Who said your underwear has to play second fiddle to your outfit? Such is Fleur Du Mal founder Jennifer Zuccarini’s modus operandi. The designer has been irrevocably shaking up the lingerie world for years, injecting the category with haute intimate apparel that’s got a sophisticated and stylish edge while being sexy to boot. Her NYC-based brand, which now encompasses ready-to-wear and swim too, has long been the fashion girl’s go-to and ten years in, Zuccarini has still got an abundance of surprises up her sleeve. Here’s what coming up!
Did you always love fashion as a kid? And how did it manifest in your childhood?
I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer at eight-years-old. I started sketching and begged my mom to get me a sewing machine and lessons. Every class was making one small part of a garment, like just a buttonhole or a pocket. I made a green corduroy mini dress—it took me probably six months to finish it. I wore it to my friend’s birthday party, and was so excited to show everyone my creation, and no one believed me that I made it!
You’re Canadian. Tell us about the path you took to studying at FIT. Did you always think you would end up becoming a New Yorker?
My older sister went to school in Rome, and because I idolized her as a kid, I decided I wanted to study fashion design in Milan. Years later, I was trying to figure out moving to Italy. I was about 20-years-old, and nothing was coming together. It just wasn’t meant to be. New York was really the most logical place to study fashion, so I applied to Parsons and FIT and got into both, but ultimately chose FIT because as an international student it was a bit more affordable. The best day of my life was when I was accepted to go to school in New York, it meant I was free and could pursue my dream. I grew up visiting the city and it immediately felt like home.
When did you realize your calling was in lingerie design? What was the lingerie industry like at that time, and what white space did you see?
It never crossed my mind to design lingerie when I was studying, but I was personally obsessed with it. Lingerie is such an emotional category; people get really into it. I remember telling my best friend, I just want to make a lot of money so I can wear really expensive lingerie. She was like, ‘Why? I don’t get it.’ When I started in the industry in 2005, there was Victoria’s Secret, European brands, and a handful of smaller brands. The aesthetic was generally very sexy, trashy, or super basic. I felt there was an opportunity to design things I wanted to wear—sexy, but still wearable and with a stronger fashion POV.
You’re a co-founder of the groundbreaking line, Kiki De Montparnasse. What was the initial reaction of the fashion world like to the brand?
I didn’t know how the brand would be perceived. We were selling sex toys at a time when you had to go to a sex shop to buy a vibrator. Kiki was very well received, immediately. My fondest memories were all the interesting people who would shop at the store. I remember closing it down one day for Eva Mendes and Kate Hudson, who came in with a swarm of paparazzi in tow. They had so much fun drinking champagne and shopping. Or the Olsen twins coming in two massive SUVs with 15 of their friends and buying up the whole store. I guess it’s validating to have people that could buy anything choose your designs. Today is really a different world. Celebrities are mostly gifted or paid to wear things—back then, we did not give anything, no matter who it was. We barely offered a discount!
You launched Fleur du Mal back in 2012. Take us back to this time…what was your vision and what were some early focuses?
Fleur du Mal really was a chance for me to create a world exploring everything surrounding desire, and empowering people to embrace their sexuality. I wanted Fleur to be a bit more affordable than what I had done in the past, and have a stronger fashion component. As we have evolved, I’m very excited about the content aspect of our brand and how we can educate and spark conversations through panels and events. I’m also working on expanding the sexual wellness category which is super exciting.
View this post on Instagram
What’s the backstory to the name?
The name is derived from a famous collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire. It speaks to the unique duality of Fleur’s spirit: beautiful and chic with a playful, mischievous side, allowing women to explore the full spectrum of their sexuality in every moment of their lives.
The brand has expanded far beyond ‘just’ lingerie. Talk us through what the offering looks like these days, and how often you launch new designs and prints?
Yes, lingerie for men was a very exciting category I had been thinking about for many years. I like approaching lingerie as something less defined by gender; that’s exciting. We launch new styles every week online. A lot of our collections sell out pretty quickly, in that way we definitely take more of a fashion approach to the category.
What’s been most in-demand for men?
Since we launched men’s in 2019/2020 and it’s been really fun to think of how men might wear lingerie. Our lace boxers and silk PJs are a big hit!
What’s one helpful piece of advice for designers who are also business owners that you’ve learned on the job that you would tell design students?
Build a social following. It’s annoying to depend on that, but it’s the most effective way to get your brand out there. If you’re starting a brand, you must have a very clear point of view. If you can’t figure out what your thing is, work for someone else while you hone in on your vision.
You’re a fixture in Nolita! What’s your favorite thing about the area, and what are some of your favorite local businesses to support?
I’ve been in Nolita since 2003! I still love it so much. It’s the middle of so many great areas: Soho, Chinatown, LES, Tribeca. You can still walk around some streets and they haven’t changed one bit, while others have new stores opening every week. I love Cafe Integral on Elizabeth Street for coffee—get a Horchata latte!—and they also make the most amazing Brazilian cheese buns which are a must-have. I’m in love with the Elizabeth Street Garden; it might be my favorite place in NYC. For gelato, I like FIGO on Mulberry. The South Soho Bar on Centre Street for drinks. Thai Diner for dinner. Dance workouts at Forward Space on Spring Street. Clic on Broome and Centre for homewares and gifts. I could go on and on…!
View this post on Instagram
What do you think it is that brings all types of people together in the Fleur Du Mal online and offline community?
We don’t shy away from being provocative, but approach it with beauty, wit, and strength. I think our community sees themselves in the brand. We all want to identify with the brands we choose. I try to infuse Fleur du Mal with things I love, that resonate with me, or are cheeky and thought-provoking. I feel like if we’re not having fun, or bringing something fresh to the table, why bother?!
What’s coming up in the pipeline for the brand?
So many things! We’re expanding our sexual wellness collection and we have some exciting collaborations coming up. We’re also opening a few more stores. Stay tuned!
Lastly, who would be at your ideal dinner party…five fictional, living, or passed figures…no limits!
Cleopatra, Prince, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Marilyn Monroe, and Leonardo da Vinci—I know, it’s six!