As I’ve mentioned in my Instagram posts, Pillowbook is a designer close to my heart because of the time I spent in my younger years in China. I would much rather see a local country designer use ancient motifs and cultural references rather than see a Western designer appropriate them.
I have to say I’m supremely impressed with the craftsmanship of the work delivered to me by Pillowbook.
In all honesty, I can’t say I remember how I stumbled across Pillowbook. I want to say it was when I started my Instagram account and was picking through women and designers to initially follow.
For those of you who aren’t aware, I taught English at a university in China – on the coast, about 6 hours by train northeast of Beijing – when I was 22, immediately after I graduated college (uni).
In many ways the experience codified who I was and molded me into the more patient, laid back person I am now. I will get shit done and I work better with lists, but in all honesty, I’m more of a beta than an alpha personality than I used to be. (For those of you who don’t know the difference between beta and alpha personalities, check it out here).
I’m a person who thrives on challenge, and being thrown into teaching undergraduate, masters and doctorate students in a town where most people don’t speak any English was definitely a challenge. I absorbed a lot of Chinese culture and sensibilities, and will always consider China a second home – even though I have yet to be back to the country – because of the evolution I went through as a person there.
Hence why I was so happy when I found Irene and Pillowbook. A melding of 2 distinct parts of my life in a way that would help tangibly remind me of the person I was and the person I became.
As with all of Irene’s work, the fit is impeccable, and made to your measurements, so the only thing to do is make sure you measure properly.
If you’re ordering purely by S/M/L, err on the larger side – she works with pure silk, and as a country China is generally smaller than the West (I couldn’t buy pants when I was in China, and I was at the weight I am currently then).
She also tends to build bands which have a pretty decent stretch variance to account for the range of a size. In the Empress Noir bralette and brief I ordered a L for both top and bottom while also including my measurements in the order notes. My current sizing is an Australian 8-10, closer to 8, with a bust of around a 34B-C.
As mentioned, Irene works in pure materials, typically silk with some lace.
In the Empress Noir set, part of what drew me to it over her other work was the lace. I’ve never seen anything like it in any other designers work. The texture is spectacular and is a combination of floral with the rose motif and purely artistic with the background ‘scribbles.’ It was meticulously unique.
Her hardware is special as well – for pretty much all her work she uses similar clasps of an open flower pattern, where you hook the bra (or knicker in the case of the high waist brief) over one of the open ends. It’s a lovely little detail a lot of designers wouldn’t necessarily consider; I see similar level of craftsmanship with Irene and Pillowbook as I see with la fil d’o, at different ends of the spectrum – delicate and feminine versus streamlined and industrial. I can find fault with neither though.
Between the exactness of the fit as well as the material – and the fact it’s a bralette rather than a wired bra, the Empress Noir set I own is supremely comfortable.
Because it is not something you normally see, either in material or construction, this design lends itself to awareness. You’re wearing a garment few would consider, let alone purchase. It’s a carefully considered choice, and carefully considered set. You choose your shirt to either hide or reveal the high neck of the design, so either way, you know it’s there because you had to make a choice. The feel of silk all day will occasionally remind you what you’re wearing; otherwise, you may find yourself carrying yourself more sensually and self-aware than you may otherwise.
P.S. Yes, I’m well aware that my back tattoo translates to ‘eggplant’. It’s deliberate.