Fashion: Between the top drawer and the top shelf

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Joe Corre is famous for two things: his punk parents and his underwear emporium, Agent Provocateur. Here he tells us why he is so interested in ladies' knickers.

When our first shop opened three years ago in Broadwick Street, Soho, it looked just as I had expected it to. However, the personal sense of achievement was far more intense than I had expected. This was entirely due to the reaction we received from the public. Typical responses were, "Fantastic, finally someone has opened the shop I have always been looking for," or "I just popped in to say I Love You!" In addition, we also had people spit on the window whilst ranting Christian ethics at us. The reason that these reactions were important to me was that each and every decision made in creating Agent Provocateur was a personal one, with the sole aim of trying to create a personal, sexy, fantasy environment and then share it with the public. This in itself is in stark contrast with the usual mathematical marketing process by which most businesses open. It is what makes the difference between a personal experience, where the customer has some empathy with the creator, or a mass impersonal experience that one would find on the high street.

I have been asked many times why I got involved in ladies underwear. The truth is that I love women and their pure sexual femininity. Once a lady came to my shop to return a gift that had been given to her by a male friend. She said she had to return it because she was a feminist and was therefore unable to wear sexy underwear!

What a shame that she did not understand the power and advantage that lies in being different to a man instead of either trying to be the same as men or simply opting to have no sexuality at all.

Growing up, I don't remember any particular interest in ladies underwear although I was surrounded to an extent by sexual imagery. I suppose the earliest time I can remember being interested in knickers was when I was about 10 years old, riding in the back of Steve Jones's car (Sex Pistols guitarist). He used to collect the knickers from all the girls he had slept with which were stuffed in every crevice. I remember pulling out this pair of leopard-skin knickers which I promptly put in my pocket and nicked because they were so exotic and interested my curiosity so much.

I think underwear is like outerwear in that you need different looks for different occasions, always bearing in mind, however, that sex could be on the agenda.

When we design our collections, we think about creating garments that have an effect in shaping a more feminine silhouette. We also experiment a lot with colour and fabric. But we never base decisions on what is commercial or trendy, only on what we think makes a woman look more sexy. I cannot sell things I do not personally like.

Seam and heel stockings, pounds 8; fishnet stockings, pounds 8; sheer knickers with suspenders, pounds 25; maribou mules, pounds 55, all from Agent Provocateur. For mail-order, ring 01483 268888

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