The Interview: Lucy Litwack, owner and CEO, Coco de Mer
Today, 16 June, sees the launch of the new "Icons" campaign from lingerie brand Coco de Mer, known as the "home of pleasure", featuring iconic supermodel and photographer Helena Christensen, 52, who has also art-directed and photographed herself wearing the collection in the intimacy of her home in New York.
The aim was to capture "the ultimate female gaze". Coco de Mer’s owner and CEO, Lucy Litwack, talks about the new campaign and why Christensen is such a great choice for the brand.
Why has Coco de Mer chosen to work with Helena Christensen for its ‘Icons’ campaign?
We have a history of strong creative and commercial collaborations. As a champion of female pleasure, the women I work with are crucial to our ongoing strategy. We want to continue to develop partnerships that are greater than the sum of their parts, as a strong driver of creative evolution, business growth, brand storytelling, and industry innovation. Our partnerships have always been core to how we surprise and delight our customers time after time. We believe that so many things are better, and more powerful, done together. Helena has been a customer of Coco de Mer for years, and always visits our boutique at 23 Monmouth Street when she is in London.
She is the perfect muse for our campaign as she embodies the modern woman. She has an ongoing career as one of the original supermodels, she is an accomplished photographer, she is a global UNHCR ambassador, she owns her own swimwear business...and she is fun! From the moment we met, I felt that she epitomised the real Coco de Mer woman - passionate, joyful, confident yet not intimidating, aspirational but approachable, positive and creative. And she is living proof that sensuality is ageless! By modelling, art directing and self-shooting our Icons campaign, Helena controls the narrative and allows us to view her through her unique female gaze. We are allowed an intimate view into her home, her life, and her sensuality, all on her own terms.
What is the importance of "shooting through the female gaze" and for Helena to "self-shoot"?
Coco de Mer is a brand created by women, for women, with female pleasure at the heart of what we do. Our goal for this campaign was to create the ultimate female gaze - a perspective that was entirely controlled by a singular female viewpoint. Women’s sexuality has been perceived through the male gaze for far too long, and it usually feels reductive and performative rather than something authentic to the female experience. Women’s sexuality runs so much deeper than how the male gaze perceives it - it is a deeply personal connection women have with themselves first, before any partner. There is a trust and confidence in the female interpretation of sensuality which I find inspiring. It’s why we only use all-female teams for our shoots. And it’s why I wanted to explore the ‘ultimate female gaze’ with Helena, as she acts as model, photographer and art director for the shoot. Female pleasure exists in so many forms and there is something very moving about the female gaze as we are able to get closer somehow. I believe that shooting through the female gaze and giving women the confidence to choose how they want to be perceived will inspire women everywhere. Over the past year we have all had to spend more time alone to reconnect with ourselves, so having Helena self-shoot within her own home feels authentic and relatable to the collective experience. The campaign is raw and personal, allowing an intimate view into Helena’s home, and her artistic perspective. As a champion of owning her own sensuality, her perspective is uniquely feminine and distinctively her own.
Why do you believe representation of female sexuality "at all ages" is important?
Representations in fashion, cinema, culture and pornography show women too often stripped of their once coveted sexuality after passing a certain age. However, the reality is the opposite as a woman’s relationship with her sexuality is something that grows and adapts with time, often for the better as we grow in confidence and maturity. The nature of female pleasure and sexuality is complex and changes through the various stages of a woman's life from puberty to adulthood, pregnancy, and menopause.
Rather than thinking of ageing as a negative for a woman (the cliché of a silver fox and a cougar), we should be realising the potential for sex to improve hugely as a woman gains experience and confidence. We need to catalyse the conversation and support and champion women of all ages. Pleasure isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, and it can be life changing.
Who is your real target market for this campaign?
All women looking to squeeze the most fun, joy and pleasure out of life. Explorers of pleasure. Women who love beautiful lingerie and the confidence it gives.
How would you best describe the collection and how much input did Helena have, if any?
