Haute Couture’s Relevancy in 2017

In these turbulent times, there is sometimes a need for escapism. Personally, for me, this takes shape in layers of tulle, glittering embroidery and a world so heavily cloaked in artisanal flair that only a real-life princess could accrue such a wardrobe. Such is the world of Haute Couture.

Unlike other Fashion Weeks held six months before the product they show is available online or in-store, Haute Couture is the only showcase in which clothes are created for the season in which they are shown. Yet, the production of each garment can easily cost five figures, and it’s a well-known fact that couture is a loss-leader – the couture industry is simply not profitable.

So why do we still look to these collections as the ultimate pinnacle of fashion?

“Haute Couture is what gives our business its essential essence of luxury,” Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH told The Telegraph. “Set against the money we lose has to be the value of the image couture gives us. Look at the attention the collections attract. It is where you get noticed. You have to be there. It’s where we set our ideas in motion.”

Haute Couture was coined in the mid-19th century when Charles Frederick Worth, an English fashion designer living and working in Paris, started creating custom gowns for elite customers such as royalty and celebrities. A French governing body, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, founded in 1868, has since stipulated the parameters of couture fashion as a “protected name” which can only be used officially when the designer meets certain standards. Each couturier is annually examined to satisfy strict criteria such as having an atelier in Paris with at least 15 full-time staff members and 20 specialised craftsmen, as well as publicly presenting a minimum 75-piece collection of original day and eveningwear, at the Couture Fashion Week, every January and July.

Over the past 15 years, Lebanese designers, such as Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, and Algerian designer Yacine Aouadi, have also been invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to participate in Couture Fashion Week, which has introduced a new Arab customer base.

Chanel Haute Couture SS17 in Paris

Editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK Justine Picardie explained to CNN Style: “There are some very, very, very rich people who want to buy and wear the most beautiful, handcrafted, individual clothes in the world… We’re seeing these great waves of new wealth, from China, from the Middle East, Russia, and also the emerging markets in Africa and India. What’s interesting is that they are buying these clothes in such quantities that a brand like Valentino, which is owned by the Qataris, has doubled its number of couture ateliers.”

Right now, couture is responding to the rising demand from Asia, Russia and the Middle East, while 60% is still American. In the past few years, 6 new designers have been granted couturier status, while Dior, Chanel, and Armani quite often organise private appointments in Shanghai, Dubai and Hong Kong.

January’s Spring/Summer ’17 couture shows featured the likes of Schiaperelli touching on surrealist legacies while John Galliano worked his couture magic for Maison Martin Margiela with beautiful faces in tulle. Thus summoning proof that couture houses are more than able to adapt to the changing environment. Couture is and always will be viewed as head innovators of the fashion industry, through the artisanal craftsmanship from which fashion has transcended from; ornamental yet difficult fabrics and the constant experimentation in techniques, cuts and patterns. Such rare talents in modern times, Chanel has recently committed to protect and promote haute craftsmanship acquiring and supporting 10 Ateliers D’Art specialising in rare techniques through a subsidiary company.

Through this, Haute Couture maintains its crowning relevancy over a sea of fast-fashion and ready-to-wear.

Paris Haute Couture Week SS17

This season’s couture shows displayed an ode to nostalgia but ultimately, a need to move forward, and none so effective than through loud feminine wiles.

Chanel
Chanel has traditionally held a spectacle for their shows to compliment the theme, spectacles and sets such as a casino with the Chanel muses playing cards, an airport complete with check-in counters and departure boards, or a supermarket fully stocked with inter-twining C branded products. This season, however, it was back to basics – well, as basic as couture can get, with a hall-of-mirrors room, inspired by the 20s style of the famed spiral staircase in the house’s Rue Cambon HQ. The work of British interior designer Syrie Maugham was cited as a reference by Lagerfeld – a woman who famously told a client: “If you don’t have ten thousand dollars to spend, I don’t want to waste my time.” Similarly, the collection was just as decadent; silver sequin shifts with bursts of marabou shimmered to life under the lights, while a flapper dress was beaded with rows of crystals and decorated with tiers of feathers. While other looks – such as tweed skirt suits, pearls and dignified dresses – channeling First Ladies rather than flappers.

