I’m Samantha Tharler, the designer and owner of the emerging lingerie brand Kokeshii. As a New York City native, it is important to me that all the products are made here in Brooklyn under ethical conditions.
I am very inspired by other cultures, in particular Japan. The name “Kokeshii” sprung from the Japanese kokeshi doll that is always adorned in a luxurious robe and blissful smile.
I like creating romantic pieces with unexpected twists. Sometimes a little quirky and playful, I enjoy back details and contrasting colors. I also love playing with ruffles, beading, and fun embellishments techniques.
Check out Kokeshiicustomdesign.com to see!
What inspired you to become a lingerie designer?
When I was in school we were trained to make structural pieces like jackets, button down shirts, and suits. We were forbidden to use knit fabrics. I think it came as a rebellion. In contrast making breathable, luxurious garments with comfort as a priority was such an appealing escape.
There is just something about lingerie. It’s every woman’s little secret. A luxurious set of undergarments can really increase your confidence and improve how you go about your day.
What makes your designs different from others?
I try to make my designs as unique as possible and steer from what is already out there. I like to play around with unconventional fabric choices. For example I used kimono remnants to make some lingerie sets and pyjamas. Velvet is also one of my favourite materials. I thought velvet bras and underwear could be a heavenly idea.
Are there any celebrities wearing your designs and who are they?
For now, My clients are just hardworking professionals who need my clothes to wind down and feel like a luxurious celebrity! It’s not like I can create a lingerie look for the red carpet, but it would be a dream to have a Kokeshii design on screen!
Do you wear your own products?
I wear the beaded, velvet camisoles and jewellery out all the time. However, most products I make are meant for the home.
What’s your favourite lingerie brand (not your own!) and why?
I really admire Hanky Panky’s sustainability and marketing plan. Impossible to pick one! I really love the fun, whimsical designs of brands like La Lilouche, Prelude, and Minuit Douze.
Do you think there’s enough choice for D+ sizes?
I’ve had a lot of friends complain about this in the past. Nowadays I am impressed with the market’s attention to the issue. There are quite a few blogs out there focused on options for larger chested ladies. Additionally, more and more plus size bra brands are popping up. I just wish every retailer carried these sizes, but I think the industry is moving in a good direction.
Are you happy with the way lingerie is sized? If not what changes would you like to see?
As I said earlier, mass retailers need to carry a larger range of sizes. I think the measuring system out is a good one. However most women don’t know their correct size, so it’s important to get measured!
What advice would to give to an aspiring lingerie/swimwear designer?
I would say if you want to create your own line, you have to make sure the looks are different from what else is out there. To compete, you really need a unique point of view to offer.
To launch a label, it’s important to have an incredible amount of courage, confidence, and patience. You need to love and believe in what you do in order to keep going and not get stuck by the many setbacks that will surely come our way. Also an education of lingerie construction and the different types of materials is helpful.
How do you get your inspirations for new collections?
Sometimes a really great fabric inspires me, and I think, “hey that would make a beautiful thong,” haha. Old Hollywood films are also inspiring. I once saw a long, luxurious feathered robe from the 30s’ which inspired me to incorporate feathers into a look. Images on screen also inspire clients. One woman recently came to me asking for something that resembled what Leena Dunham was wearing on the Girl’s episode “role play,” with the crazy straps. That was fun!
Do you use paper and pencil to design your first draft or is it all done on computer?
I mainly work on the computer. I gather a collection of inspiration images and details I like, and then compile them into a few designs made on Adobe Illustrator. However there have been times when I have been found sketching on a napkin in a cafe or on a train. Inspiration can hit at unexpected moments!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
Right now I also teach children art after school. I think that sometimes people get caught up in overly superficial aspects of the industry, and it is important to give back. I also try to balance out my time spent in fashion with volunteer work.
I do love languages, and a secret dream job of mine is to translate Disney movies for a living : p
What are you working on right now?
I did a collection of steampunk-inspired lingerie, so next week I have a booth at the Steampunk World’s Fair, which should be a crazy experience!
I am also currently working on a personal project draping a dress for my brother’s wedding that involves many, many roses.
What makes a great lingerie model?
I would say someone that knows how to capture the right balance between sexy and sweet.
See some of Samantha’s designs below and find out more on her website.