Blueprint… as we call it. In Portuguese it translates to a heliographic copy, ordinarily associated with technical design. Loosely translated, it can be seen as a plan, a starting point. Just as underwear is the starting point to the rest of the closet. And it even has a technical design of its own.
A blueprint is defined as the reproduction of a design through a printing process using light-sensitive sheets, firstly introduced in 1842 by mathematician and astronomer Sir John Herschel, allowing for the rather quick multiplication of an unlimited amount of copies. Used, for over a century, mainly in civil construction, industry, engineering and architecture, and characterized by its white lines against a blue background (the process involved a mixture of ammonium citrate and potassium ferrocyanide that would then be exposed to light; in the most sensitive areas of the paper not darkened by the drawings, the light would provoke a chemical reaction creating a blue tint – the exposed paper would then be rinsed with water, producing a negative picture, this is, white lines over a dark blue backdrop), it became obsolete as a common practice, but not as a form of expression. And that expression fits the attempt to explore lingerie’s technical design like a babydoll, as if sown in by threads of architecture.
To talk about the anatomy of underwear is a task intended only for those who know it from the first thread to the last stitch. Giorgia Fuini, director of the Corsetry and Nightwear Department at Intimissimi, is one of them. “After sketching, the designs are delivered to the modeler, with explanations of the intricate details and supposed outcome, while discussing together the execution at an industrial level as well”, she explains, when asked about the genesis of this evolution down to the final product. “The modeler then develops the mold from where the first prototype is born”, she adds. And that prototype, how do you guarantee it fits the best considering the different feminine silhouettes? It’s the classical test drive: “We try on the prototypes on a size 2 (34) model, remove what doesn’t work and, starting there, we develop the other sizes that will then be tried on by different women. These are also tested all over our style department and by colleagues as well… since Calzedonia is, for the most part, a company made by women”, she remarks. And the materials? Do they have any prevalence when it comes to the silhouette? Maybe, but above all they do when it comes to the taste and demand of brand-loyal customers: “Our rationales are developed around trends and our own creativity, and are presented internally one year prior, always taking the starting point of commercial feedback and requests”, Fuini clarifies when asked about the raw materials brainstorming. “The collection must be fashionable, but it also needs to sell and fit our target price range. We have to be innovative on the how and on technical aspects, while keeping up with the trends and maintaining a reasonable price at the same time.”
Lace seems to be one of those trends that remains forever a consumer favorite… Is using it in underwear usually part of the plan? “Lace is true in every sense…”, the specialist justifies. “Although in the last couple of months, with all these sociocultural changes, preferences have also shifted. You can never forsake sensuality, inherent to these types of materials, symbolic of corsetterie by excellence. The combination of lace and silk straps give pieces the right mix between sensuality and transparency, which characterizes the Intimissimi woman. Even when adapting to change, we never run away from our identity”, Giorgia assures. And it’s within that identity that they place their bets in order to maintain the fidelity of their audience, without ever shutting their eyes on what’s going on in our day and age: “Women’s bodies rapidly adjust to social contexts, ever changing, and we follow, first and foremost, the changing female body.” Innovation is always conducted with caution and attending to its own feasibility – if it only depended on creativity alone, the materials used, for example, would go far beyond lace, lycra and mousse: “We’ve always wanted to experiment with natural, soft fibers such as wool and cashmere in underwear, but it’s very difficult…”, Giorgia Fuini confesses. “This year, we created a small modal/cashmere series for increased practicality. A little treat, the idea of wearing loungewear even underneath clothing… the soft feeling of a pullover on the skin. Let’s see, it for sure stretches out of the typical corsetterie limits, but everything is changing”, she says vaguely, leaving an already answered question floating in the air: “What can’t you use in corsetterie? Anything that bothers the skin.”
And what about color tones? Let’s talk blue, the star player of this issue: “In our basic collections, blue is very much present on some of the designs, and in our silk lingerie and nightwear, but it’s not the most used color this FW20 season. It will return in full force next spring”, she confesses. But reveals there is a blue reinforcement for New Year’s Eve: “It’s an exclusive production for Portugal, because it is indeed a Portuguese tradition. Produced especially in baby blue, it will include all our best sellers in lingerie. Going from 2018 to 2019, we saw a 21% rise in sales for this color on that time of the year.” Next time you pick up your favorite piece of lingerie, remember that someone tried their hardest to make sure it is perfect for you to wear – and not just on a blue moon.
Originally published on Vogue Portugal October 2020 issue, Into The Blue.