Dior
70 years in the making and Dior finally has a woman as its creative director. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first couture collection had only two months to materialize; she does not speak French, while most of the Dior atelier does not speak Italian. “We had to find our own, new language,” she says.

Fitted Dior Bar jackets graced the runway with chiffon and lace ball dresses – a functional femininity if you will. Embroidered inspiration took form from the artist Claude Lalanne’s delicate sculptures and Christian Dior’s beloved horoscope symbols scattered across 50’s satin full skirts. This follows on from her first ready-to-wear collection with feminist slogans across t-shirts paired with tulle skirts; and although Maria says, “pret-a-porter reflects the moment, couture is about timelessness,” a case could be made for functional tailoring as a feminist statement in itself.

Elie Saab
Elie Saab pays homage to the goddesses of Egypt this season, inspired by an Arab epoch ‘that left us with a priceless cultural heritage – a source of light & richness for civilizations.’ The collection is wonderfully princess-like, as is what Mr Saab is known for, albeit this season takes a more grown-up approach with hints of boudoir dressage through sheer silks and ostrich feathers. Embroidery took form in the shape of boats dancing in the Nile’s blue hues and the eye of Horus while the finale dresses spoke of freedom through female empowerment.

Schiaparelli Haute Couture
Legend has it; Elsa Schiaparelli’s astronomer uncle once pointed out the many moles on her face which bore the same resemblance as the Great Bear constellation – thus Schiaparelli had her good friend, Salvador Dali, make this into a brooch for her to wear proudly. This same constellation is featured in Bertrand Guyon’s latest couture collection, the artistic director for the house drew the design on a white cashmere cape, along with the sun and the moon and draped it over a little white tunic dress, with thigh-high boots in the same red.

This symbolic legacy seemed a long-time coming; after four seasons at Schiaparelli, Bertrand felt ready to take on the house icons – the lobster, the Cocteau faces but through a much more provocative way, through arduous embellishments and fine embroidery. Something you can’t help but think Schiaparelli would have been most pleased with.

Members Only: New Club Openings

Take a sneak peek into the world of clubland with our handy guide of the hottest new members club openings…

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For the fear of missing out:

Ned’s Club at The Ned London – Opening early 2017
From Soho House’s Nick Jones and the Sydell Group, owner of Manhattan’s NoMad, The Ned is independent from Soho House Group and welcomes anyone appreciative of their good vibes. Situated at the 1920s former Midland Bank building in the City designed by Sir Edwin “Ned” Lutyens, The Ned houses 252 bedrooms; seven restaurants serving everything one’s heart could desire; eight beauty treatment rooms; two swimming pools; a gym with a boxing ring and a Turkish hammam. The building also houses the original bank vault, with a 2m-wide, 20-ton door, which will be turned into a late-night bar.
Membership fees are not confirmed, but membership for Soho House starts at £1,000 a year.
(https://www.thened.com/neds-club)

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For the Entrepreneurs:

Neuehouse New York – Opened in late 2016
Founded by American tech entrepreneurs Joshua Abram and Alan Murray, founders of Neuehouse New York and LA. This “Collaborators” and networkers space hosts a shared office space for creative freelancers. “The first rule is to be nice and have manners,” says Abram. Michelle Grey, NeueHouse’s global creative director, says: “It’s important in life to dress well…fashion is a great template for expressing your inner creativity.” Gym kit isn’t permitted and shoes must be worn at all times. Situated in the Art Deco Adelphi building just off the Strand.

