“I just really liked knickers,” says Cicely Travers, the London-born, Rome-based designer of the lingerie label Isosceles. And her knickers are entertaining, feminine, and made to last. Isosceles designs are riffs on classics, but with quirky-elegant twists, like a royal blue bra with spirals embroidered into the cups, complete with two tiered straps in the back. Bottoms also have a sensual-yet-funky riff: One pair of briefs titled the Infinito, also made from royal blue mesh, comes high-waisted with a keyhole cut-out on the lower back. The pairs have even caught the eye of musician Arca who wore a hot pink bra onstage in 2018.
Travers has had a long past in the world of thongs, briefs, and bikini-cut bottoms. She grew up in London and learned how to sew from her mother, a seamstress who made leotards for the Royal Ballet School. Growing up, Travers had been obsessed with the over-the-top lingerie of the early ’00s like La Perla and Agent Provocateur. “I used to wear baggy jeans and try to find sexy knickers to be on top,” she said. The underwear urge was still strong even when years later Travers went to university to study fine arts, with a focus in drawing, but she eventually dropped out. She then went to work at the luxury lingerie shop Rigby & Peller that was next to Harrods. There, she realized that she could pursue a degree in underwear design, which she eventually did. She went on to attend De Montfort University in Leicester, England, to study underwear design. (Leicester is known for its history of lace, lingerie, and hosiery making.) In school, she learned the technical basics of underwear design, like how large elastic bands should be, which she considered “boring,” but which has come in handy since launching her own business. “Underwear is different from womenswear because it has to fit close to the body and there is engineering involved,” she says. In 2006, she moved to New York for six months, where she worked for lingerie designer Jean Yu on Crosby Street, whose shop had an atelier upstairs. The experience was a catalyst for Travers launching her own line. “I wanted to do something like that,” she says. Soon after, she began designing her own pieces.
Travers formally started her label in 2014. When she began, she focused on riffing on classic shapes, like building up undies that extended to the waist and bodysuits with elastics crisscrossing throughout. “They are architectural pieces and another layer to your outfit,” she says. “It was about having fun with underwear and dressing it up.” The hues were also head-turning, in jolting greens and fuchsias. Last year, needing a change of scenery, Travers made a decision to move to Rome. The move also changed the mood of her designs, which have become more detailed with more straps and stitchings. “When I moved to Italy, I wanted to have a little bit more fun, to do some things that were more a little bit more frivolous,” she says, adding, “I’ve always loved vintage underwear, but here they still have old-fashioned family-run underwear shops, where the bras are all stacked behind the counter in boxes, and they have these lovely window displays. I have fun finding random old pieces or deadstock in the markets or vintage stores.”
Aside from lingerie, Travers has also delved into the swimwear universe, an addition that she began when she moved to Rome. “Swim is a bit more fun and you can be a bit more playful,” says Travers. The styles follow a Grecian flair with draping and layering. The suits are made to fit different body types, including a one-piece that has an adjustable Japanese elastic cord at the neck and eyelets, which can make the suit smaller or larger. Another feature is that bikini bottoms can be full coverage or thong style, thanks to adjustability and stretch. What’s more fun than that?