It’s been a long time.
Suffice it to say, my life kind of fell apart around 4th quarter. And subsequently, so did America.
My beloved pet got very sick, and after numerous tears, meltdowns, and a lofty four-figured bill, it seems that the worst is behind us. I also started working 10-14 hour days since my team of 3 became a team of 1; thankfully, since January, we are back to 3. As for America… W E L P. To say the least.
The end of 2016 was bleak, and I simply had no will to write or talk about lingerie. Not all of 2016 was a raging dumpster fire, though: I purchased from numerous independent brands. There were so many beautiful things handmade by so many wonderful artisans, and this post is to talk about my lingerie prized possessions:
Pillowbook order wrapped in Chinese calligraphy paper, tied with a crimson cord.
Elegant Pillowbook silk packaging.
Pillowbook lingerie by Irene Lu and her phenomenal team. The set I purchased is Aime in the Mondrian colorway – a perfect homage to the artist himself!
There’s so much that I love about Pillowbook:
– Atelier that offers true couture; none of that mess where “couture” is used interchangeably as ready-to-wear
– Vintage Chinese silhouettes with a modern interpretation
– Gorgeous silk fabrics (not the cheapy lightweight stuff) with branded, customized hardware
– But most importantly, a brand owner and brand who just fucking gets me.
Let’s first get this out of the way:
Upon first look, Pillowbook is considered expensive; however, it isn’t astronomically priced or cost prohibitive for what you get: a 100% handmade item made to your measurements out of luxe silks. I would even venture to say that it is ridiculously well-priced for what you get. Before people insist how they can make it or buy something similar at the mall for $20 (no, the average person does not encompass these skills, and no, you literally cannot buy something like this for under $100), I’m honestly sick and tired of people complaining how things are overpriced because they can’t afford them immediately. It is so disrespectful to scream “overpriced!!!” to a small business who pays an ethical wage to their employees for their labor and skill set instead of paying $2 to the seamstress and $80 to a marketing budget.
For example, the Aime bra that I purchased cost $187; however, the Demelza bra from Agent Provocateur, as reviewed by Karolina Laskowska on TLA costs a mind bogglingly $250 for a bra embellished with a glued applique.
Just let that sink in for a bit: glued applique. On what is supposed to be designer lingerie.
Pillowbook’s pricing is comparable to other luxe brands such as Loveday London and Harlow and Fox; however, Pillowbook offers custom sizing, custom color selection, and essentially, custom whatever-you-want.
Speaking of custom-whatever-you-want, for the Aime bottoms, I asked Irene if I could get it made into a brief because I despise thongs. I also requested that the gusset be cut from yellow silk instead of snow white because white, especially white gussets, are a total bitch to keep clean. (Bodily fluids aren’t crystal clear like the finest Czech crystal, y’know, and it shouldn’t embarrass people.)
And of course, Irene was more than happy to customize my order. She actually suggested lining the gusset in a pale yellow (versus the yellow on the Mondrian set), so that it wouldn’t be so obvious through the white silk. I appreciate all of her input and suggestions during the order process; it really made the experience quite special!
Now, onto the heart of the post: construction! Not all lingerie is made the same, and Pillowbook’s sewing is just exquisite. This is literally the most beautifully sewn lingerie set that I have ever own. There are so many couture finishes and construction techniques utilized in their work. While I think “heirloom lingerie” sounds ridiculous, when I see this set, I get it. I believe it.
The white silk in this set is snow white. It was hard to capture with this overcast weather, so please forgive the cream tint in the pictures.
LOOK HOW BEAUTIFULLY THE BRA IS PIECED TOGETHER. LOOK AT THE STITCHING
Isn’t it beautiful? The Aime Mondrian Bra (bralette) has bra straps that are made from black, woven silk (no elastic, no stretch) with adjustable sliders. The bra band has elastic in its woven silk casing, and the band is adjustable! I was initially mistaken thinking that it couldn’t be adjusted; I didn’t even realize it. :O How ingenious! Irene sent me a photo for illustrative purposes:
You would remove the clasp and insert it into the next channel. This is a lot easier to see on fabric that isn’t black — that’s for sure! Photograph (c)Pillowbook.
This style isn’t overly supportive, but it provides light support and is very comfortable and luxurious to wear. This bra offers full coverage in the cups, and it feels so decadent because there seems to be so much of it!
