2013 May 21
Chic Skivvies: Meet NOE Undergarments' Twin Design Duo
(NEW YORK) Get in the know on the underpinnings front, with chicly saucy new lingerie brand NOE Undergarments. Designed by twin sisters Bonnie Rae Boyes and Shelah Jean Abubo, the collection combines their island roots from growing up in Hawaii with the modern sophistication of city life to create flowy, feminine pieces mixed with hard lines and structured silhouettes. The result? A frill-free collection designed to be worn on the streets, at the beach, and, of course, in the boudoir!
BY RACHEL BERNSTEIN
The NOE backstory, s’il vous plait!
Bonnie Rae Boyes: Shelah and I grew up in Hawaii. Our mom came from a design background; she had a lingerie brand when we were very young. When we were teenagers, we always talked about having a lingerie label sometime in the future. We didn’t technically train, design-wise. Around four years ago, we came together and thought, “this is the time.” We both felt it was something in the marketplace that was needed, and we decided to just make it happen! About two years back we started putting ideas and concepts together. In March 2012, we formally started the brand.
Where are each of you based now?
BRB: I’m based in Laguna Beach, in California, and Shelah is based in Kauai, in Hawaii. We travel back and forth. We are manufactured locally, primarily out of Los Angeles—and we do a few leather pieces out of New York.
How was your Hawaiian childhood?
BRB: It’s actually quite different growing up on an island instead of more of a main city. Kauai is very small! Everything is more simplistic. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I really lived in a city environment! I love experiencing the fast-paced life.
How have your travels influenced the look of NOE?
Shelah Jean Abubo: We’ve gone everywhere from Fiji, where we have family, to Indonesia and Thailand. Just seeing what people use as fabrics and textiles has had a heavy influence. It’s not the norm because a lot of lingerie comes from Europe. Eight years ago, when I was in Thailand I saw a woman walk by with a sarong wrapped high on her neck. People think we’re so isolated, living where we do. It’s just from the imagination!
How do you divvy up the design workload?
BRB: We design together, but Shelah is a little bit more dominant in that area; she understands more of the technical side. She pulls in a lot more of that Asian/Pacific Island influence, where I come from always being obsessed with a sophisticated, simple, modern feel—which comes out in NOE’s lines, details, and leather.
Do your style sensibilities differ much?
BRB: I definitely am into clean, simplistic modern lines; Shelah has more of a bohemian-type flair to her style. The marriage of the two is what’s unique.
Where are you sold right now?
BRB: Autumn/Winter ’13 is our first collection—it gets into stores mid-July. We will be sold at Journelle, Surf Lodge in Montauk, Montauk Beach House, Pink Slip, Oh Baby in Portland and in a really awesome fashion boutique in Kauai called I Heart Hanalei. Earlier this month, we also started working with a few accounts in Australia; that’ll be the first area we open in outside the U.S.
The pieces seem so gift apropos! Have you had developed a male customer base yet?
BRB: It’s too early to tell right now!
SJA: We do have quite a following of gentlemen on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, which is pretty neat.
What are some of the challenges in creating a lingerie collection?
BRB: Every customer has her boundaries! Everything we’ve designed is what we feel comfortable showing or exposing. Nothing is going to be too sheer! Or, if something is sheer, it’s for the purpose of layering something underneath. Shelah and I both are a little bit more daring…maybe that stems from growing up always being in bikinis! The collection is made to be versatile, but the challenge comes in how customers feel comfortable taking risks. Some of our close friends have seen the collection and think of ways to wear things that we didn’t even plan on when we were designing the line.
Is lingerie design freeing, compared to solely doing RTW?
BRB: I think so! With lingerie, the pieces are obviously a little bit smaller; the norm is that you’re going to be covering it. You can be sexier and push boundaries with lingerie. You may be very casual or conservative in your RTW choices—but with lingerie people are often willing to take risks!
So do the underpinnings matter as much as what’s covering them?
BRB: It’s those secret pieces that no one else knows about! It’s obviously so intimate and it’s directly against your skin—but it’s also that element that’s just there for you.
SJA: It’s also definitely a confidence builder.
Who’s your dream customer?
BRB: We’d love to see our designs on Rihanna. It would be so fitting! She exudes confidence and is comfortable in her own skin.
Which retailer would you love to carry your line?
BRB: Barney’s and Net-a-Porter!
Any ideal collaborators?
BRB: Helmut Lang’s aesthetic complements us really well. The designs and silhouettes are so remarkable.
SJA: It would be so fun to do something with Jason Wu. Just looking at what he’s done has blown our minds, for sure!
What’s your growth strategy?
BRB: For Spring/Summer ’14, we’re looking to hopefully expand into London and also broaden our presence here in the States. Since our collection is crossing over into RTW pieces as well, we want to expand into more fashion specific focus; not necessarily be as lingerie-specific. Hopefully in Fall ’15, we’ll try and align with a few bigger doors and get the brand out to larger outlets.
What is your working relationship like as twin sisters?
BRB: We are so identical; we say the same things all the time. For the most part, we really do see eye-to-eye, even on the design side. I value what Shelah brings to the table with her more bohemian vibe and she values the modern side that I bring. It’s definitely not an argument, it’s more collaborative. We’re just constantly working together and we know each other so well.
Who would win in a wrestling match between you and the Olsen twins?
SJA: [Laughs] It’s funny we look up to them so much; what they’ve done is amazing. We have wondered many times if their working relationship is similar to ours, because we sometimes just get a hoot out of ourselves laughing at how similar everything is. But I guess we would win!
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