Tragic Kiss Debut
Above: RAVEN | blue envy set.
“Tragic Kiss is a luxury lingerie experience designed for life’s most seductive moments.” — Zia Islam, founder and creative director of Tragic Kiss
One of the most exciting lingerie brands of 2015 is the Austin-based, Tragic Kiss. Over two years in the making, Tragic Kiss aims to seamlessly blend Fashion and Fiction to create a whole new experience for lovers of luxury lingerie. Zia Islam, the founder and creative director of Tragic Kiss sits down with us to give the Lingerie Journal readers the scoop about his brand:
Zia, thanks for taking the time to speak to us about the launch of Tragic Kiss! For our readers who are new to your brand, could you tell them what’s at the core of Tragic Kiss? What’s the Tragic Vision about?
Tragic Kiss is a luxury lingerie experience designed for life’s most seductive moments. We’re an ‘experience’ brand and in the business of selling emotion. Instead of just offering a product, everything we provide to our customer is tied to emotions. We want to be omnipresent in the hearts and minds of our followers. Our lingerie is just one element of what will eventually be an overall lifestyle ecosystem.
Above: close up of GWENDOLYN.
The brand is launching with six collections. Could you go over what makes each unique, especially against the competitive lingerie space that exists right now?
Our business model is persona-based. Each style is inspired by one of six fictional characters – flawed yet powerful women whose lives are explored through chapters narrating their transgressions, challenges, and experiences through womanhood. We use storytelling to engage with our customers on a deep emotional level. We’re telling compelling, short stories of women during key geo-political situations. The characters aren’t data-driven segmentations, rather, they are based on actual personalities which represent different aspects of our brand. Every year, we will introduce six new styles along with the next chapter for that persona. We’ve just debuted our first three, with the following three characters set for later this year. It’s all very exciting!
Above: V. | scandic cross set.
“Created for the intellectual and sophisticated woman who craves sensuality, desire, and naughty decadence…”
Tragic Kiss is wholeheartedly committed to the craft of making gorgeous, quality products. Inspired by discriminating tastes of European glamour and old-world craftsmanship, delicate thought is put into every aspect of our brand. We use only the finest fabrics, lace, and trims from the best European mills. We’ve teamed up with pattern makers and manufacturers who have decades of experience in the industry and are equally committed to producing artfully-made, long-lasting pieces. Aesthetic attention to detail has also been put into everything from our lingerie, to packaging, hardware, and our books. We’ve created custom hardware with the brand’s logo and tagline, and our metal hangtag can also be used as a bookmark for our chapter stories. Lingerie sets come in a keepsake box. We even selected a special coated paper for our books that has a very sensual feel to enhance the reader’s tactile experience. Every little detail plays a part in our holistic brand experience.
Above: Tragic Kiss RAVEN Blue Envy Garter.
Who are you marketing to and whom would you say is your ideal customer?
Tragic Kiss is all about attitude. We don’t get hung up on defining a woman’s style, or categorizing her by age, relationship status, or profession. We are a luxury brand, so we relate to a sophisticated woman who has an appreciation for quality. Given our stories, many of which are based in Europe, I would say we are targeting women that have an appreciation for a brand that provides an intellectual stimulation along with a sexy luxury product. She craves newness, sensuality and, of course, a little naughty decadence as our tagline suggests: SVELTE. RECKLESS.
Zia notes that characters in the chapters in the Tragic Kiss fictional universe are composites of amazingly influential people that he met while traveling in Europe over the years and their own life experiences.
Why and how did you and the team find inspiration through the six fictional characters that served as the brand’s muses?
Most of the stories stem from an amalgamation of my own interests and extensive travels backpacking through Europe over the past twenty years. The stories are influenced, mostly, by my experiences during these trips in the 1990’s, before globalization. The geo-political nature of Europe was drastically different back then. The issues were so much closer to home and heart – communism was crumbling at the seams one country at a time, Germany was struggling with the reunification of two vastly different states, immigrants were flooding the West through now defunct borders, the Balkans was reeling from the worst genocide in Europe since WWII. It was an intensely interesting time to be over there, listening to peoples’ concerns, wondering how the future would shape itself out. No one really knew. In essence, I would say many of these characters in the chapters are composites of amazingly influential people that I met while traveling and their own life experiences. We’ve also dedicated the time for our writers to do field research in places such as Norway, Sarajevo, and Berlin to further our own accurate understanding of the scenes in our stories.
Above: the cover of RAVEN | chapter 1. Each Tragic Kiss collection is inspired by one of six fictional characters, flawed yet powerful women, whose life stories are explored through chapters following their transgressions, challenges, and experiences through womanhood.
FASHION + FICTION
Tell us about the Story Chapters that come with each collection?
With each release of a style, the next chapter that corresponds to that character will also be available. There is a lot of depth and dimension to each character. Ultimately, the stories are not really meant to be ‘happy-ending’ romance novels by any means. And it’s also not meant to be about the ending, but rather the journey (through life). Several of the stories will span the course of a decade, so readers will be able to experience the evolution of the character over time, and hopefully nostalgically relate to themselves. They are authentic, raw, real, and sometimes abrasive, as love and life usually are. Some kisses can be tragic, right?
Raven Blue Envy set is described as the most sophisticated of the brand’s lineup. The set is made from fine Italian jacquard with the blue lace pattern strikes a contrast on the silver cream satin.
We’ve released chapter 1 stories for three of the characters to go along with our debut collection: Raven, Gwendolyn, and V.
