Like many fashion designers, Kiana Anvaripour spent her youth worshipping at the altar of classic Hollywood glamour.
"AMC was my favorite channel," she says. "I was obsessed with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Some Like It Hot and Marilyn Monroe movies. Ava Gardner was one of my favorite actresses, and Rita Hayworth in Gilda."
It's a warm Wednesday morning, and the 32-year-old is sipping her java at a Larchmont-area coffee shop, her fitted, button-down shirt open just enough to reveal some sexy décolletage and a black camisole top.
While simple, that camisole is an important clue to Anvaripour's entrepreneurial focus. It isn't just the slinky, spaghetti-strapped dresses and thigh-high slits of old Hollywood stars that inspire her — it's the machinery underneath all that glitters that's really magical.
Of those stars, she says, "They were constructed from head to toe in the old studio system ... boning and horsehair and everything," sucking in her breath to suggest the zipped-up, tucked-in feeling of constricting your body in those fabulous, hourglass sausage casings. "That's a very glamorized fantasy, but we live in the real world."
Most women — yes, even screen sirens of yesteryear and today — don't naturally look and move as Jack Lemmon's character describes Monroe in Some Like It Hot: "like Jell-O on springs." Anvaripour wants to let ladies vamp but in a much more comfortable manner. Her company, dMondaine, which she started in 2010, is a luxury shapewear line — equal parts sexy lingerie and figure enhancers that celebrate curves without giving women an unwelcome Bridget Jones moment. Think of it as shapewear you won't mind your paramour seeing.
"I don't want to smash those parts of you; I just want to make it better," she says. "I wanted women to not have to feel embarrassed when they're getting ready [and when] the clothes come off."
Anvaripour was born to Persian-immigrant parents near Redondo Beach and raised in L.A. and in Portland, Ore. A graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, she turned down a gig at Nike after graduation to head to London to apprentice with high-end designers Preen and Roland Mouret.
Her first passion was eveningwear and couture, but she found her calling when she realized the skill required to get those glossy, luxurious fabrics to look as good on a real person as they did in her sketches.
She eventually worked for risqué British luxury lingerie retailer Madam V and, after returning to Los Angeles, as a senior designer for Clueless actress Stacey Dash's now-defunct lingerie line.
Anvaripour's first piece of shapewear was a contouring slip that she called (what else?) the Marilyn and which fit nicely under long gowns.
She decided to step out on her own in 2010 and, with the support of friends and family and a small-business loan, began the tedious task of peddling her products to luxe retailers. (Working as both a distraction and a good-luck charm, Anvaripour's husband, Andrew Hunt, proposed to her the night before she flew to Dallas for her first pitch to Neiman Marcus in 2011.)
Now, using movable, nylon-spandex fabrics (and no wires!) from the patent-pending ResultWear technology, her company sells the Marilyn, as well as another slip, a mesh job called the Victoria, plus cleavage-baring pushups Bridget and Jane, and a one-shoulder reversible and adjustable bra called the Ava.
These handmade pieces don't come cheap. The thong Ginger bodysuit, with its built-in bra and adjustable straps, for example, retails for $155. But they provide much more flair and allow buyers to, ahem, put it all out there, much more so than other shapewear on the market.
Together with her small staff — a production manager and a few interns — in her Santa Monica studio, Anvaripour has experimented with colored bras that can stand by themselves; many of her standard pieces have colored stitching or panels. She's heard stories of brides-to-be wearing her slips solo for their bachelorette nights, while for a recent tour Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger jazzed up the Jane bra with rhinestones.
The brand's name, Anvaripour says, is a play on the French term demimonde, or living in "half the world." Even though the word was used in Europe to lambast courtesans, hedonists and other "pleasure seekers," Anvaripour says it fits in perfectly with today's "having it all" debate about women's liberation.
"I think that's what women are living with right now," she says. "You're either a mother or a career woman or you're a this or a that."
Anvaripour sees sexualizing shapewear as a chance to celebrate the best parts of women's bodies while still giving a nod to modern-day feminism.
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"There was a point where burning the bras and getting rid of your foundation [was feminism]," she says. "Now I think it's a different take on it." Shapewear, she says, "is powerful. It is, 'I take ownership of my body and I want to take care of it.' It is, 'I work out, but I have a couple glasses of wine and I enjoy my dinner.' "
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