Every tool a start-up, social media co-ordinator or vlogger could need is available for members: rentable private offices, studios, event spaces, screening room — and a florist, for getting in touch with your inner petunia. 
“If you don’t have time to go to the gallery or museum, we’ll bring it to you,” says Abram. The New York branch has hosted talks by Sir Salman Rushdie and designer Sir Paul Smith. 
New York rates start at $200 a month.
(http://neuehouse.com/)

For the businessmen:

Ten Trinity Square Private Club London – Opening Early 2017
From Reignwood Investments together with the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Château Latour, Ten Trinity Square is a world first bringing together several best in class partners. The Club is centred on the second-floor boardrooms and executive offices of the original building, once home to the Port of London Authority and situated opposite the Tower of London.  With their hand-carved walnut panelling and high ornate ceilings, these spaces are being preserved, restored and transformed into the new clubrooms.

The Club will include two restaurants, private dining, meeting rooms, a cigar lounge, bar, and billiards room, making for easy and relaxed connection and contact between members.

Membership rates are to be confirmed.
(http://www.tentrinitysquare.com/the-club)

For the Libertines:

Aristocrat London – Opened late 2016
A discerning nightclub for those in the know. And those in the know are rumoured to be international jet-setters, fashion icons and the art elite. Taking its place on Swallow Street, a club so exclusive that entry will only be for a select 100 at any one time. Whilst not technically a members club, Aristocrat’s club partners have already hand-picked the top tastemakers of London and sent out a key in early January, to give them access to the club with their influencer friends whenever they want. If you’re one of the chosen few, you’ll find baroque backdrops and ornate contemporary chandeliers hanging from the bespoke copper ceilings. Sixteen bottle-serviced tables and banquettes for ten revellers line the dancefloor, whilst the bar will be stocked with London’s finest spirits and most lavish Champagnes.
(www.aristocratldn.com)

The New Influencers: How Luxury Brands are Targeting Millennials

In today’s internet-age, luxury brand’s most effective way to target millennials is through the certified use of ‘influencers’; these are young, like-minded individuals who have reached levels of fame through the use of social media. Gone are the days of becoming rich or famous through reality TV and leaked porn tapes – today’s influencers thankfully have some integrity. They are the social media stars, the taste-makers, the judge and the jury of what is hot right now.

Brands now recognize the arrival of the “era of millennials,” who not only are about to become the largest spending generation in history but also confidently re-define the vision of luxury. With 47% of this group making their purchase decisions under the influence of social media, luxury brands have had no other choice but to rise to the challenge.  

Research from Digital Luxury Group shows 40% of Google results for branded and technical watch brand terms are from blogs and forums. Chiara Ferragani from The Blonde Salad, Kristina Bazan of Kayture, Aimee Song from Song of Style, Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller, and many more have already collaborated with luxury brands in impactful ways.

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After ignoring digital for years, Rolex first graced Instagram at the end of 2015 by tapping into the pool of connections of its celebrity portfolio (Roger Federer alone boasting 2.3 million followers) and promptly overtook the competition in just weeks after the first post.

Tiffany & Co. also generated great organic reach via its aspirational demographics by featuring a constellation of celebrity faces in #LegendaryStyle and #LoveNotLike campaigns.

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While hot off the press this week is Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2017 campaign which stars a cast of fresh-faced millennial influencers; featuring Cameron Dallas – a Vine star, Presley Gerber – son of supermodel Cindy Crawford, Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis – son of Daniel Day Lewis, Luka Sabbat – style influencer, Brandon Thomas Lee – son of Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee, Rafferty Law – son of Sadie Frost & Jude Law, Zendaya Coleman actress & singer, Sonia Ben Ammar – model girlfriend of Brooklyn Beckham, and Thylane Blondeau model, who all together, accumulate more than 50 million social media followers.

