The birth of Victoria's Secret might have been a revelation for modern ladies (and gents) in search of affordable, frilly under-things, but for a designer who's truly turned on by all "that you can't see," it offered little in the way of inspiration.
Instead, it was the delicate long-forgotten details of '50s and '60s French lingerie that supplied the starting point for Janine Rose's own line of sexy intimates, Passion Bait. "I was looking for something in lingerie I just couldn't find anywhere," says Rose, who attended art school in Hertfordshire, England before beginning a run in modeling in Paris.
"While I was in Paris, I started collecting vintage lingerie and erotic photography and books," says Rose. "I envisioned designing a line that was full of all of these vintage finishing details, the kind no one really did anymore." During this time, Rose made regular visits to Cadole, a well-known lingerie boutique, which carries beautiful French corsets from the mid-20th-century.
Today, Janine splits her time between Manhattan and Upstate New York and hopes to create the same sort of mystique around her pieces that existed all those years ago. "I want women to feel sexy in my lingerie, not in an overt tacky sexy, but something quieter and more subtle," says Rose. Color is always important in her designs, and she uses it to accent and emphasize shapes.
This season features a sort of greatest hits from past collections. In addition to new pieces like sheer bras, panties are embellished with appliqué that provide a Belle Epoch feel. "It looks beautiful, slightly raw," says Rose.
Rose works closely with her husband Stephen, a photographer, on the images for the line, and the couple also collaborates intimately on the inspirational process for Passion Bait. Their interest in erotic photography and '70s anthologies of early erotica came about originally when both were looking for ideas for their work.
Among early inspirations for the Passion Bait line was the stocking-lingerie photography of Elmar Batters, whose refined, soft-porn images of naked girls in nylon stockings, often shown in forests and other outdoor settings, enjoy cult status today. The photography of EJ Bellocq, who captured prostitutes in New Orleans around the turn-of-the-century, was also influential.
Not surprising, Passion Bait's seasonal look-books have become a sort of collector's items. Their first look-book in 1999 (pictured), inspired by the simple cardboard covers of French publisher Olympia Press (to hide the risqué content of writers like Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, and others) won the Print magazine award for best design.
Designer Janine Rose offers a fanciful twist to lingerie by using centuries past and sexy old photos as an inspiration for Passion Bait.