Agent Provocateur Lives Up to Its Name
Joseph Corre and his wife, Serena Rees, had a vision – one that transcended the traditional British view that equated sexy with smutty and sleazy. So was born Agent Provocateur, a lingerie company that aimed to make sexy stylish. They opened their first store in the Soho district of London in 1994, and it wasn’t long before Agent Provocateur became a big name in the fashion world. Sensual, confident... and controversial, this brand has certainly made its mark in its relatively short existence.
Joseph Corre had fashion, and a gift for provocation, in his blood. His mother was Vivienne Westwood, a fashion designer of some reputation, while his father was once manager of the Sex Pistols. Young Joseph would wear his mother’s fashions before anyone else, perhaps even helping them gain some recognition. He also spent some time with the Sex Pistols, whom he still regards as his favorite band.
In 1992, he met Serena Rees at a nightclub. Her work in a modeling agency had allowed her to see a great deal of what was out there, especially what she felt was lacking. Together, Corre and Rees opened up a shop, Agent Provocateur, to sell clothing they felt should have more exposure. They never intended to enter the lingerie design business, but they quickly realized that no one made the kind of lingerie they wanted to sell. So they created their own line of products.
At first, they tried to get other brands to adopt their designs, but no one wanted to deal in anything but the drab and unappealing underwear they already sold. The couple just started their own label under the name of their store, and Agent Provocateur quickly became a big name in the world of fashion.
Their first fragrance, also called Agent Provocateur, was released in 2000, which became a line of perfumes of its own. The brand is far more than lingerie today – it is a number of provocative products that accentuate sensuality.
That first perfume, Agent Provocateur, is the signature scent. As the name implies, it is a very provocative aroma, sharp with an animalistic overtone. It contains such elements as Russian coriander, saffron form India, jasmine from Egypt, and Haitian vevivert, giving it an exotic aroma that is truly unique and sensuous, the hallmark of Agent Provocateur. Yet there is a certain innocence, like a flower garden, which makes the wilder scents all the more appealing, brought out by notes of magnolia and gardenia.
A lighter version is also available, as flirty as the original scent is seductive, subtle rather than powerful. This opens with a fruitier scent, with hints of wild rosemary and pink pepper, with a calmer floral heart of osmanthus and white tea. The base is also smoothed out with woody and musky scents.
One of the newer fragrances is Maitresse. This is both sexy and sweet, somewhere between the two earlier scents. It can be seductive, but it is not so openly sexual as the original scent. It opens with a the delicate passion of white ylang ylang, violet leaves, and white lotus petals, which leads to the scents of jasmine, rose, and osmanthus at its heart. The scents of amber, iris, white suede, and patchouli finish this exquisite fragrance.
Even the shape of the bottles tends to be provocative. Many of the scents are packaged in egg-shaped containers that can resemble smooth and delicate bombs – a testament to the explosive feelings these fragrances can bring out in those who inhale them.
A Provocative Reputation
Rees and Corre divorced in 2007, and the company passed into other hands, but lost none of its edge. Soon, Agent Provocateur was in 13 countries with more than 30 stores. Their media campaigns have garnered attention, both praise and criticism. One early instance was the video ‘Proof, which featured Kylie Minogue. Many who saw it loved it, even rating it the best advertisement they’d ever seen, but that same video caused a great deal of controversy when it was first released, due to Minogue’s modeling of Agent Provocateur’s main product – sexy lingerie.
Controversy only feeds the reputation of Agent Provocateur, however. Their audacious attitude brings costumers to them, while their unparalleled craftsmanship and the beauty and fit of their clothing entices their customers back again and again. Kate Moss and Maggie Gyllenhaal have been faces for Agent Provocateur, bringing the brand still more attention and prestige. No matter what anyone may think of the name, this lingerie shop has created a niche all its own in the worlds of lingerie and fragrances.