Incredibly British Breaks

Who says you need to travel abroad to get the most out of your holiday? Why not staycation in a top luxury hotel across the land of crumpets  –  take a look at my favourite picks…

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Cowley Manor, Gloucestershire

Behold! A 30 bedroom contemporary country house hotel and spa located in the glorious Cotswold countryside surrounded by 55 acres of parkland, woods and meadows. With emphasis on comfort, service and very few rules, Cowley Manor is the ideal place to relax, unwind and indulge in the heart of the British countryside. The spa also hosts excellent treatments and a heated outdoor pool.
Double (including breakfast) from £195 (cowleymanor.com)

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The Savoy, London

The self-proclaimed ‘home-away-from-home’, is one of the most celebrated of London landmarks, proudly standing on the Northbank of the River Thames. The hotel’s 267 luxury rooms and suites celebrate The Savoy’s dual historical influences, featuring either elegant English Edwardian design or sensational Art Deco style. Choose a deluxe suite to enjoy a dedicated Butler service, whilst all guests have access to spa treatments, a private pool, and 24-hour gym in The Savoy’s Beauty & Fitness.
Double room from £450 (fairmont.com/savoy-london)

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The Glasshouse, Edinburgh

When the 160-year-old Lady Glenorchy Church was converted into The Glasshouse Hotel in 2003, Scotland exchanged one iconic piece of history for another. This 77-bedroom luxury boutique hotel is now considered one of the best places to stay in Edinburgh, with cosy-contemporary interiors, warm Scottish service and consistently spectacular views of the city centre, Calton Hill or the hotel’s two-acre rooftop garden.
Double from £135 (theglasshousehotel.co.uk)

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Llangoed Hall, Wye Valley

Llangoed Hall is a wonderfully elegant and historic country house hotel situated in the beautiful Wye Valley in the heart of the Welsh countryside. It offers the quintessential Edwardian country house experience, once belonging to Laura Ashley’s husband, Bernard, who bought it two years after the designer died and decorated it in her trademark style before it opened as a hotel in 1990. While very much a country-house hotel, Laura Ashley traces are still in evidence; pretty floral bedspreads in enormous, thick-carpeted bedrooms and sketches on the walls.
Double (including breakfast) from £150 (llangoedhall.co.uk)

Lagom-Inspired Scandi Retreats

Forget the world of cosy over-indulgence brought to you by Hygge, 2017’s new lifestyle trend is the Swedish concept of “not too much, not too little.” Lagom translates to “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right.” Lead a frugal yet fruitful existence with these top picks of the best Scandi retreats to start afresh…

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Fjällnäs, Sweden

Fjällnäs, Sweden’s oldest mountain hotel, is an exclusive sanctuary where you can experience continual, dramatic changes of nature. A stay in the summer differs dramatically from a stay in the autumn – when Fjällnäs’s first visitors arrived more than 130 years ago, they were attracted by the pure, unspoilt, beauty – and this still applies today. The hotel’s facilities and accommodations are characterised by architecture in tune with the surroundings, solid craftsmanship, and natural materials reflecting the values of Nature.

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Falsled Kro, Denmark

It was on the island of Fyn, “the garden of Denmark”, that Hans Christian Andersen was born, and it has been immortalised through his fairy tales. Today in Millinge, a small village on the island, other tales are being told, notably that of a man who makes his recipes into true Scandinavian legends. At Chef Per Hallundbaek’s table, the salmon is smoked on site and the turbot comes with vegetables and herbs grown in the kitchen garden. Upstairs, guests can stay in small loft rooms with white brick walls, minimalist décor and soft lighting at Falsled Kro.

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Storfjord, Norway

Storfjord Hotel is a secluded luxury boutique hotel situated in Glomset, on a wooded hillside that enjoys a splendid panorama of the Storfjord. While the view itself is well worth a visit, you will enjoy this beautiful haven from hectic everyday life. The rooms at Storfjord Hotel are spacious where Norwegian tradition meets design and modern comfort.

