When the film noir classic Gilda opened in theaters on February 14, 1946, audiences were captivated, and leading lady Rita Hayworth was immortalized as a glamorous femme fatale. Draped in luxurious satins and rich chiffons, Hayworth became synonymous with seduction. It’s little wonder then, that when Diane Houston was naming her fledgling lingerie and loungewear brand, she looked no further than the American actress’ best-known role. Launched in 2011, Gilda & Pearl pays tribute to two of its muses: the Hollywood-era screen siren and the vintage, one-of-a-kind nature of the robes, bodysuits, and undergarments on offer from the brand. We sat down with Houston on the eve of her launch with Barneys New York to talk creativity, craft, and inspiration.
The Window: What was the impetus for starting your own collection? Why lingerie?
Diane Houston: My mother was involved in the textile industry in the U.K. and my brother works at restoring antiques, so I’ve always had a connection with beautiful, locally made things. But everything really started when I moved to Lyon [France] for a year and discovered the lace industry there. Silk workshops and lacemakers were once based the Croix-Rousse area of the city. The rich heritage there led me to explore silk fabrics and traditional lace looms and lacemaking further. It was fascinating. I’d always loved beautiful fabrics, but for me, French Leavers lace in particular was just so special that I wanted to produce a collection with it.
You are committed to making your products solely in the U.K.
Yes—our lace comes from France, but everything is made in the United Kingdom. I’m a firm believer in knowing who is making your garments. It’s important to me to work as closely as I can with these craftspeople. In fact, we speak to each other virtually every day. I’m involved in every step of the process: from fabric sourcing, to design, to the final manufacture, and quality control. Even traveling back and forth—having our products made here allows me to keep a close eye on everything.
Your debut collection at Barneys is a mix of brand staples, as well as pieces from SS17. What are some of your favorite pieces from this selection?
The Diana Maribou is a huge favorite. I love that it’s fun, flirty, and yet also feminine. Also, the Aurora range, particularly the ivory with the lace appliqué—the detail in the way the Leavers lace has been applied to the silk is really something special. It’s all done by one machinist, who precisely follows the edges of the piece to create a seamless finish. You can really see the shape of the lace. It’s so delicate. The workmanship is apparent. I’m also a huge fan of the frosted almond colorway in the Gina collection. The gold lace lends itself beautifully to that shade of silk. It’s very sophisticated and elegant.
What was the inspiration for the SS17 collection vs. for the brand as a whole?
Everything is inspired by vintage Hollywood glamour, but with a modern spin. Spring/Summer 2017 is meant to be light and airy. I wanted everything to have an ethereal feel to it, and we tried to recreate that by only using soft, romantic color palettes. The Aurora is a prime example of this. It’s detailed with all of these tiny gold threads running through it, which makes the pieces seem almost gilded. It’s very dreamlike.
What do you think sets Gilda & Pearl apart from other luxury lingerie brands?
I think two things really set us apart from our competitors. The first is that we aren’t about sex—our brand is about seduction. It’s a line meant for glamorous and sophisticated women. When you wear one of our pieces, you feel relaxed and restful. In a way, buying a Gilda & Pearl piece is an investment in yourself; in a lifestyle where you recognize the importance of setting aside time and focusing on finding your center.
The second way we stand apart is our attention to detail. Every single piece by Gilda & Pearl is meticulously crafted. I’m very involved in the design process. I pick out all of the fabrics individually, and I’m very careful about what colors we decide to work with. The reason we take so much care and are so involved is because believe that our clients can really feel how much detail has gone into each piece when they wear it. Our pieces are almost like a work of art, and we hope that our customers will feel that distinction and sense of specialness when they wear our lingerie.