Elissa Poppy creates latex lingerie that is daring and delicate, her unique designs coaxing latex fashion away from its traditions without breaking from them. Elissa took some time away from the hectic work of running her UK-based independent brand to answer a few questions, touching on design inspirations, technical challenges, and advice for latex first-timers.
1. You graduated from the Contour Fashion program at De Montfort only last year, and already have your own independent brand! What made you decide to go out on your own?
I’ve always wanted to be an independent designer. I’m not really interested in designing for other brands or companies who don’t share my same style … so I thought if not now then when? I love the creative freedom it brings—I think that’s what gives any small brand a strong identity in the market.
2. What are some inspirations behind Primitive?
I wanted Primitive to be the foundation collection for the brand, hence the name. Working with minimal and popular lingerie colours like white, black and beige to appeal to a wide range of people, but making pieces in the collection that are far from ordinary. I was very interested in creating a different mood throughout the collection. Starting off with the white colour palette, items seem more innocent and have even been perceived as bridal-like—which I love the idea of and is something that I’m going to pursue more in the next few months. Then we transition to the Nyx Sets [up top] and the Iris Dress [see below] which involve a mix of white and black and a hand painted spot print. It adds a bit of fun to the collection, looks more playful compared to the other designs, which is why I think those pieces are my favorite part of the collection. And then the black comes in—it’s always been an empowering colour for me, and I feel that it creates a completely different feel to the same designs that are made in white. It’s quite amazing. It’s the naughty side to the collection for sure.
3. What about the technical side of things—what inspired the latex lace material you use in collection?
I’ve always been interested in working with latex as a material because it’s so adaptable and very hands on to work with. Lots of different textures can be created with it, 3D designs, printing, laser cutting, mostly everything you could think of doing with a normal fabric—when there’s a will there’s a way. That’s why Latex Lace came about because I wanted to create something different that wasn’t already available on the market. I’ve always seen latex as a challenge, in that it has a perception of being only a fetish material. It can be more than that. It makes me excited that more and more designers are bringing the material into the limelight in many different exciting ways. It’s even now edging its way into the high street sector of shops through ASOS recently launching their own latex collection, which I heard has been very successful.
For me, Latex Lace was a way to maybe feminize the fabric a little, to make it more appealing to a wider range of clients who maybe haven’t come into contact with latex before. To make it a little less daunting and more of a beautiful piece that’s unique to them. Latex is a very empowering fabric, when you put someone in it who’s never worn it before you often get comments like ‘I feel like a superhero’, ‘I feel sexy’ or comments about how comfortable they feel wearing it, like they have nothing on. It’s a statement. It creates a mood.
4. What other designers have influenced your work, lingerie or otherwise?
I’ve always loved designers and fashion houses such as Ralph & Russo, Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier, but my favourite is Zac Posen. I just think they all do an amazing job of celebrating the female form. The silhouettes they create in their clothing are absolute dreams and I can only hope that one day I can wiggle myself into a Zac Posen dress!
5. You were a design intern at both Kim West and at House of Harlot. How were those experiences?
The best part about working with those companies was that they were both well known but were completely different environments. House of Harlot are primarily a fetish based company and have been running for years. The best part about working with them was when they were commissioned to create two pieces for Balenciaga A/W15, which I got to help with. It was fascinating seeing the two brands working together and then seeing the pieces on the runway. It would be an absolute dream to make some pieces for a collaboration with a luxury fashion house. I’m crossing my fingers that one day it might actually happen.
Kim West’s approach to latex is taking the material away from its fetish roots and creating fashion pieces. Kim taught me a lot when it comes to business and starting as a young designer. Her shop welcomed customers everyday, which was really nice as I got to interact with new faces and see different views on things. Kim really took me under her wing when I first started up. My graduate collection, Resplendent, is featured on her website and she showcased my collection at public relations agency Pop PR, which has been so helpful.
6. What’s in store for Elissa Poppy? I know Primitive just came out, but do you have any ideas floating around about the next collection?
I do have thoughts for a new collection that will bring something new to the table, which I’m very excited about—but that won’t be for a while yet! Right now I’m focusing on growing the interest in the brand, getting us out there and creating a buzz. The new collection has been received really well which I am delighted about. It’s keeping me busy, but there’s so much more that I want to do. There’s not enough time in the day at the moment!
7. I imagine your collection is going to be attracting a lot of women new to latex. Do you have any words for women about to wear the material for the first time?
Don’t be scared! I’m so happy with the wide range of women that have shown interest in the material since the Primitive range has launched, from young women to my Mum’s friend—who I’ve just completed a custom order for. It’s so lovely to see people from all different backgrounds, countries, and ages embracing the material. My designs are definitely investment pieces; they’re not something that you’re going to wear every day. But they’re there for your special moments, when you want to dress up and make a statement, when you want to go out and have fun. I want anyone who wears a piece from Elissa Poppy to feel celebrated and special, wearing something unique that their partner or friends have never seen before.
8. Where can we currently buy your designs?
We recently have launched our website at www.elissapoppy.com where you can find all the information you need along with my graduate collection Resplendent and my debut collection for Elissa Poppy, Primitive.
Thanks Elissa! And don’t forget to follow her instagram at https://www.instagram.com/elissapoppy/ where you you’ll catch more photos of her collections and bespoke pieces.
Top three photos: Model: Kara at J’adore Models; Photographer: Narita Savoor; Styling: Megan Shaw; MUA&H: Laura Gibb
Bottom photo: Photographer: Ayesha Hussain