‘Agent Provocateur’, ‘Coco de Mer’ – pushing the boundaries
Sex, pornography, fetishism, perversion, provocation, eroticism, dominatrix, these are just some of the things that spring to the minds of some passers-by when you mention ‘Agent Provocateur’ and ‘Coco de Mer’ lingerie.
Others find such lingerie to be sexy, fun, exciting, naughty, stylish, seductive… the list goes on, and not only that, AP (Agent Provocateur) has also proven to be popular amongst celebrities such as Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Catherine Zeta-Jones to name a few.
There’s no real stereotype of who wears sexy and naughty lingerie, it’s not just highly sex driven women like Samantha from Sex and the City who go for such night-clothes, but yet some people avoid them like the plague.
I talked my mother about this topic as she’s quite conservative when it comes to lingerie. I asked her if she would wear labels like AP and Coco (Coco de Mer) and she looked at me in disgust and said, “I find AP and Coco a real put off and it gives the impression that you’re trying too hard to look sexy. If you’re sexy enough you don’t need to wear these ridiculous lingerie lines. I think that AP for instance promotes prostitution and encourages perversion. Normal men like pretty lingerie and not saucy underwear, the type of man who likes women to dress in AP are perverts, or men who have mistresses”.
It’s evident that she has already made her mind up about the kind of woman who wears these designs and finds it to be really offensive. “Some women buy AP due to their insecurity and feel that if they wear this horrible lingerie it’ll boost their confidence and maybe look more attractive towards the male sex. I think lingerie should be understated and it should complement the body and not distract the attention from the figure”.
So I go on to ask her what would change her mind about the label. “ I would buy from AP if the designs were softer looking, elegant and sexy in a non-provocative manner like ‘La Perla’ and ‘Eres’, I find the AP designs too harsh and the window display reminds me of a low class location where professional women wait for clients”.
AP has a reputation for being one of the most erotic lingerie in the world, but I’ve visited its shop in Knightsbridge and you’ll find a huge variety of garments, some pushing the boundaries, but some quite subtle. It may be that passers-by are slightly discouraged by the names ‘Agent Provocateur’ and ‘Coco de Mer’ as ‘Provocateur’ is the French term for provocative and therefore lacks in subtlety. Legend has it that ‘Coco de Mer’ (coconut of the sea) is the name of the world’s largest seed which came from a giant underwater palm. It’s looked upon as an aphrodisiac and its nut as the forbidden fruit since it resembles the thighs and belly of a woman. ‘Coco de Mer’ is not only a lingerie shop but also a sex shop and from visiting the store I was impressed to find that the outside did not resemble in the slightest way a boutique that sells sex toys, the website on the other hand, www.coco-de-mer.co.uk is a little on the overt side as there are an array of penises to the left hand side of your computer screen which you have to click on to enter the relevant sites.
Claire Bloom, a 27 year old interior designer buys her underwear from ‘Victoria Secrets’ as it’s sexy and fashionable. She also loves AP and Coco, “I find these labels great fun, you can dress up in them especially when you fancy being a bit naughty. I would use AP or Coco to Jazz up a boring day at the office knowing that underneath my suit I’ve got a sexy AP set, it would bring a smile to my face”.
I later ask her why it’s linked to pornography and perversion? “It’s not at all pornographic, firstly pornography isn’t as tasteful as AP and Coco and secondly, very sensitive people could make anything seem perverted or dirty”.
It appears that Claire likes to have fun with her lingerie and pushing the boundaries must be the last thing on her mind when concerning AP and Coco. “If you look at today’s society and its blatant use of sex to sell just about everything from washing-up liquid to product endorsements, then it’s fair to say that these labels are mild”.
According to Mustafa Hamed, a young male banker in the City, “AP has been designed for women whose interests don’t go beyond sex, it creates a temptation for the man to have sex. When I walk past the shop, the first thing that comes to my mind is all the opportunities I missed out on, AP promotes sex, it’s too sexually oriented”. I’ll admit that the designs are sexy, but it’s great that us women have the freedom to choose our underwear, and I don’t just link it to dirty thoughts. Just because a woman wears AP or Coco doesn’t make her a nymphomaniac, hell I’ve got a pair of AP knickers that were a present and I didn’t find it the least bit offensive, I thought of it as fun! This young man however, associates AP to sadomasochism. “If I see a girl in this lingerie I’d regard her as a high class sex bomb who’s into illegitimate sex and I wouldn’t want my girlfriend dressed like that. If I was having an affair, then that’s a whole new story”.
Shinni, a 24 year old lingerie model has her own views about posing in such revealing lingerie. “I’ve been modelling lingerie for four years now and I wouldn’t swap it for any other job”. I ask her what it is that makes her job so different from any other, “What I love most about being a lingerie model is that it makes me feel empowered that men would want to look at my body. The female form is beautiful and has been admired throughout art history, why should it be any different now?”
Then why is it that some people hate the thought of wearing or buying these popular lingerie lines? “These people are sadly just boring and unadventurous, they’re afraid that if they try something new that’s a little naughty then they’re being bad, which isn’t the case at all. Life’s too short to be cautious about things such as how other people will perceive you by the kind of underwear you buy, you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks and just live life freely or you’ll always be worrying what other people think of you. Take me for instance, I’m Sri Lankan and I haven’t come across many Sri Lankan underwear models, most parents won’t allow their children to take on such paths in life but I figured you only live once and therefore should do what you really enjoy!”
I ask her how she would feel about modelling for AP or Coco. “I would love to model for such prestigious brands, they are super sexy, I’d be crazy not to want to do it?”
I don’t believe that these raunchy lingerie lines are going over the top, it’s more a matter of taste, some people love it and some find it outrageous, it’s what turns
Copyright © Sheeva Moshiri May 2004