50 Shades Of Grey Lingerie Is Surprisingly Prudish

The lurid book is getting its own fashion label. But is it too tame for its target market?

Fifty Shades of Grey may have been the butt of every joke in 2012/13, but the book, and its siblings in the Fifty Shades trilogy, have proven to become pop culture’s secret pleasure, having grossed over $100 million worldwide.


Following the book’s recent success in Sweden, fashion retailer KappAhl has teamed up with author Erika L. James to design Fifty Shades of Grey lingerie–a lacy collection of gray bras, briefs, negligées, and stockings, along with accessories including a black mask and the infamous gray tie that gives the series its name. The collection is available now.

KappAhl looks to be a superb fit for the brand. Its demographic is primarily middle-aged women (the same demographic that supposedly drove book sales), and the retailer can move custom product: Their jeans, for instance, are the best-selling in Sweden.

But whereas the books might make you blush, the Fifty Shades lingerie collection is decidedly safe. The lingerie could just as easily be on sale at Victoria’s Secret, with its models advertised during prime-time TV commercials. Nowhere are the themes of domination so prevalent in the series (at least, so we’ve heard!). Risque accessories like leather whips and Ben Wa balls make no appearance.

“Our collection was inspired by all of the million female readers of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, what we imagine they would wear and feel sensual in,” a spokesperson tells Co.Design. “We did not for a minute think about domination/leather aesthetic.”

And in that regard, we can’t help but wonder if the 50 Shades lingerie missed living up to its namesake. Because according to many, the book’s great success was that reading it could be a secret–even during the morning commute on a crowded train, the anonymity of a Kindle could mask its erotic contents. But truth be told, lingerie already offers this sensation–it’s, by nature, a tease of sex masked by one’s own clothing. It’s completely undetectable, sexy subversion.


So even though it’s a bit of a joke to most of us, the 50 Shades lingerie marks a real missed design opportunity. Rather than typical lacy underwear, imagine if 50 Shades lingerie could go from discrete to evocative at a moment’s notice–or if it was sold in a package that could wrap a whip in every bit a mass-market acceptable way as an erotic novel wrapped in a Kindle.

The 50 Shades trilogy challenged a deep-seated cultural prudishness with measurable success. It’s a shame that its own lingerie won’t do the same.

See more here.

[Hat tip: WSJ]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.