It may be the middle of December, but upscale London-based lingerie brand Agent Provocateur is steaming up the city with the launch of its first Chicago boutique. The shop has been here just one week but the brand has been at the pinnacle of the lingerie hierarchy for years. “Other lingerie companies often follow what we do and try to copy what we do,” says Danielle Boholst, United States training coordinator for the company. “[We] set the standard for the industry.”
Imported from London’s Soho district, the brand made its way to America in 2000 with a flagship store in Los Angeles. Hitting the Oak Street scene eight years later, the line’s reputation precedes it. Granted, this is not your everyday underwear—a single bra can set you back $110. Made from only the finest fabrics and lace, product quality is key. Boholst, for one, says you get what you pay for. “Initially, like at Victoria’s Secret, something may look the same as something of ours, but it will be falling apart within weeks whereas our threads hold together for years,” she says. “It’s the difference between buying from H&M and Barney’s. It may be cute and trendy, but overall you’re also buying for the quality and longevity.”
Store “agent” Helena Barber agrees. “I think it takes a lot of engineering to get these little details right,” she says of the largely English cuts and designs.
Featuring Dita Von Teese-esque tuxedo-style corsets and lace-infused brassieres, the line is one part nice and two parts naughty. Barber points out some of the store’s riskier pieces. “Masks, whips, latex stockings with a paddle,” she says with a laugh. “It’s tastefully done. Nothing trashy—we’re not in competition with those types of places,” she says. “Our clientele has always been more higher end.”
Which may explain why Agent Provocateur doesn’t seem to be receding with the economy. “The company will only open doors where it already has established clientele,” Boholst says. “Chicago showed a lot of interest.” (Nicole Briese)
Agent Provocateur, 47 E. Oak, (312)335-0229