Agent Provocateur came onto the scene in 1994 like a cat in heat. Founded by Joe Corré, the dapper son of the designer Vivienne Westwood, and his gorgeous then-wife Serena Rees, the British lingerie brand flaunted a retro femme-fatale flair that screamed kinky sex. (Think sheer bullet bras and crystal-studded handcuffs.) “It was very cult and small and exciting,” recalls Sarah Shotton, who began her career there in the late ’90s, serving as Corré and Rees’s girl Friday. “Window displays, design projects, selling underwear—I was doing literally everything.” A buxom redhead who had been fashioning her own lingerie from vintage corsets, the Central Saint Martins grad fell madly for Agent Provocateur when she discovered it offered a bra that not only fit perfectly but also made her feel—for the first time in her life—good about her figure.
Now, as the brand’s creative director—a position she’s held since 2010, three years after Corré and Rees split up and sold the company to a private-equity firm—Shotton has made it her mission to perpetuate that sense of self-confidence. “Today, Agent Provocateur is more about empowering women,” says the 41-year-old mother of two. “We’re giving them pieces that work with all aspects of their life—not just Ms. Whiplash in the bedroom.” She’s expanded the collection to include offerings like a halter-neck crop top (“It’s sporty yet delicate and pretty,” she says of the best-seller). And, noticing how women were wearing the brand’s bodysuits and kimonos out at night, she has introduced ready-to-wear, which for spring includes lamé jumpsuits, lacy pajamas, and loads of slip dresses. Not surprisingly, she has reworked the packaging—softening the Agent Provocateur candy pink to a more sophisticated shade—and is gradually revamping all 126 stores to create a warmer, more elegant environment. “I design for women, not men. But the men will like it anyway!”
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