Look at the inside of the bra. LOOK AT IT. So much care and thoughtfulness has been put into the construction of this bralette that it could be reversible. I also love how the white lining is so neatly gathered at the band. This stuff makes me happy. You can also see a better view of the bra straps.
The hardware on my lingerie is a shiny, gunmetal grey. Here’s a closeup of the branded clasp. It slides into a sewn loop on each side; it functions similarly as the clasp on Damaris bras. As previously mentioned, the bra is not adjustable in the band, but there is some give and flexibility in the band due to the elastic. I personally feel that the clasp is a bit too fiddly: I’ve somehow managed to remove it completely from the bra and drop it on the floor while getting dressed… It’s rather aesthetically pleasing, though, isn’t it?
The knickers are equally gorgeous.
I had the thong converted into a brief style; the pricing for this did go up due to the additional silk pieces (french knicker price of $146). There is elastic along the front and back, but there is none at the sides or in the leg openings. Instead, the adjustable slides on the side of the briefs are made from woven black silk. When I first received the briefs, I almost laughed at how comically huge they looked – and they do look rather big since they’re made of non-stretch silk! But they are comfortable, fit well, if not a bit loose in the rear.
Again, look at the beautiful stitching and piecing. (I’m going to sound like a broken record, thank you very much.) I love the contrast of the black and white threads, and you can see that it’s all carefully sewn. As you can see, the leg openings are binded with black silk, so there aren’t any exposed seams.
Here is the direct backside of the afore-pictured brief. The white stitching on the black binding for the leg opening is shown on the reverse (curved edge which goes over the blue silk). Look at the neat, discreet black top stitching on the black lines. Just ~love~.
And here’s how the black topstitching looks like on the other side/inside of the brief. Ahhh, so precise, and it looks damned good. If there’s one thing that I really noticed about my Pillowbook pieces, the insides of the garment are just as beautiful as the outside. Couture seam finishes all around; no overlocked stitch in sight.
I wanted to mention that if you compare the bra and brief, there is a difference in texture if you look at the white silk. I actually handwashed the briefs, as per the direction and care of the garment tags, but haven’t handwashed the bra yet. I’m not too sure if there was much sizing (chemical preservatives used in fabrics) in it, or if it was a result of handwashing silk, or the fact that the white silk hasn’t been treated with dyes, or a combination of all three. Either way, the resulting finish in the handwashed briefs resembles raw silk with less sheen and luminosity than I received them. I don’t think that this is a bad thing. I’m also not going to be taking my lingerie to get dry cleaned either, so handwashing it is! The colored bits of silk still look brand new, though, and the colors didn’t run. (Yes!!!)
The Aime suspender is also a work of art in and of itself. To me, it seems like the most complicated piece to create, due to all of the bits of silk piecing, top stitching, and silk channels. It is superbly sewn and exquisitely crafted, and the price reflects it. I didn’t photograph this piece since it was harder to do it justice, but take my word on it! The suspender held up my stockings even though it felt a bit large/roomy and sat closer to my hips, perhaps due to the silk elastic channels. Like the bra, you can adjust it by removing the clasp and inserting it into the loop that is smaller.
Here’s the Aime Mondrian set worn. I feel like a queen!!
My order took a long time to get to me. After I placed it, communication tapered off. This disappointed me since I was so excited to support a Chinese brand and really put a lot of thought into this purchase. I can wait for orders and am more than willing to work with indies, but if there are delays, I just want to be informed about them. The turnaround time was supposed to be 15-20 business days. I placed my order on 05/23/16, and it shipped on 07/20/16.
I want to be honest about all aspects of my order, so I’m mentioning it in my review. That said, it appears that the delays I encountered were a result of a perfect storm: a problem with the samples and Irene managing her business, teaching, while getting ready to have her first child (I wasn’t aware of the latter until after the fact). I don’t think that this will be a problem for people moving forward, though. Irene is back, and she has some exciting things planned!
Because my order was delayed, Irene sent me a gift with my purchase, which was the Aime Mondrian Dudou. (I am wearing it in the photo with my back to the front of the camera.) My jaw dropped when I saw it in my parcel; it was completely unnecessary, and I couldn’t believe that she sent this to me. I still can’t… It was beyond generous and breathtaking in construction, and I am very thankful for such a wonderful, thoughtful present.
When my order was posted, it was shipped via DHL Express. It arrived to me quickly and promptly, but please be aware that the shipping cost for this service is priced accordingly. I paid $55 for shipping.
