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Sarah Shotton

Agent Provocateur’s head creative tells Lucie Goulet why lingerie is the most important element
in a woman’s outfit

How did you start designing lingerie?

I didn’t train as a lingerie designer but studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins College. I was always interested in the fashion form, something I explored during my tailoring-heavy graduate collection, but lingerie was not a conscious choice. Right after my degree, I was offered a job at Agent Provocateur as an office junior. I’m quite curvaceous and at the time I was struggling to find lingerie I loved. Agent Provocateur interested me because it offered good lingerie in my size. The company was really small at the time so I worked in all areas, from working on the basic offer through to helping with buying. I then went on to open the brand’s LA boutique, and that was when I started designing too.

How has your job evolved during your time at the business?

I’ve grown with the company. I’ve been designing for seven or eight years now and I used to be involved in pretty much every aspect of the business, but as it got bigger I had to let some things go. I now oversee everything creative so I have a say in everything from windows to packaging, campaigns and even our perfumes.

What kind of woman do you have in mind when creating your designs for Agent Provocateur?

I design things I’d like to wear myself. At all times when I’m drawing, I imagine how things would fit me but also how I want them to make the female form look. I always think about real women and the different moods they go through. I have to cover all areas, from pretty to sexy to comfy, but my illustrations are all still quite booby.

Do you believe lingerie brands have a role to play in the way women see their body?

Most women struggle with weight issues over the course of their lives. I was always curvy. When I was younger, the look of the time was the Kate Moss-inspired heroin-chic aesthetic and I was completely the opposite of that. Because of that, I could never find underwear that fitted me and I hated my body for a long time. I like to think that Agent Provocateur lingerie makes you feel strong and empowered. I still do store fittings from time to time and I often see customers leaving who are truly thankful for the lingerie they have bought. I personally think lingerie is the most important item in an outfit; it’s the foundation. If you wear a well-fitting bra, your clothes will hang better and you’ll be able to make the most out of your body.

How do you come up with the design themes each season?

I’m inspired by films, actresses, strong women and heroines but also by music and art. Lingerie isn’t like fashion - you need very different underwear to match very different personalities because it’s such a personal garment. The collections have themes, such as witches or superheroes, but these are more to do with creating a good marketing hook.

Which is your favourite item of clothing?

A Balmain dress with stacks of Swarovski crystals at the waist. And I love my jodhpurs as well.

Which city most inspires your designs?

Paris, because it is so chic, beautiful and romantic.

Which is your favourite shop?

Radio Days, a vintage shop in London’s Waterloo. I learnt a lot about fashion history there.

John Galliano

Source: David Fisher / Rex Features

Who is your fashion icon? Azzedine Alaia and John Galliano.


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