The company wholesale lingerie raised its profile further by enlisting the help of actress Penelope Cruz, who teamed up with Agent Provocateur in 2012 to create the lingerie company’s first-ever diffusion line, L’Agent. It has since expanded its collaborative reach with an “it” accessories label, Charlotte Olympia. Agent Provocateur also collaborated with ShowStudio mastermind Nick Knight for a “groundbreaking exploration in extending a narrative advertising campaign to also create an experimental film series.” It also kept abreast of advances in social media, launching WhatsApp campaigns, and taking to Snapchat, Periscope and Tumblr for its cheeky #KnickersForever initiative.
Further, if magazine covers (and rap lyrics, a popular alternative metric to gauge a brand’s level of visibility) are any indication, Agent Provocateur was both positioned and received favorably. This assertion is boasted, as well, by the array of copies of the brand’s most desired items. You may recall that Agent Provocateur sued ‘Made in Chelsea’ star Kimberley Garner in 2013 for allegedly copying its protected Mazzy bikini design. ASOS, Victoria’s Secret, Target, H&M, and Frederick’s of Hollywood have also come under fire for their Agent Provocateur knockoffs.
Yet, despite all of this, in recent years, the pricey lingerie brand, which has traditionally competed against well-known – albeit less expensive – brands, such as Victoria’s Secret, as well as similarly situated rivals like La Perla, has fallen out of favor.
With so many companies – from mall brands to luxury conglomerate-owned fashion mainstays – struggling for various reasons, we ask: What went wrong for Agent Provocateur, exactly? Well, trouble has certainly been brewing for the lingerie brand. Last November, 3i wrote down the value of its 80 per cent stake by £39m — the private equity firm’s largest devaluation in the first half of last year, even though Agent Provocateur only represents one percent of its entire portfolio. xvttx12345
In connection therewith, the private equity group said: “We are supporting the new management team to put in place a new strategic plan, which involves a restructuring of the business. Agent Provocateur is still a valuable brand and, as part of this restructuring, we have provided further investment of £4m in the quarter to 30 September 2016.”
Agent Provocateur is not the only one struggling. Frederick's of Hollywood, the retailer of moderate priced women's lingerie, which until relatively recently consisted of stores rooted in shopping malls across the U.S., began closing its brick-and-mortar stores in 2015 in an attempt to cope with plunging sales. The Los Angeles-based brand, which was the market leader in lingerie until the 1980s (when it was overtaken by Victoria's Secret), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 (after filing for the first time in 2001) and has since opted for an entirely online retail network.
Victoria's Secret, which got its start in 1977 and has since grew to nab the title of the largest American retailer of women's lingerie, announced in March 2016 that it would restructure its business to focus on core categories, thereby dropping swimwear and certain other merchandise categories from its offerings. The move was aimed at narrowing the company's focus and simplifying the operating model, according to Chief Executive Leslie Wexner.
The slip in sales among more traditional lingerie brands is the result of an array of factors, one of which is the marked surge in demand for more casual lingerie, including as bralettes, among millennial shoppers, in particular. Analysts also point to an increase in the number of newish luxury brands encroaching on the territory of more the traditionally-formatted lingerie brand.
Consider the rise of Kiki de Montparnasse, Jean Yu, and Fleur du Mal, for instance, which have entered the market since Agent Provocateur’s founding, offering appealing luxury wares oftentimes for less than the Le Perla’s and Agent Provocateur’s of the world.
Also, it is important to not overlook the outpouring in seed funding for undergarments brands over the past two years – New York City startup Lively, for example, raised $4 million in funding in 2016 to grow its direct-to-consumer lingerie brand – and the fact that these brands are heavily shaping the way consumers shop for intimates. In much the same way as Victoria’s Secret altered the way women (and men) shopped for lingerie beginning in 1977 – bringing lingerie out of the department store and into its own space and into its own popular mail order catalogs – many of these newly founded brands are evolving further, and aiming to make lingerie shopping easier and more affordable for consumers.
"Lingerie is a daily necessity yet a constant source of frustration for most women," says Jiabei Chen, the Harvard Law School graduate, who co-founded lingerie start-up Ampere. According to Chen, she and her colleagues “were disappointed by both the product and the experience of shopping for lingerie. We could never find anything we loved in our sizes and hated being fitted by complete strangers in public spaces."
Another important differentiator amongst the new guard: Sizing. As for why Adore Me founder and CEO Morgan Hermand-Waiche decided to launch his collection in 2011, he says: “There are not enough alternatives for women in America to buy their intimates." Adore Me, a subscription based lingerie service that boasts a selection of “Designer Lingerie For Every Body,” has gained widespread praise for its inclusiveness.