More Than Sexy Lingerie

More than sexy lingerie: La Perla roars into Houston with new boutique for the luxe life

More than sexy lingerie: La Perla roars into Houston with new boutique

La Perla Atelier collection at Paris Couture shows
Underwear worn as outerwear is a big trend and has been a big seller at La Perla. Photo courtesy of La Perla
La Perla exterior Galleria store
The new La Perla boutique in The Galleria is marked with a spidery black and white marble facade. Photo by Dave Rossman
La Perla North America CEO Suzy Biszantz
La Perla North America CEO Suzy Biszantz has guided the company through a tremendous period of growth. Photo courtesy of La Perla
La Perla interior Galleria store
The interior of the La Perla boutique in The Galleria. Swimwear is showcased on the right. Photo by Dave Rossman
La Perla Atelier collection at Paris Couture shows
The finale of the La Perla runway show during Paris Haute Couture week. Photo courtesy of La Perla
Naomi Campbell in La Perla
Naomi Campbell showcases a look from the La Perla Atelier Collection at the Paris Haute Couture shows. Photo courtesy of La Perla
La Perla Atelier collection at Paris Couture shows
La Perla exterior Galleria store
La Perla North America CEO Suzy Biszantz
La Perla interior Galleria store
La Perla Atelier collection at Paris Couture shows
Naomi Campbell in La Perla

For more than 60 years, La Perla has been synonymous with luxurious lingerie, although until recently it has kept a rather low profile as it produced high-quality intimate apparel for a discerning upscale clientele.

But now, under new ownership, the Italian-based company is keeping quiet no longer.

In January, it hosted its first-ever runway show during Paris Haute Couture week, as Naomi Campbell and other top models strolled the catwalk in made-to-measure creations from the La Perla Atelier Collection. It features lace pants, satin basketball shorts and bodysuits, bras and suspenders adorned with crystals, feathers and embroidery. 

 "For us, location, location, location is everything," Biszantz said. "And Houston has an international element, which I love." 

The brand now includes a sexy footwear collection, including jeweled sandals and colorful pumps, along with beachwear, perfume, sunglasses, menswear, and, in the fall, a new fine jewelry collection.

A few years ago La Perla never advertised in fashion magazines; now it's a regular in Vogue and W, with high-style campaigns shot by hip fashion phototraphers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot with models from the Elite network of modeling agencies.

Since Pacific Global Management, which owns Elite, bought La Perla in 2013, the company has expanded at a rapid clip, opening several new stores this year, including a sparkling new boutique in The Galleria, designed by architect Roberto Baciocchi, with a gleaming black-and-white marble facade, marble floors, mirrored alcoves and glamorous dressing rooms. 

"The brand has undergone a transformation in the last two years," said La Perla North America CEO Suzy Biszantz, during a recent whirlwind Houston visit. "We’ve opened stores all over the world and renovated many stores. We have acquired some of the most premium real estate there is. It’s really been amazing."

Houston search

For more than three years, La Perla has been looking for a Houston location to showcase its new look, Biszantz said. When an opening came up at The Galleria, La Perla snapped it up, even though at only about 800-square-feet, it is smaller than other new stores across the United States.

"For us, location, location, location is everything," she said. "And Houston has an international element, which I love. And it seems like a lot is going on, in oil and energy and technology. I feel it’s a really robust business market as well. That brings in international tourism, the right kind of profile of customer for us, from Latin America."

 "A lot of our top clients never step foot into the store. We bring everything to them." 

While small, the store has room to showcase its beachwear for summer, lingerie and the new line of lacy, cutting-edge ready-to-wear pieces. "It's a marrying of what's inside can be worn as outerwear," she said.

"It's very high fashion and it’s doing very well here and everywhere. That’s really a departure from people coming in and looking for lingerie. I just watched a lady come in today and buy two of our beautiful pants suits and bustier to go underneath. Not one but two. Our job is to show people that we’re not the same than maybe what they thought about La Perla 20 years ago."

The store also serves as a beachhead for the brand in all of Texas, Biszantz said. "If they want certain pieces from our Atelier collection, some of which are made-to-measure pieces, we’ll find a way through a private appointment. We do that at other boutiques too. A lot of our top clients never step foot into the store. We bring everything to them."

From golf apparel to lingerie

Biszantz joined La Perla in 2008 after a seven-year tenure as president and CEO of The Greg Norman Collection, a premium brand leader in golf-inspired apparel. Are there any similarities between selling selling athletic wear and lingerie?

"Well, the similarity is Texas is a really important market for both," said Biszantz, who spent a lot of time in Dallas, Houston and Austin in her previous job. "In the golf industry and luxury and fashion, you need the right demographic in terms of the customer that cares about craftsmanship and cares about an elevated lifestyle."

When it comes to intimate wear, the American customer really isn't that different from European or Latin American customers, Biszantz said.

"Whether they are based in Latin America or Russia or Paris or wherever, the commonality is they’re an international client and they travel quite a bit. They really understand craftsmanship and they’re looking for quality of product. They feel good about buying an established brand where there’s a reputation there. We see through our own company research that our top clients shop in multiple boutiques of ours throughout the world.

"In every market we have a wide variety in terms of taste and demographics. There isn’t just one profile of one customer. So that’s a nice thing. A lot of times there’s a mom with a daughter. She’s been with the brand for 30 years and comes in with her daughter. I think that’s one of the benefits of being part of an iconic brand with a 60-plus year history. "