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Búðir, Iceland

Probably the most remote hotel in the world,  Búðir is set in one of the most beautiful places in Iceland, just a couple of hours drive from Reykjavik. This elegant hotel is in a league of its own, boasting all amenities; a charming atmosphere, great service, and a restaurant renowned for its exquisite cuisine. The tranquillity of the countryside and the force radiating from the Snæfellsjökull glacier inspire and invigorate guests.

A great excuse to make the trip to Iceland? Take part in the 5K WOW Northern Lights Run, Iceland’s newest light spectacle that takes place on 4 February 2017. This spectacular new sporting event will brighten the grey winter season and see the streets of Reykjavik lit up in a spectrum of colour as hundreds put on their running shoes on. Each participant receives an illuminating LED wristband which will synchronise with their personal running rhythm.

Must-See London Exhibitions of 2017

2017 sees a host of creativity across Britain’s capital, from immersive virtual reality fun to the archived wardrobe of the late Princess Diana, Sufiyeh of The Sybarite serves up something for every taste with our exhibition guide below…

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion
May 27 2017-February 18 2018
Cristóbal Balenciaga all but reinvented haute couture in the 1950s and has earned a place among the giants of twentieth-century fashion. This exhibition, marking the hundredth anniversary of the opening of his San Sebastian fashion house, will chart the Spanish designer’s rise through garments, hats, drawings, photographs and film.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd London, SW7 2RL

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction
June 2 2017-September 1 2017
Original concept art and models from Godzilla, Stargate and Dark City, original manuscripts by Jules Verne, new commissions and music, film and contemporary art come together in this huge summer exhibition capturing sci-fi as we know it. Objects from beloved films, including pieces from the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, tell the story of how the genre went mainstream, and how the sci-fi imagination has changed for the 21st century.
Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!
June 8 2017-September 7 2017
Vanity? Narcissism? Whatever the reason for the title, we have high hopes for his exhibition. The cross-dressing artist – and one of Britain’s most unlikely national treasures – tends to be either denounced as a twee middlebrow populist, or a razor-sharp commentator on the foibles of our society. In any case, this major show of new works promises to look at the idea of the popular: how art can resonate with the average joe, and what it means in these uncertain post-Brexit times.
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA 

Diana: Her Fashion Story
February 24 2017-August 31 2017
From the pale pink Emanuel blouse she wore for her engagement portrait to the blue velvet gown she wore at the White House to dance with John Travolta, this new exhibition about Princess Diana’s wardrobe charts the image-crafting and sartorial choices throughout her life in the limelight. Tickets are included in the price of entry to the palace.
Kensington Palace, The Broadwalk, Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX 

Virtually Real
January 12 2017-January 14 2017
Immerse yourself in the first ever 3D printed artworks in virtual reality at the Royal Academy. This display features work from three Royal Academy School alumni created using virtual reality platforms, which you can walk through, over, under and around as the artwork is created around you. The work will also be 3D printed so it can be experienced in both virtual and physical form and there’s also a chance to create your own virtual reality masterpiece.
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD 

In The Country: Shoot-Friendly Stays

Championing the best of the British countryside, Sufiyeh of The Sybarite has picked out the most luxurious of rural sanctuaries where guests can savour home-grown produce, drink local ciders or fine wines and relax in utmost tranquility. Set within the most inspiring landscapes, these inns offer a wealth of country sporting activities, all dog friendly and are situated near the UK’s leading shooting schools.

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The White Horse

The White Horse, Chilgrove is nestled at the foot of the stunning South Downs, where luxury and excellence presents itself in the form of dining and private cottage rooms; steamer trunks, iconic mid-century furnishings and architectural four-poster beds are set amidst sheepskin rugs, wool throws and exposed wood beams, while the outdoor hot tubs in the private patios of the ‘Stag’ rooms offer supreme luxury. All game and fish is brought by the local suppliers – from the exquisite venison, straight from the nearby estates such as nearby Goodwood and prepared on site, to the Chilgrove wood pigeons, rabbits and trout, plucked from nearby rivers and fields that morning.
The White Horse, 1 High Street, West Sussex, PO18 9HX near Apsley Shooting grounds.

