Underwear is one of my many obsessions. I want in my knickers what I want in the rest of my wardrobe. Natural fabrics, simple, comfortable shapes, neutral palettes and, in an ideal world, considered production. I want them to be a bit sporty, a bit sexy and a bit cool - just enough of each that they feel just right. Call me Goldilocks but underwear holds so much power over how we feel, how we move and how we look too. They are called 'intimates' for a reason.
Ken the Label is a new lingerie and loungewear brand that gets this. Designed and made in Melbourne, the brand was founded by friends Lauren Di Palma (DP) and Lauren Whiffen (W). Lifelong pals, they decided to give their dream of starting a lingerie label a go and their amazing debut range 'Volume 1' released this month is the result.
We recently visited Lauren DP's beautiful home in North Melbourne and learnt more about how, and why, Ken came into being - Ally
Why did you decide to start Ken the Label?
W - Lauren and I have been friends for a really long time and always liked lingerie. We have shopped for underwear together in the past and always had a dialogue about it. Part of that was we always talked and dreamed about having our own label.
But neither of us are in that area. We haven’t studied patternmaking or production so for a long time it was just an idea, or a dream really, that we didn’t think would ever eventuate.
Around a year ago we started to build our idea of what we wanted Ken to be and look for manufacturers. We decided to get serious and find the right people to make it happen.
How did you develop the range?
W - We started with a general conversation around what we wanted Ken to be and where there were holes in the market. We wanted to make something that was comfortable, functional and that you would feel good and confident in. We used the female form as a starting point.
Another important element was ensuring there is quality and not buying just because something is on trend. For this reason, we decided to make Ken quite transeasonal.
How important are ethical and sustainable considerations in your process?
DP - It's really important to us. It seems fashion is heading in a direction where it is about achieving a certain style but it's also about asking where has the product been made, is it ethically made, what is the fabric?
We wanted to include all of these decisions into Ken's being because that means a lot to us personally. We want to know where our money is being spent and are working towards ECA (Ethical Clothing Australia) accreditation.
In terms of design and sustainability, what we want to achieve with Ken is a function and timeless piece that people feel confident in.
Your fabric is eco-friendly, can you tell us more about developing it?
W - We had our own fabric knitted through a Melbourne manufacturer.
DP – The fabric is a silk modal made from Beechwood trees. It’s a really environmentally friendly technology as the plants regenerate themselves so they don’t need to be planted and there is a constant recycling effect. The company we use also uses 80% recycled water in the production process.
How do you feel about the fashion trend cycle? Is Ken influenced by traditional seasons?
DP – Ken is always evolving, it’s a lifestyle brand. It’s not conforming to conventional fashion ideas and trends. We are interested in slowing that cycle down.
W – But it’s hard not to be inspired by trends even if you don’t think you are. So for us it was important to keep the range quite small. We are being conscious and cautious. It's easy to become excitable and get carried away, but we want to stay true to what the onset was which is lingerie.
At one point we were getting overwhelmed because we thought we had to tick all these certain boxes and deadlines... but then one day we just decided not to do that, not to follow those rules and give ourselves a break. To be mindful of what we are doing.
DP - We were going really fast for a time but we decided to step back and make sure we are still enjoying the process.
We love your Instagram and mood boards and noticed they feature quite a few 80s and 90s supermodel images. Do you think of Ken as a sexy brand?
W - We want people to feel really confident and strong in Ken underwear. I guess it's sexy in that lingerie is intrinsically linked to the body. I think the sexiness comes in from the silhouettes, showing off the hips and bust, but not in a raunchy way.
DP - One of the early references was Parisians and how they start their beauty ritual from the inside out and begin with their underwear. It's about instilling confidence and that can be interpreted so you can feel strong, rather than just sexy. When we initially started Ken, the images we chose to reference are of women we think are looking amazing and 'sexy' in a traditional sense.
As it has evolved we have discovered it is not just about looking sexy. Anyone can try and wear the product and I think what we want is people who wear it to feel good inside and out. You really do feel a certain way when you put clothes on and the way you present yourself.
What influences your personal style?
DP - I'm quite comfort driven. I like to put on a pair of jeans, I like shirts and t-shirts. I dress according to mood and weather. I'm practical but I do have my own style and some special pieces I love to wear. I guess it’s about comfort with confidence.
W - We often find we buy the same things without even knowing but don't have a problem with that overlap. Usually there are just some text messages if we are going to the same event to double check!
I would love my style to be like Man Repeller with all her layering – it’s amazing but I just don’t do it. She dresses for females and is an unconventional beauty.
Thanks to Lauren and Lauren for taking the time to introduce us to Ken the Label.
Our range of Ken the Label is available online now.