Beginning in suburban North Carolina, our Raven story follows the journey of a combat photojournalist who travels through the uneasy political landscape of 1990s South Africa while struggling to find a balance between her role as a mother and her career aspirations.
Above: GWENDOLYN | marquee set.
A Los Angeles-based architect working in a male-dominated field, Gwendolyn pursues her dream of renovating the historical Broadway Theatre District to its former glory, but not without the conflicting emotions of gentrification and a distracting affair with a married man from a competitive firm.
“Ultimately, the stories are not really meant to be ‘happy-ending’ romance novels by any means….Some kisses can be tragic, right?”
V., an untamed creative director in a busy advertising agency takes a leave from her demanding role and travels to Scandinavia to research her adopted mother’s family history and answer lingering wartime questions.
Later this year, we’ll be releasing chapter 1 of the second set of characters: Lilijana, Hanna, and Charlotte, with the last representing our vintage lingerie line and a story that starts off bootlegging in Austin during the Roaring 20s. I’m very excited about that one in particular since Austin’s our home base!
Each Tragic Kiss set comes in a specially designed keepsake box.
Love the fun approach to the e-commerce side of the site that gives consumers the option to buy single pieces labeled, B-Side Singles. Could you give us a preview of what other features are in store for the e-commerce or website in general?
We’re giving our customers a lot of flexibility in terms of buying. We offer the option to purchase items individually, as well as in sets. The chapter story is included in the purchase of each character’s lingerie set. We’ve integrated audio into the shopping experience as well. After a purchase through our site, customers can download one of the free songs we have selected. “Land of The Innocent” by local Austin artist, Feathers, is very ethereal and ‘tragic’. We felt that it was perfect for us and our launch. We hope to be doing more things like this in the future, where we interweave amazing talent and products into our Tragic Kiss experience. We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface!
The road to launching a brand is often long and bumpy. What was the single most difficult part of your launch and how did you overcome that obstacle?
Definitely getting everything together from resources, to funding, to creative products was a challenge to date. However, I believe the toughest obstacle to overcome will be maintaining our authenticity over time. This is something that I put a lot of focus and thought into. Everything we do needs to be authentic, not just a corporate gimmick or trend. The key to maintaining authenticity will be to always hire people or partner with companies who understand the vision of who we are and what we want to be.
This project has been in start-up mode for two years now and we’ve experienced the same expected growing pains as most fledgling brands, but we are thrilled to have launched our debut collection and we’re anxious to share it with everyone. Tragic Kiss has a very strong and dedicated team, with decades of experience in both the lingerie and digital fields, and we believe in the amazing and unique product that stemmed from the original ‘visionthing’.
Moving forward, we’re eager to create a buzz for our ‘luxury experience and emotion’. We want to build that cult following of lingerie addicts who also love a good story. This is where the relationships with our boutiques, both online and brick & mortar, become very important. The collaboration with boutiques will be extremely critical, as they will be the evangelists with our fan base, and hence serve as our primary brand ambassadors. We want to build long-lasting and trusting relationships with our boutiques.
BLOWING KISSES: FASHION + FICTION + PHILANTROPY = 10%
Zia, tell us why it was important for Tragic Kiss to launch with a program that gave back?
Corporate giving is a fundamental component of Tragic Kiss, not an afterthought. It was one of the integral reasons I launched the company to begin with. Even our donation strategy will tie into the ecosystem of our brand and stories. Having seen firsthand the ravages of crisis situations, whether natural disaster or war, I really want to have a corporate giving program directly tied to helping people and families recover. Aligning our corporate giving program with the strong narrative links between our fictional characters and their historical relevance, Tragic Kiss will also proudly support cultural preservation projects, women’s groups, and other grassroots and global initiatives. Each year, we pledge to donate 10% of yearly net profits to organizations and groups whose own objectives and goals reflect our corporate social values. I really hope that this is one of the main reasons that we’ll have support from our lingerie buyers and consumers.
We’re very interested in your logo — what’s the story behind it and what’s the message you want to get across with this piece of artwork?
My artistic goal here was to convey a ‘tragic emotion’ that summed up the brand… homage to those with bruised hearts and love lost, I guess. I used a chair from my living room that I picked up from an antique store a couple of years back and had it reupholstered at this old man’s garage here in Austin with some damask fabric that I found in Scotland. I actually took a photograph of the model, directing her to play the part of a romantic victim. The logo evolved from that photograph. We pretty much broke every rule that you should abide by when doing logo design. It doesn’t scale well to smaller or larger sizes and doesn’t look good on any background color except white. It was ‘reckless’ of us, but it was calculated recklessness. I still love it. I hope to be breaking convention in a lot of the things that we undertake at Tragic Kiss.
What else is in store with the launch and the ‘ecosystem’?
I’m really excited about working on the next season of styles and finally having all six chapters released. Chapter 1 stories of those characters are already done, so we’re simply waiting for our lingerie styles to catch up. That’s the immediate goal. Our ecosystem will expand to include some predictable products over the next couple of years, but will also include not-so-predictable elements. In any case, everything will be based around our personas. My ultimate goal is to be an audio-visual lifestyle brand that exercises all senses and most importantly, provokes thought!
For any of our readers that want to learn more about Tragic Kiss, where should we point them to?
Well, I really hope that your readers feel like we’re a ‘different’ kind of lifestyle brand. We want our partnering buyers to be just as excited as we are about treading new ground in the lingerie marketplace. Our site is up where our first three debut collections and chapters can be seen. We’re always up for chatting with our potential buyers and partners. It’s great to share our corporate story personally. And of course, they can connect with us on our social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.