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The Kings Arms

Once the stables of the original King’s Arms in the 17th century, their two spacious self-catering cottages are ideal for families and larger parties looking for their own private country hideaway. Carefully appointed with dark wooden beams, claw-foot bathtubs and brown leather sofas, our cottages have been designed with comfort and relaxation in mind. Book to stay with your dog and they’ll have a comfy bed and doggy treats waiting in the room along with a bottle of (non-alcoholic) Snuffle Dog beer.
The Kings Arms, The Street, Gloucestershire GL9 1DT, located near Ladyswood Shooting School.

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The Yew Tree

The Yew Tree Inn is a delightful 17th century country house with excellent dining situated moments from Highclere Castle. Offering eight cosy, cottage-style rooms designed with comfort and relaxation in mind. Dogs are more than welcome and facilities such as dog beds and water bowls are available on request. All rooms feature king size beds and are handsomely decorated with William Morris print wallpaper, timber beams and warm tartan blankets for that quintessential country cottage feel. Sink into sumptuous Feather & Black bedding, unwind beneath calming rain showers and enjoy luxurious handmade bathing products from Bramley. Two gun cabinets are available for the convenience of guests staying as part of a shooting party, while the expansive garden is also able to accommodate arrival by helicopter.
The Yew Tree, Hollington Cross, Nr Newbury, RG20 9SE, located near the Royal Berkshire Shooting School

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The Trout Inn

Nestled deep within the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, The Trout Inn is a riverside inn that celebrates the very best of British country life. Surrounded by fields and with the river Thames flowing just outside our door, their menu makes the most of fresh fish and local game while the cosy bar and boutique rooms (designed to give a real home-from-home experience with vintage furnishings, rain showers or claw-foot tubs and large brass beds) for the ultimate in Cotswolds comfort.
The Trout at Tadpole Bridge, Buckland Marsh, Oxfordshire SN7 8RF, based near The Oxford Gun Company.

FAST FASHION: HOW LUXURY E-TAILERS ARE KEEPING UP WITH ONLINE DEMAND

Online sales are set to triple in the next decade (McKinsey & Co). By 2025, the online share of total luxury sales is predicted to be 18%, and a whopping £70 billion annually. As a result, luxury e-tailers are still finding their feet when it comes to meeting high consumer demand, especially during the busy festive season.

Announced on Monday, Matchesfashion.com has introduced a new delivery service that allows customers across London to receive their purchase only 90-minutes after they have placed an order. Chief executive Ulric Jerome told the Evening Standard: “This new service means a City worker who has just pulled an all-nighter can order a fresh set of clothes for that important first meeting of the day, or a last-minute invitation in the evening with nothing to wear won’t be a problem anymore.” The service is already available on the site with a £12 charge, adding one more option to the retailer’s available delivery services that also include Next Day and Express delivery. Customers who wish to purchase using 90-minute delivery have to place their orders from 6.30am to 10pm.

The service is already available on the site with a £12 charge, adding one more option to the retailer’s available delivery services that also include Next Day and Express delivery. Customers who wish to purchase using 90-minute delivery have to place their orders from 6.30am to 10pm.

In collaboration with leading same day courier CitySprint, the couriers will pick up the products from Matchesfashion.com’s Wembley distribution centre and deliver them to customers.

Major mass-market names, including Amazon and Walmart, have been investing heavily in research into done-based delivery but it is unclear how such a service would sit with a luxury offer and how amenable public opinion would be to the prospect of a massive number of drones occupying urban airspace.

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Meanwhile Net-a- Porter currently runs their own branded fleet of vans and offers same-day shipping in three cities, Everlane ups the ante with one-hour shipping.

