Top lingerie label set to open stores in Australia

When the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur made a short film starring Kylie Minogue gyrating on a mechanical bull in a skimpy lace bra and suspenders, it was not surprising that views of the viral video went through the roof.

The London label's 2009 campaign starring the Australian pop singer garnered more than 30 million views and was voted the most successful cinema advertisement of all time in a poll by Digital Cinema Media.

''I think Kylie was quite keen to show another side of herself because she was perhaps perceived as more goody two shoes,'' Agent Provocateur's chief executive Garry Hogarth said. ''It made people think 'Oh my god, it's Kylie, she's super sexy'.''

Recruiting Minogue to raunch about in underwear also put Australia on the radar of the cult brand, which is renowned for its racy and irreverent lingerie, worn by the likes of Kate Moss, Helena Christensen and Madonna.

At a Milan Fashion Week function yesterday, Hogarth revealed the label will open two stores in Sydney and Melbourne within David Jones in February, seeking a share of the local market for its provocative and playful designs.

''We've signed the contract, the shop fit-out has been designed and we are due to open in February,'' he said.

Australia is the fourth-largest online market in the world for Agent Provocateur, with local admirers of its designs flocking to its website, which receives more than 20,000 visits a day.

''We have a lot of Australians that buy on our website, so I think there is a great demand for the brand,'' Mr Hogarth said.

Agent Provocateur was founded by Joseph Corre, the son of Vivienne Westwood, and his now former wife, Serena Rees, in London in 1994. Rees had a vision for fashion-forward lingerie, and the high-powered duo's social contacts ensured they swiftly gained a strong celebrity following.

Mr Hogarth joined the company in 2006, but a year later Corre and Rees divorced and Agent Provocateur was acquired by the private equity firm 3i. Once a small, London-based operation, Agent Provocateur now has 47 stores in 20 countries and plans for another nine in the next year.

A former tennis player before he began supplying neckwear to communist Russia, Mr Hogarth said dealing in bras and knickers offered an opportunity to better understand women. ''I hate beer and all that stuff so I always went out with girls,'' Mr Hogarth said. ''I don't feel uncomfortable talking about bra sizes or whatever.''

The writer travelled to Italy courtesy of Bulgari.

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