The Icons range is a series of timeless, elegant pieces that exude confidence with luxurious and iconic designs. Designed with the modern woman in mind, these styles are beautiful, comfortable and embrace the female form. Helena was not involved in the design of the collection, however she was integral to the creative campaign process from start to finish, choosing her favourite pieces to shoot and taking control of the art direction in a bid to truly capture the ultimate female gaze.
What are the key pieces?
The collection features 35 styles and there are so many pieces that I love! The new Seraphine robe that we have just launched is gorgeous, a classic silk and lace robe that can be worn over our iconic Seraphine slip. The Seraphine plunge bra is perfect for everyday or for that special occasion, and I’ve always loved the iconic silk and velvet Persephone bra. Finally, I adore the opulent fan embroidery on the new Athena range.
What are the price points and where is it now available to buy?
The prices range from £75 for the Aphrodite thong to £425 for the Seraphine robe. It’s now available on our website, in the Coco de Mer boutique in Covent Garden, and with NET-A-PORTER, Zalando and Selfridges.
Where will the campaign run?
The campaign can be seen on our website, at POS in our London boutique and on Coco de Mer and Helena Christensen’s social media pages, as well as through PR and press.
Is Icons a series with well-known faces? If so, who has gone before?
Prior to Helena, we worked with model and activist Waris Dirie. Waris Dirie was born in Somalia and subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) aged 5. She fled the country at 13 to escape an arranged marriage and, at the age of 18, was discovered by Terence Donovan which began her career as a successful model. Waris used her platform to speak out about her personal experience of FGM and her commitment to ending the horrific practice, becoming a UN Special Ambassador in 1997. Writing multiple bestselling books and winning many awards for her humanitarian work, she founded The Desert Flower Foundation in 2002, and has strived to bring global awareness to FGM ever since. After being inspired by her books and wanting to help in the fight against FGM (a direct disabler of female pleasure), we collaborated with her and her foundation to support, empower and educate women, with Waris modelling our Icons collection and profits going to her foundation. We have since updated our Icons collection and our collaboration with Helena showcases the new assortment.
Why do you see it as Coco de Mer’s mission to "break taboos associated with female sexuality and pleasure" through campaigns?
Coco de Mer exists to shine a light on the extraordinary power, potential and importance of female pleasure and sensuality. For 20 years, we have been committed to celebrating and championing pleasure for all, chipping away at the longstanding taboos around sexuality. We have always delivered disruptive and beautiful campaigns, intended to start a conversation around female sexuality, because, as I said, knowing and owning female pleasure and sensuality can be life changing. And it is only now starting to get the attention it deserves.
What "taboos" are you referring to?
From art to culture, education to pornography, the female perspective on pleasure in all its forms is little discussed or truly understood. And yet, from general happiness and confidence, to deepening and nurturing our relationships, and a fundamental appreciation of ourselves, knowing and owning female pleasure and sensuality is so important. It’s one of the true gifts of being a woman. Our capacity to experience it is innate, universal and human and it’s never too late to start exploring its extraordinary possibilities. It’s why, through Coco de Mer, I wanted to create a ‘Home of Pleasure’ - a safe place to discover its potential with a brand built by and run by women, for women. I believe that pleasure done well fires all the senses. That sight, sound, taste, touch and smell are a system greater than the sum of their parts, and as women we need the opportunities to fully explore the fun, joy and endless possibilities of our sexuality.
In conversations around pleasure, men are seemingly always confident in their voices. They have been taught about pleasure through formal education, the media, and society as a whole for their entire lives, while female pleasure is rarely acknowledged. Even language shows a male bias with a lack of a female equivalent for the word virility. Instead, the expression of female pleasure is often criticised, or scandalised, while the male counterpart is regarded, simply, as a fact of life. That’s why it feels like the conversation around female pleasure is one of the last taboos in our society.
How well do you perceive the campaign will be received – by both women and men?
We hope that both men and women will love the campaign and appreciate the confidence, passion and joyfulness that the female gaze can provide. Over the past year, we have all spent more time at home with the ability to explore our relationship with ourselves and our environment, and Helena has beautifully captured that universal feeling in this collaboration. We hope people feel inspired by the campaign to celebrate their own sensuality, regardless of their age or gender.