So after talking about the actual lingerie and ordering, I really wanted to chat about why Pillowbook resonates so much with me.
As an Asian women living in the US, who identifies more with nationality than ethnicity, I truly find it so hard to fit in. I remember my first ever visit to Taipei as an adolescent/semi-adult: my relatives kind of shunned me because my Chinese wasn’t perfect, and my mannerisms/thoughts/beliefs were distinctly American. And it was clear that my extended family didn’t accept me for who I was.
In the US, you do have a patriarchal society, but in most east Asian countries, it is the patriarchal society. By Asian standards, a lot of my worth is attached to my looks and age. I’m honestly too fat, too muscular, and probably too ugly to fit in unless I get some surgery. I’m also simply too old for anyone to want to marry me and have kids. I’ve had opportunities to go to China to see family, but I’m not going to lie: I’m terrified to go back because I don’t want to deal with criticisms about my personality or looks. I like myself quite a bit, but that isn’t good enough.
Likewise, in the US, I’ve had people assume that I don’t speak English well or that I want a green card (joke’s on you, assholes; I am a US citizen!). Or I have people telling me that I’m the “whitest” Asian person that they know or that I’m essentially “a white person.” Or that I’m part of the “model minority.” Asian people are good, only up until “Chinese made crap” or stealing jobs from (white) Americans. And I won’t even mention how many creeps have an Asian fetish, yellow fever, and/or watch way too much anime thinking of all the perks that they can reap with an Asian partner.
I’ve also been told that since my perpetual struggle with identity (sprinkled with some self-hatred) isn’t as important as others’ struggles, I’m overreacting or thinking too much. Socially, I feel lost almost all the time. I realize that personally, I’ve never had many Asian friends while growing up because most of the Asian kids in my school had either a more traditional upbringing or were friends primarily/exclusively with other Asians.
When I had reached out to Irene about my order, we started talking about these things, and it was so nice to have someone understand how I felt and had actually experienced similar and/or had similar feelings. (Irene was born in Taipei, like me, and she put down her roots in the US.) I was also so impressed that she moved to Beijing to open up her atelier in an industry that oftentimes has a stigma attached to it.
From her press releases and thoughts that she’s shared on social media (International Women’s Day, Asian American Month, etc.), she is a huge advocate for women and for sexuality – with a clear nod to Asian women embracing and accepting all aspects of who they are. Seriously, I can’t even think of any Asian companies who would offer to embroider your lingerie with a delightfully naughty secret while donating the profits to Love146, an organization that helps out survivors of child trafficking/exploitation?
Oftentimes, you read how being sexy or exhibiting your sexuality makes you incapable of having anything worthwhile to say; however, you can be sexy and still give a shit about other causes, neither of which are mutually exclusive. Here is an unapologetic Asian women who is smashing down the misconceptions of how Asian women should be, who believes that all bodies are good bodies, and is shining a bright light that Chinese-made products can be artisanal, expertly crafted, and command a high price.
I, too, dearly hold onto these views close to my heart, and so do the other Chinese women who comprise of Pillowbook’s customer base (single, white collar women in their 20-30s).
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an Asian designer that gets a lot of coverage in the media
, and I can’t think of another Asian-owned lingerie brand. (If I forgotten you or don’t know about you, please leave a comment!)* And to have similar beliefs and values with the brand owner with products that are true works of art, I really want people to see just how fabulous Pillowbook is, and I want them to succeed!
*Edit: O M G, I am such a dodo! Thanks to Irene and Cora, my sabbatical brain has totally forgot so many brands. YIKES!!! Please forgive me! Here’s a shortlist:
1. Josie Natori
2. Samantha Chang – link currently not working (too many redirects)
6. Atsuko Kudo
Pillowbook did not ask me to write this. I was not compensated for my time to put this together (and god, did it take forever). I purchased the products I wrote about with my own money. No affiliate links were used.
After seeing Irene post again on social media, she has a surprise planned on March 8 for subscribers to her newsletter. You can email her to be added, or you can sign up for her newsletter on the Pillowbook website. I really don’t know what the surprise is, but I am looking forward to finding out! In light of her announcement, I wanted to talk about this brand on my blog in case any of you were interested in partaking of her event:
Additionally, if you’re interested in reading other reviews, Karolina is a huge fan as well and has raved about Pillowbook on her website Knickerbocker Stories.
That’s it for now; hope 2017 is treating you all better!