The Provocateur: Joe Corre
Published February 12, 2009
Libertine luxury runs in Joe Corre’s blood: as the son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, he’s heir apparent to two abrasive, attractive and highly visual philosophies. But Corre has spent twelve years fleshing out his own medium. Corre initiated his fringed movement in 1994 when he opened the first Agent Provocateur shop in London’s SoHo district. A few cracks of a pricey crystal-and-leather whip later, a cult phenomenon was born: men and women alike went wild for corsets, blindfolds, and nipple tassels became lavish taboo trophies. Lingerie, lowbrow? Not any more. Unsurprisingly, around Valentine’s Day, Agent Provocateur’s cachet soars. As the season nears its climax, Interview went directly to the source, to ask Joe Corre about the whims of Valentine’s Day shoppers, wide-eyed AP virgins, and the hidden temptresses that are American women.
COLLEEN NIKA: What is the Agent Provocateur woman’s Valentine’s Day bedroom mentality?
JOE CORRE: The Agent Provocateur woman exudes confidence and pure sexuality. She’s a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. On Valentine’s Day she’s not afraid to indulge in her partner’s fantasies but expects to be indulged in return.
CN: What can you get away with selling at an upscale boutique like Agent Provocateur, that another, lesser, lingerie shop could not?
JC: At the heart of Agent Provocateur is a profound belief in the intimacy of the experience that we offer, it as the difference between a mass experience, dictated by market forces and meaningless advertising, and an intensely private, wholly personal experience. We have gone on to design and produce complementary products including, jewelry, books, shoes, and a very successful house of fragrances and beauty products.
CN: When someone walks into Agent Provocateur, how can you tell if they are a brand “virgin” or not?
JC: We can tell that the customer is an Agent Provocateur ‘virgin’ when they come into the shop slightly hesitant and not really knowing what to expect. After being greeted by an Agent and shown around the store they become more comfortable. They are often unsure of the size that they need, at which point we provide them with a private fitting. New customers seem to start off purchasing ‘safe’ items; once they become familiar their selections become more adventurous, adding playsuits, pasties, and whips to their existing Agent Provocateur collection—quickly turning into fanatics!
CN: Of “luxury boudoir items,” which noticeably spikes in sales this time of year?
JC: Over the Valentine’s day period the customer is 65% male and they tend to purchase more luxurious items, like the silk slips, pyjama sets and corsets. As he is often unsure of her size, the more playful items tend to be popular, like suspenders and stockings, blindfolds, cupless bras…
CN: Speaking of men, will you ever create a line for them? Maybe for the gay community?
JC: There are no plans to create underwear for men, but anyone is welcome to wear Agent Provocateur.
CN: Do American women need to loosen up? Are any other cultures more permissive in the bedroom?
JC: American women are more privately adventurous as opposed to being overtly sexual in appearance. Subtle sexuality is equally enticing. Agent Provocateur has helped American women to move away from the idea that lingerie is functional, and toward the notion of lingerie as a fashion item. It’s the first layer of clothing that a women puts on in the morning.