award perfectly matches the company motto ‘Dare to be’. I guess this was a promising start of 2009. Now I am focusing on the USA and I am trying to keep my company in one straight line. Last year the brand had existed for 15 years, we celebrated this with shows, exhibitions and many other events! A very busy year! This year is all about keeping my company as strong as it is.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Marlies Dekkers lingerie certainly stands out from the crowd. What was it about conventional lingerie that made you position your brand in such a different way?

Marlies Dekkers: As a lingerie designer I design to please women. Working from the point of view that there is beauty and power in every woman, my wish is to accentuate women’s self-confidence. Women tend to have a different view of who they are and I try to create designs that allow women to accept themselves and to feel proud of their own bodies. In my designs you will always find modern and powerful straps or little details on significant places like for example the front of the bra, the back or the neckline. I have been using these graphical lines from the very start of my work. I use them to accentuate the beautiful parts of the woman’s body which is in my belief the perfect way to stimulate women’s self confidence.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What kind of a woman is most likely to appreciate the marlies|dekkers brand?

Photo courtesy of marlies dekkers

Marlies Dekkers: Marlies Dekkers’ women are independent, modern and confident women in the age category of 18 till 80. I do not have a certain image of a typical Marlies Dekkers’ woman in my mind while designing my lingerie collections. So it’s hard to call a most likely who appreciates my lingerie. Examples are my ‘special size collection’ which embraces the curves of a woman and the ‘girl collection’, especially designed for younger girls in the age of 15 - 16. What truly matters is that I design something in which you, as a woman, feel beautiful and that fits you perfectly. After all, I design lingerie to please women and for all women!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Apart from your passion for creating beautiful garments, what else makes you tick and remain authentic, bold, entrepreneurial and sexy? How do you “dare to be”?

Marlies Dekkers: Being myself and feeling comfortable with myself and my body. Actually, in my company I’m also very much in the forefront, very hands on. This is how I stay involved and authentic. There’s a whole world of marlies|dekkers and it’s not just about the look but about the whole image and how to deal with that. By the sheer number of experiences and influences I have managed to channel a brand that caters for the modern woman like no other. That feels amazing and super sexy!

SCHMOOZY FOX: The Marlies Dekkers brand is growing fast, and I can imagine that apart from creating the actual designs, you are constantly involved in management as well. There is of course a talented team of people who work with you. But how do you personally feel the pulse of your consumers? What is your way of knowing what exactly they want?

Marlies Dekkers: A woman’s body is my canvas. When I design something, I fit it on a real model, not on a doll. A real body feels if it fits well or not, a real body can tell you what should fit better, it moves and it has natural curves. Besides that I visit my stores to meet my costumers face-to-face so they can tell me what is good and what isn’t. I find it very important to know what women think and how they fit lingerie.. There are so many women with so many different bodies. If I could I would try my lingerie on each one of them, just to make every woman the perfect bra!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What could you advise to women entrepreneurs who want to start their own business? What can help them to be successful?

Marlies Dekkers: Dare to be! Dare to make choices, dare to let go of things to stay close to yourself. Learn from your mistakes, it will only make you come out stronger in the end. I always say; “If it doesn’t kill you, it will shape you, if it doesn’t break you, it will make you…”

SCHMOOZY FOX: Where do you see the marlies|dekkers brand in five years from now? Will you be branching out in new

Photo courtesy of marlies|dekkers

directions? Marlies Dekkers: My main design ambition is to create the possibility for every woman in the world to choose for a marlies|dekkers design. Hopefully, I’ll be another step closer to this goal in five years from now! I’m sure that I’ll be branching in new directions as well, I’m already working on that. We are really focusing on the USA at the moment, my lingerie is doing really well over there. I hope that it will only keep growing in the coming years, there is still so much more to reach!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Many thanks for this interview, and the best of success to your great brand!

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