Maxine Kelly founder of Underlena. Image supplied.
Sensual, luxury lingerie is a passion of Maxine Kelly’s and she founded her lingerie store Underlena after being unable to find the lingerie she was looking for in New Zealand. Underlena launched online earlier this year offering a curated selection of styles that Maxine sourced from some of her favourite international lingerie brands. The elegant offering currently includes bras, bralettes and briefs in beautiful hues and luscious textures. Wellington-based Maxine plans to open a showroom from late November where customers can view and try-on her chic lingerie selection in person.
We caught up with Maxine to find out more about the inspiration for Underlena, what the response has been like so far and what her top tips are for choosing lingerie?
Where did the idea for Underlena come from and how did you go about creating it?
Underlena is a Covid baby! I was seeking out some beautiful lingerie that I thought was sexy but could also wear to dinner and beyond, before I drove to Napier for a post-lockdown rendezvous with a guy I was dating (who, incidentally, I now live with). Nothing was ticking the boxes locally for me – I was looking for simple, clean lines that complemented the body, beautiful fabrics that didn’t scratch against the skin, elastics that didn’t dig, and quality that would see the pieces being worn for years. I wanted to invest in pieces made by smaller labels that were doing exactly what they said they were doing – committing to sustainable production, working with small production houses, and empowering their community.
I had previously visited The Great Eros in NYC a couple of times and knew that their pieces were exactly what I wanted to wear. It cost me a tonne in shipping to get a single set to NZ, which was a risk, and I think would be a dealbreaker for many. I knew I couldn’t be the only one in NZ looking for easy access to this level of lingerie, so I started discussing the idea with friends and family, taking onboard (and also ignoring) advice given to me. It took about eight months from idea to conception, with the website launched in May. I’ll be opening an appointment-only showroom here in Wellington at the end of November.
Lingerie by The Great Eros (left) and Araks (right) available from Underlena.
What has the response been like to Underlena so far?
It has been really encouraging, which is so wonderful because this really is an exercise in sharing my discoveries with other people – in some way what was a gift to myself has transformed into a gift for other women here in NZ. The majority of the feedback I’m receiving is around how comfortable and sexy the pieces are, and relief at local access to international brands without the exorbitant shipping costs.
What are the brands you’re stocking and do you have any favourite pieces from your current offering?
I am currently stocking The Great Eros (NYC), Araks (NYC) and Kye Intimates (LA). The Great Eros holds a very special place in my heart – I love their Canova Underwire and Canova Hi Waist Bikini in black, a classic set that I’ll want to wear forever. I adore the Willow Bralette and Yahvi Panty in Bali by Araks, which is a super luxe silk charmeuse and cotton piece naturally dyed to jewel-like tones (there is a gorgeous pink piece arriving soon). From Kye Intimates I love the Ikebana Bra and Mies Brief in Black and Ecru – nude deadstock mesh with a black trim that frames the body so beautifully.
How would you describe the Underlena customer and what are they looking for from your brand?
The Underlena customer values beautiful, well-made pieces that support their innate sensuality. They are considered buyers, and look for quality over quantity when shopping for intimates.
How would you describe your personal style and how does it influence Underlena?
My style is pretty pared back – I like denim, a white singlet, silk shirt or sloppy cashmere. I suppose this influences that styles that I source, as I tend to go more for mesh, cotton and solid silks, rather than patterns and lace. Everything must feel good against bare skin.
What are your tips for choosing lingerie that everyone should know?
This one is pretty personal to me as I don’t like seeing VPL through my jeans, so a good tip is to go up a size with your bottoms. This reduces the underwear dig and increases your comfort. Otherwise – only ever buy for yourself. Wear what you feel sexy in.
Lingerie by Kye Intimates available from Underlena.