Janet Reger revolutionised the way women dressed. The East End-born girl, whose grandparents had escaped Russian pogroms, became the most recognised name in lingerie in the 1970s and 1980s. She injected glamour and sophistication into the lingerie market which had, until then, been boring, bland and beige. Princess Diana, Joan Collins and a host of other A-list celebrities were keen customers, and the name Janet Reger became synonymous with beautiful underwear.
Following Janet’s death in 2005, her daughter Aliza headed up the company. Having had an early introduction to the business – school holidays saw her working in the office stuffing envelopes – she inherited her mother’s fierce work ethic and has continued to push the brand forward into the 21st century. Petite and elegant – almost like a human Barbie doll with her long blonde locks – Aliza is immaculately dressed. But she is far more than just the pretty face of the company, as she has a sound business mind too. As a child she was sent to Jewish schools and had what she describes as a privileged lifestyle. She takes great pride in her Jewish heritage. Her paternal grandmother was from Berlin and her father was brought up in Munich. Her grandparents ran a kosher home and during lockdown Aliza found herself becoming more observant of Jewish traditional and customs.
A strong online presence has been increasingly important for the company, especially when browsing through rails of underwear in shops was difficult, if not impossible, during the lockdowns. A long-standing relationship with Debenhams ended, but in 2020, just as the pandemic was taking effect, the company signed a new global licensing deal with Hong Kong-based manufacturers Hop Lun, one of the world’s largest lingerie and swimwear designers and producers.
Ever conscious of redefining the Janet Reger brand to keep up with current trends, Aliza is looking at featuring more gender-neutral pieces, alongside making sure that larger-sized women are not ignored. She believes that in a world where the concept of sustainability is gaining popularity, eco-friendly fabric will become more important to savvy shoppers.
For a business to thrive, it needs to evolve and, in a move which could have been seen as predictable – given that petite, blonde Aliza exudes glamour – she is now launching a perfume and home fragrance collection to add to her successful lingerie business. She describes herself as a fragrance addict.
“Perfume is quite simply one of my favourite things,” she says. “I have read that you are never fully dressed without perfume and Coco Chanel said it is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory. It is also true that perfume holds the key to our memories. We all know the faintest whiff of something immediately transports us to another time and place, whether it is the smell of baking or the perfume our mama used to wear. For me, there is no such thing as too many perfumes or too many cosmetics, and you can certainly never have enough scented candles or diffusers in your home.”
Aliza calls a cosmetics department “a magical place”, full of temptation, and a duty-free shop in an airport is simply irresistible. “It’s a place I cannot walk through without being distracted by all the wonderful bottles and I have to have a spritz of a lot of them. That is the single most important thing about fragrance: we all want to smell good and we all want our homes to smell beautiful and we can’t get enough of it, as the sales statistics prove, time and time again.”
Aliza has teamed up with fragrance company Laurelle London to create the new range and worked with renowned French parfumier Julie Pluchet to develop the scent. It is light and ‘powdery’, with hints of ylang-ylang, rose, lily of the valley, peony, musk and sandalwood. Aliza says that the time spent on this new project has been very enjoyable.
“I was hugely excited to be working with such a great team on a product I love almost as much as lingerie. It never for a moment felt like hard work. Despite the many months we spent choosing and refining the scent, I got to sniff so many fragrances that I now truly understand the meaning of the phrase ‘nose blind’. We spent many months on the packaging – endless discussions about the shades of cream, the tones of gold, how big our tassels should be! The final product both looks and smells delicious.”
Unlike some perfumes and other household scent products, which can be prohibitively expensive, this new range (prices start at £12.99) has been priced to make it more of what Aliza calls “an affordable luxury”, something she feels is important in these difficult times. “More than ever, we’ve learned we need to pamper ourselves, we need to cocoon, we need to feel luxurious, and this is something the lockdowns have really taught us.”
Out of the entire range – the diffuser, scented candle, eau de parfum and ceramic wardrobe disc – her own particular favourite is the wardrobe disc as “I love to open a cupboard with beautifully smelling clothes”.
One wonders what her formidable mother, who died in 2005 after a long battle with cancer, would have thought of this new venture into the world of fragrance. Aliza has no doubt whatsoever: “She would be thrilled and delighted.”
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