ContactLab CEO Massimo Fubini said: “There is definitely work to be done in the luxury sector. Consumers pay a lot of money for products from these luxury brands and they expect the whole experience to have that luxury feeling, from the moment they order the item to the moment it arrives at their door. Brands must go that bit further at every single stage of the consumer journey, but very few are fulfilling their full potential.

“Many brands are missing the little touches which make all the difference, such as covering the product in standard parcel paper rather than delivering it in a more luxurious manner. Some brands, such as Fendi, Cartier, Tod’s and Net-a-Porter do show best practice when it comes to packaging and focus on maintaining that feeling of luxury throughout the whole consumer journey.”

RISQUÉ BUSINESS: THE DAWN OF FEMALE SEXUAL EMPOWERMENT

When someone mentions an ‘adult private party’ one’s thoughts immediately draws to the ominous and sexually charged erotic drama ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Since its inception in 1999, the underground world of hedonism has let slip its mask to the rest of the world.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find the likes of Killing Kittens making headlines; an elite adult party run by women for women and founded by one in particular; Emma Sayle. Having previously founded ‘The Sisterhood’, a charity fundraising rowing group that counted Kate Middleton as a member, Emma has taken her entrepreneur skill set to the likes of erotic parties, making her one of the first female tycoons in the adult industry.

Hot on her heels, and taking a step further is Genevieve LeJeune. Who, inspired by the Killing Kittens brand, founded Skirt Club two years ago; a place where there are absolutely no men allowed, where women can do whatever they please. Not only has Skirt Club provided a completely safe space for female sexual curiosity, it also encourages a freedom of expression. These are not just frivolous adult parties, we spoke to these incredible women to find out more.

Genevieve, what drove you to create Skirt Club?

At the time I was working as a journalist, I was frustrated with the status quo of the events I had attended, they were for couples but they were mostly for men. I wanted to meet women who were like me, but came up against lecherous men and a lack of respect for women. So I decided to take men out of the equation and give women more of a voice. Men mostly have their own agenda and try to control a situation to suit their needs and wants.

Our mantra at skirt club is; ‘Confidence in the bedroom leads to confidence in the boardroom; the more confident you are as a woman, the better you’re going to do in life. I’ve worked in the finance industry since I was 22 and was often sexually harassed at the start of my career. An older more confident me would never put up with that today, I want young women to not feel afraid and stand up for themselves.

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Emma, how do you find being a female boss in what is mostly considered a male dominated industry?

I love it. It started as a battle to be taken seriously but I just keep my head down and get on with it. I learnt a long time ago I don’t have to explain or defend myself to everyone and to not lose sight of our mission. I also don’t try and act like a man in business. If you understand how men think and keep your femininity then being a female boss in a mans world is actually very straightforward.

Do you think this is changing and if so, how?

Genevieve: Make no mistake this industry is still dominated by men but with exemplifying stars like Dita Von Teese, women can lead the way in a smarter, classical approach to sexual exploration.

Emma: I think it’s the same in every industry – I think women, in general, stop themselves being bosses via much more self-doubting than men have, plus we as women need to be more supportive of each other to move up career ladders.

What sense of empowerment do you get from what you do?

Genevieve: Women exploring sexually with other women is not a new concept, history books note a prevalence during Victorian times. Bisexuality has recently come back into fashion, and I’m proud to be part of a movement that is socially accepting of this, reassuring women its nothing to be ashamed of. It’s incredibly empowering for women to take back ownership of our sexuality and our bodies. I’m a very normal person, and I’m saying that it’s fine to feel this way, you could say Skirt Club has legitimised women to feel open and accepted about their bisexuality, our members often thank us for this.

Emma: I get a massive sense of pride when I know I have supported myself since university, I’m financially independent and not dependent on a man and I have the freedom to make my own choices as a result. After every event and in general, we have girls emailing the team thanking us for giving them the space and encouragement to explore their sexuality and feel in control, or the courage to leave bad relationships, that’s the biggest sense of empowerment I take from what I do.

