Drapers talks to Soozie Jenkinson, head of design for lingerie, active and swim at Marks & Spencer about building a lasting celebrity collaboration and the next big lingerie trends.
In a retail landscape where celebrity collaborations are increasingly important but relatively short-lived, Marks & Spencer is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its Rosie for Autograph collection with model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. First launched as 33-piece lingerie collection, the range now includes sleepwear, activewear and make-up.
Jenkinson explains how M&S connects with shoppers and anticipates lingerie trends.
Most celebrity collaborations last a couple of seasons – why has Rosie for Autograph been so long-lived?
I’ve been working in Marks & Spencer for more than 20 years, so, as you say, I’ve seen lots of different celebrity collaborations come and go on the high street. This is the fifth anniversary of the collection, but we’ve been working with Rosie for six years.
The first year was about coming up with a really clear concept of the collection and what it stood for – that was a really important, creative time that helped us to build a collaboration that resonated with existing customers while also attracting new ones.
Both parties were very clear that this wasn’t a collection by a supermodel for a supermodel, Rosie wanted it to be something her mum and her grandmother could wear.
What trends are you seeing in the lingerie market? What’s next?
The trend we’ve seen recently, and expect to continue to grow into next year, is the move towards a natural silhouette. It is less about the push-up, cleavage-enhancing bras, and that drives interest in less padding and lighter-weight cups.
Softer shapes, such as the bralette, have been a global trend, as have longer styles, which customers are loving for autumn 17. Trends happening in other categories very much influence what customers are looking for in their lingerie.
We’re also expecting to see massive growth in the return of big knickers. We recently launched a high-waisted Brazilian style. Low-rise knickers have been the fashion shape for around 15 years, but there’s been a move towards ”waisted” silhouettes, such as mid-waist jeans, which are better suited to longer knickers.
We have high hopes for them next year. When it comes to bras, there’s been a lot of innovation around non-wired bras, whereas previously wired T-shirt bras were the star player.
How does M&S plan on remaining a market leader in UK lingerie?
This is very dynamic market, where there’s a lot going on. We have a 35% market share in bras, and we sell more than 21 million bras every year. Success is about anticipating trends and looking forward, to fashion trends, lifestyle trends, textile trends – it all goes in the creative pot.
We also get a lot of information from our customers from a number of different routes, which is very important, whether that is customer feedback online, ratings on products or focus groups. Every single product is tested on real women, giving us feedback not just on how a product looks but also on how it supports and whether it is flattering.