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Jun 13, 2008
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Dutch designer displays racy undergarments in famous gallery

Jun 13, 2008

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, June 13, 2008 (AFP) - Bold, confident, sexy and never demure; the lingerie of Dutch designer Marlies Dekkers adorns the Rotterdam Kunsthal art gallery to mark 15 years of an illustrious career.

Dutch fashion designer Addy van den Krommenacker
Photo Danilo Krstanovic/Reuters

Black dominates the collection on display in a two-month exhibition, with hardly a spot of white or touch of colour to break the contrast against the artificial, pale mannequin skin.

But the most striking constant, the signature on the majority of the g-strings, guepieres (a type of corset) and bras she designs: the straps.

One, two, sometimes three straps cross a breast, creep around a neck, snake across a hip...

It is Dekkers' distinctive seal -- having characterised her collections throughout the years.

"I tell the same story repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with that," she told reporters at the opening of the exhibition.

Her lingerie, said the designer, "is perfectly adapted to the female body." And why change that, "since that is what pleases them?"

Having started 15 years ago with a grant from the Dutch ministry of economic affairs, it took hard work and a lot of persistence to get Dekkers to where she is today, having built up a niche empire of nine boutiques from Rotterdam in her mother country to Paris and New York.

Starting her career from her top-floor apartment in Amsterdam in 1993, Dekkers managed within four years to become a supplier to 40 outlets around the world -- doing everything from the design, sewing, distribution and publicity herself.

Her real break came four years later when the Kunsthal in Rotterdam invited Dekkers to stage an exhibition -- the first of its kind in an art gallery in the world and firmly putting her on the map.

The very next year, she was invited to design a collection for a big Dutch brand, and by 2000 she had boosted her number of outlets to 300.

Today she has 1,000, and receives regular fan mail from happy clients.

Having won several awards, including the Dutch Businesswoman of the Year and the CILA Award in New York for best fashion lingerie, both in 2007, Dekkers counts among her clients such well-known singers as Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross and Kylie Minogue.

And now she returns to the Rotterdam Kunsthal, lifting a corner of the veil over the universe in which she finds her inspiration.

A hotchpotch of famous quotes and classical art pieces are used to illustrate her thinking -- from the ancient Greek philosopher Plato on love, French poet Charles Baudelaire enthusing about the garter belt, and excerpts in Dutch from French author George Bataille's novel "The Tears of Eros" displayed in flashing letters.

A table by painter Piet Mondriaan and chair by furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld, both fellow Hollanders, represent Dekkers' work in "the Dutch design", according to her spokeswoman Annabel Cnossen.

And to illustrate her erotic influences, the exhibition uses a drawing by Picasso, and oil canvasses of South African painter Marlene Dumas.

But many a visitor is left at a loss in the jumble, confused about the link between the masterpieces and the tiny fabric artworks created by Dekkers.

The artist defends her references.

"Plato, Nietzsche, Borges, Antonioni, Greenaway, Fassbinder, Botticelli: each artist or writer who said something sensible about love, about relations between the sexes or the portrayal of the (female) body, is adopted and incorporated into her thinking, and finally in her work," explained Cnossen.

Tellingly, the works of photographers Helmut Newton et Nobuyoshi Araki, best known for their erotic images of the naked female form, are also on display: titillating, alluring ... like Dekkers' lingerie.by Gerald de Hemptinne

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