Former design consultant at Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Fat Face, Zoe Price-Smith decided to leave her life in the UK behind in 2011 to lead the design team at Hunkemöller, one of Europe's leading lingerie and lifestyle labels. During the unveiling of Hunkemöller's upcoming Winter '15 collections, FashionUnited took a moment to sit down and talk to the label's busy Director of Design.
FashionUnited: What's it like working for Hunkemöller, one of Europe's leading lingerie labels?
Zoe Price-Smith: “I love it. I have been here for three years and committed everything to working for Hunkemöller. I moved my family here and my husband set up his business here. I think you have to absolutely love what you do to really take it forward. I adore lingerie and I love the brand and I see so much potential in it, so it gives me true energy and passion to drive it onwards.”
“Right now I am very, very happy with where we are, a place that took us some time to build up to and I am very proud of it. To see the vision for the next coming year as well really feels me with so much energy and enthusiasm for my job. I feel really honored to work at Hunkemöller and I am very proud of my job.”
How many collections do you create per year?
“We launch really big collections, so we would do four quarters per year, and one alone could contain over 300 different bras. Our Christmas collection is slightly smaller, because its a shorter period, but before that there is our third quarter which is Autumn, but starts really around the end of June which is a difficult transitional time as it runs all the way up to October, so its our biggest collection. So imagine, last season we had around 370 bras plus bottoms and then we had nightwear on top of that, so its a lot to coordinate the whole lot. You have to have a very clear vision from the start so everyone knows exactly what they are doing.”
How big is the design team?
“Well I have ten designers working in my team, as well as a few freelancers but I will coordinate and brief my team as to what it is going on with all collection launches. We have a very creative team, as it is a design based company, so they have to be. So design is at forefront of our business and our strategy is to maintain that going into the future to become a stronger brand.”
How do you set the mood/tone for Hunkemöller's collections?
“It is really based on runways and fashion. And we also look at global trends world wide and then rewrite it for our brand. So its very eclectic mixing prints to get the spirit of what the trend is all about and then you have to translate it down to create concepts for each product range and collection. And there is so much research that goes into it, we create everything in house, so we only use the intelligence we see from the outside world and bring it all in to create our lingerie."
“We want to make sure we transport the latest runway fashion trends into lingerie, so we used a lot of transparency, paneling and asymmetric shapes to craft a beautiful, seamless collection for this Holiday season.”
And do you work new emerging trends into your current collections, such as soft bras?
“Actually, we've added quite a few new soft cup bras into our collection this season, not only because they are trendy, but because the demand for them is there and is quite high. If you go through our current collection there are a lot more soft, none padded bras, with a touch of lace here and there. And we are building it up, season after season for our customers as its very much in demand and current.”
“The general every day woman is bigger than before and she does have a bigger bust. She wants more cup sizes and styles available to her, because these women do not always want to wear traditional foam bras, so we want to offer them an alternative.”
Why is it still important to have a traditional Christmas inspired collection?
“Because the day itself is like Valentines Day, everyone wants a red lingerie set and we just wanted to make it more seductive this season, by adding new strapping and glam. But of course, we made sure we have other choices as well, for those who do not want a traditional red set. We have ones in cobalt blue and lighter blues, which are all important this season as well as your jewel tones, emerald greens and red berries mixed with prints that come through in a seductive way.”
“Then we also created a small collection called Snow Queen, celebrating the purity of Christmas, with a touch of sparkle, seen on the iridescent shine coming through on the laces, the rich chocolates which are really key in a variety of shades and tones to give it that Christmassy richness in a soft, beautiful way.”
How do you decide what cup style/design to use for a particular bra?
“It all comes down to working with the buying teams. So they'll say that they may need four balconies and five plunges and then its up to us [the design team] to create those shapes. But it comes from a merchandising and sales perspective, what styles are selling and what ratios our collections need. So they supple that information to us and we then go on to design around the data they give us.”
How is Hunkemöller's Noir line different from other lines?
“Well, Noir we launched a few seasons ago and it is our premium line. It is about pure sophistication, its timeless and its the attention to detail that separates it from our other lines. It needs to be visibly obvious that it is more expensive and why. It has its own handwriting, a signature, which makes it stand out. The color palettes are quite consolidated, which could be two colors, and you can see the product is Noir just by the lace used, the straps, all those components which makes it stand away from the rest of the collection.”
“The price points do sit a bit higher than the rest of our collections, but that allows us the freedom to do a lot more with the fabrics, lace and materials we ultimately decide to use to make it that bit more sophisticated.”
And how important is sleepwear and nightwear for Hunkemoller?
“Our nightwear has always been important for us, but its growing within the brand. We offer two sides of nightwear. One which is based around the same trends we translate into our different lingerie collections, which is usually displayed alongside the lingerie in store, and then we have our more 'cozy' division. The cosy lines, which consist of oneies, soft pajama bottoms and tops tend to sit on tables in the middle of the stores, as they follow their own concept and trends separate from our bras. It is really important that we also remain up to trend when it comes to our nightwear as well, and we have our own separate design team for nightwear alongside our lingerie and bra specialist design team. "
Lastly, can you tells us a little bit more about your ongoing collaboration with model and presenter, Sylvie Meis?
“Well this season we will be launching our second lingerie collaboration with Sylvie, and when we came together to work out the upcoming collection we found the city of London to be the perfect fit because I am from London, she lived in London, she loves London, so our roots together in London came out strong. We wandered off to study the more fashion influence side of the city and we wanted to translate the sense of modern glamor we found into traditional lingerie, along with what she loves, paying attention to the most finest and delicate details to make it very Sylvie. Which was important for the collection.”
“The editorial shoots for the collection were all shot in London, you can see some of the main landmarks in the background of the photos that were shot outside.”