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From Hilary Clinton’s ‘Nasty Woman’ label to the rise of ‘alpha females’ – what role does femininity play in being an entrepreneur?

Genevieve: Women need a voice at the table, I was certainly drowned out working in finance. Women think you have to be a bitch of a boss to gain authority and respect like a man, when being feminine and nurturing you can get the best out of people. Speaking of which, we did an event in NYC after Hilary’s debate and we played Janet Jacksons ‘Nasty Woman’ on repeat, I like to think we all have a bit of the ‘nasty woman’ inside of us.

Emma: In a man’s world, thinking like a man but acting like a female is very useful. There’s less ego involved so using femininity when running a business means you weigh up all options, the risks, work more as team rather than making hot-headed testosterone ego-driven decisions.

Can you see a difference in liberation from a younger generation?

Genevieve: I look at millennials and I already recognise it – they’re so carefree. I love that women don’t give a damn anymore about what men think. I am a feminist fighting for equal pay and I’m thrilled to witness change in the mental attitudes of millennials that will contribute to this.  I’m so grateful that in my lifetime I’m going to see a shift of power towards women achieving more.

Emma: What changed is the freedom to explore, the older women I speak to never had that freedom, a lot were expected to stay at home under their husbands’ control and they wish they had had the platform we provide. So I would say the desires within women haven’t changed just the ability to act on them. As a result, the younger women are very free and fluid in their sexual behaviour, they don’t label themselves and can do whatever they want sexually without much fear of being judged or labelled.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

Emma: To keep their eyes on their mission, why they started their businesses in the first place. There will be more doubters trying to stop you than supporters but you’ve got to keep the faith and what your gut is telling you, don’t over complicate simple is best and get out there with that fire in your belly to market your mission

Genevieve: Just do it. Get rid of all the self-doubt, stop hesitating and seeking permission. Aren’t we the more instinctive of the two sexes? As women – we go by instinct and to ignore that would be a waste.

I want to create more of a global community with a stronger mission on feminism, I want people to discuss real issues more. The media often mistakes Skirt Club as solely a sex club, it’s really not – there’s a lot more going on here.

And finally, where else would you recommend as a relaxed and safe haven for curious girls?

Genevieve: We did an event called House of Tease recently at 23 Paul Street (a strip club in east London) it’s easily one of my favourite places – the girls love working there, it’s so very positive – they’re always fair on pay and they enjoy what they do. Our guests were very friendly with the dancers – they were all chatting away in the corner and so very complimentary. 23 Paul St has a very ethical approach to stripping; the only striptease venue I know where performers are treated respectfully and encouraged to become entrepreneurs themselves.

The night was so welcoming, the women beautiful with performers on each floor from a fire-eater to gold painted ladies and a lingerie catwalk. Every woman who attends our events comes on their own accord and they’re mostly career-driven women with a sense of curiosity.

Skirt Club: A network of career-minded women with a common interest. “It goes without saying confident, informed women experience more success in life.”

Killing Kittens: The network for the sexual elite. “He asked me ‘what’s your favourite position?’ I said ‘CEO’”

23 Paul Street is a contemporary, irreverent interpretation of the traditional ‘Gentlemen’s Club’. Purveyors of tasteful fun, this stunning venue and its delightfully interesting team of performers put the ‘tease’ firmly back into Strip-tease.

Sybarite members can book tickets to an exclusive cocktail party at 23 Paul Street, where you can indulge in a tasteful evening of art, luxury, and fashion, the perfect evening for discerning lingerie lovers. And an upcoming ‘Unwrapped’ evening of lingerie, naughty gifts and erotic performances on the 13th December – not to be missed, email info@thesybarite.org for more details.

Photography by Laura Henry for Skirt Club.

Lingerie designed by Alice Neve http://www.aliceneve.com/