Damaris and her KNICKERS
They say it’s Nature vs Nurture, but with Damaris Evans both go hand-in-hand. Damaris Evans’ great-grandfather, Sir William Rothenstein, was the Principal of the Royal College of Art from 1920-1935; and whose paintings can still be found in several important collections, including The National Portrait Gallery. His brother, Damaris’ great-uncle, was Sir John Rothenstein, who was the Director of the Tate Modern for over 30 years; and according to The Independent, was absolutely instrumental in “dragging the British art world screaming and kicking into the twentieth century”.
Her great-grandmother was Lady Alice Mary Rothenstein, daughter of legendary pre-Raphaelite artist, Walter John Knewstub with his muse, Emily Renshaw. Her uncle, Henry Holiday (from whom the name Mimi Holliday was coined) is a pre-Raphaelite artist who illustrated Lewis Caroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, a great British classic. With this amazing artistic lineage, it comes as no surprise that Damaris has gone down an artistic path. It is safe to say, that a passion for the arts runs through the family.
Aside from her astounding lineage of artists, print-makers, and taste-makers, Damaris Evans has carved a name for herself in the luxury lingerie industry. The creation of her eponymous brand Damaris back in 2001, out of a grant from the Prince’s Trust was soon followed by her diffusion line Mimi Holliday in 2003. After winning the highly coveted Elle Style Award for “Young Enterprise of the Year” and the “Inspire and Mentor” Marie Claire Campaign, it seems that Damaris Evans has found her own creative blank canvas, in the form of fantastically cheeky knickers:
“Avant-garde lingerie should be full of surprises. It must push design boundaries. Through lingerie a woman shows her true style. It is integral that my designs are luxurious, fun, interesting, cool, and essentially functional "- Damaris Evans
How did you become interested in lingerie?
When I started my business, the lingerie landscape was very different to what it is now. I was studying fashion at St Martin’s and I loved the idea of making mini masterpieces under my dresses. This was such a fun concept and I loved that it was a rather cheeky and fresh idea. I suppose it was fresh mainly because we had such a moment with the first ever Bow, Peep, and Corset Knickers.
A bra takes engineering, but the back of a knicker is the biggest possible canvas in lingerie, and that’s why I decided to focus on it. I love how empowering lingerie is, and also how it is pure fun and playfulness! When I started, there wasn’t really any competition, so I had such a clean slate on the design side. I could do anything; bonkers, luxurious lingerie. Damaris is our original, semi-couture line. Mimi Holliday is the diffusion line that’s now stocked in 37 countries. I could never have dreamed it up!
How would you describe Damaris and Mimi Holliday in three words?
For Damaris: Decadent, Rule-breaker, and Witty. For Mimi Holliday: Cool, Playful, and Fashion Forward.
Could you tell us a little bit about the woman who wears your lingerie?
First and foremost, she’s clever. Second, she’s got a hell of a sense of humour! There is a vein of irreverent humour that runs through Damaris and Mimi Holiday; it’s witty sensuality that is very British. It’s not about trying too hard and is sexy without being overt. She’s subtle in that way, but unmistakably playful. She understands true luxury, which means rarity, exclusivity, and exceptional craftsmanship. The Damaris woman is powerful, with a very feminine authority. Really, Damaris is for collectors and is designed to be cherished.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collections?
Mimi Holliday SS17 is called Wonderland. I was inspired by summers in London and all the eccentric habits we Brits have. As soon as the sun comes out, every patch of grass it just covered in people stripping off to soak up the rays! London is such a happy place in the summer, the whole city celebrates. I’ve translated that into a really beautiful palette of pastels, brights, and some unusual, but very cool embroideries.
The Damaris collection is called OZONE. I was inspired by ozone: the clean, sharp, bolt of scent experienced after lightning strikes. Ozone is fleeting, conflicted, and rare in its intensity. I was really interested in the specificity of memory with fragrance, and how genius can lie in the blend of unexpected combinations - and just come as a lightning bolt. Both inspiration and the link of scent to memory happen instantaneously. That’s why each piece is named after a unique, evocative perfume; copal, ink, amaranth, chypre, and honey.
What makes this collection special?
For Mimi Holliday, what we put in the collection is exclusive to us; whether it is an embroidery of a cat, swan, or cherry. This season there’s an inclusion that’s so special for me in our new silk Loungewear range. We have Altair Designs from the 80’s children colouring books based on beautiful mathematical shapes; which my grandfather Dr. Ensor Holiday designed with Roger Burrows. My grandfather was an incredible artist, doctor and polymath. It was amazing to put such a personal touch in the collection.
Tell us a little bit about your design process?
Its quick! I do the design background in London, pulling together my ideas and palettes. The rest of the process is carried out in our atelier where I make the 250 piece collection over about 8 days. This really is the place that I feel at home, with the genius pattern makers, seamstresses, and fabric cutters. I can come up with the most fun and interesting pieces here. I need the thrill and buzz to push me to constantly to stretch the boundaries of what is meant to be possible.
How do you source your materials and create new and exciting patterns each season?
Our materials come from all over the world; French lace, Italian silk, French tulle, and fabrics from our own suppliers. When it comes to making exciting patterns, I look at what everybody is doing, and try to do something else.
Do you have a favourite piece in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?
The ice pink giant organza bow on the front of the ‘Honey’ balcony bra in the OZONE Collection – it is utterly decadent and terribly cute!
Any exciting plans for 2017?
Of course! We always have something exciting brewing at HQ. For SS17, we have introduced the incredible new silk loungewear collection. It’s just so cool and is definitely not just for home. There’s a bamboo print bomber jacket that I love. We’ve also launched new continuity lines, so people who love our classic fitting shapes can get that bra again and again from year to year. Our clients have been requesting that for such a long time so we’re delighted to offer that now. Other than that, we will just keeping on trying to push the boundaries and create legendary lingerie. That’s what any designer wants, right?
Any exciting plans for 2017?
Of course! We always have something exciting brewing at HQ. For SS17, we have introduced the incredible new silk loungewear collection. It’s just so cool and is definitely not just for home. There’s a bamboo print bomber jacket that I love. We’ve also launched new continuity lines, so people who love our classic fitting shapes can get that bra again and again from year to year. Our clients have been requesting that for such a long time so we’re delighted to offer that now. Other than that, we will just keep on pushing the boundaries and create legendary lingerie. That’s what any designer wants, right?
Interview by Hannah Tan
Portraits by Chris Baker