Bits 'n' Pieces: Vancouver designer slips into lingerie week

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

Published:

 
photoKaaren Bedi describes her designs — such as this silk charmeuse gown with Chantilly lace, modeled by Ashley Mcphail — as "timeless."

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photo Kaaren Bedi describes her designs — such as this silk charmeuse gown with Chantilly lace, modeled by Ashley Mcphail — as "timeless."

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Kaaren Bedi's slips, gowns and chemises are not something you'd find in a Victoria's Secret.

The Vancouver designer debuted her Layneau Collection in February at Lingerie Fashion Week in New York City.

"It was a profound moment to see a dream come true," she said.

The industry-exclusive event was a point of validation for Bedi's couture lingerie line.

"It's a nuance of vintage, but it's not anachronistic. There's a romantic sensibility to it."

Reviews have compared the collection to a mix of Madame X and "Downton Abbey," Bedi said.

"I've always designed lingerie," said Bedi, who grew up admiring her dressmaker mother and the luxury fashions of her great-aunt.

During her career, Bedi has worked for costume designers and wedding dress makers. When she couldn't find a slip long enough for one of her own dresses, she created her own.

"There's got to be something better, and there wasn't. I've felt that I was always meant to do this."

Her collection also speaks to a more diverse age group.

"For me, (lingerie) has always been about having a sense of self-respect," Bedi said. "How I treat myself determines how others will treat me. I respect and value my being. I'm not going to wear holey underwear when no one is looking, I'm going to wear the better stuff when no one is looking."

"We don't cater to cookie-cutter women, she's unabashed about what she wants," she said. "One of my first sales was to a beautiful woman in (the) Salmon Creek (area)."

An early memory of vintage inspiration for Bedi was downtown Vancouver's C Store.

"It was an absolute gem of a place that time had forgotten. I remember going to the fabrics, finding the Egyptian cotton organza," she said. "It was this treasure trove of inspiration."

Now 21/2 years after starting Layneau, Bedi is aiming to be a global brand. And she's firmly aimed her business at luxury buyers. Prices range $1,250 for a nightshirt to $2,850 for a full-length gown.

"My pieces are very expensive, and we know that, but I'm unapologetic about it," she said. "We're audacious enough to do true couture and true luxury."

The collection sources its fabric from around the world. It includes custom-woven cloth from England and silk Chantilly lace from France.

A gown may take up to 20 hours of sewing by a highly skilled seamstress, usually trained in Europe's couture fashion houses. Bedi's designs come to life thanks to a handful of seamstresses, and her business partners Thomas Mesher and Hina Chaschin.

The next step for Bedi and her company is to finalize relationships with distributors and take her lingerie to the markets of Europe and the Middle East.

"I think it's a challenge to be an American luxury company in the West Coast," Bedi said, "but the fact is the pieces speak for themselves. They transcend time to the point that you don't know when they were made."


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.