Although the brand hails from Italy and not France, where one imagines most of the planet's lingerie experts reside, La Perla is virtually synonymous with elegant, expensive underthings. While luxury anything is inherently impractical, there's something truly delightful about the gorgeous silliness of luxury lingerie. After all, lingerie's entire existence is impractical. If it was practical, we'd sell it in plastic packs of six and just call it underwear.
With this in mind, I'll be honest and admit that I don't entirely understand the interior design of the new La Perla boutique inside The Galleria, between Bulgari and MCW. The jewel box of a boutique is small enough to feel intimate, and the design by Roberto Baiocchi focuses on smooth marble on the floor and around the entrance, mixed with arched display cases that are supposed to be drawn from Italian architecture.
Frankly, the architecture of the goods on display is much more inspiring than the basic arches, and though no one can argue that marble does not read expensive, the version on the façade and floors looks like a canopy of branches on a snow-white background, and snowy woods are not the kind of place where one wants to find themselves clad only in expensive lingerie. Display cases in lucite and brushed gold are fine, but this is La Perla. Where are the white fur throws? The velvet? There is nothing soft about the store aside from the merchandise, and that offends my need for pampering when perusing $700 bras.
(I'll note here that said perusing is purely for sport, as La Perla only sells bras up to a size 38D and I'm in a completely different part of the alphabet where such things are concerned.)
The bras and their lingerie brethren, however, are much more interesting and modern than the storefront suggests. No one does lace like La Perla—for the brand's 50 anniversary, it created an exclusive lace made with 19th-century looms from Calais—but in the F/W 2015 collection the lace is integrated with neoprene, or scuba fabric, a material that stretches and hugs while staying true to shape and amazingly comfortable.
The color palette is still made up of the classic red, white, black and "nude," but the shapes are unexpectedly diverse, especially in the "Inside Out" area, which features lingerie pieces that are meant to be worn out—think of a lacy bustier under a blazer, or a pair of floaty palazzo pants that just so happen to have sheer panels running all the way up the sides. The salesgirl pointed out the Shape-Allure dress, a full shapewear slip, which was recently worn as a dress by Nicki Minaj, who, being Nicki Minaj, can do such things and look amazing.
La Perla also sells some surprisingly boring swimsuits, men's underwear—which I did not look at and cannot imagine the market for—and stilettos that are made for the brand by Giuseppi Zanotti and look exactly what you think sex shoes look like.
In spite of some surprising shortcomings, La Perla still impresses, in part because if someone was ready to splurge on a fancy lingerie set, it's possible to pick out a set for under $400. That's not exactly cheap, but considering that Intimacy, down in the non-luxury wing, has bras for $200, it's a mark-up that you can justify because come on, it's La Perla. Also the salesgirl was really nice and excited to show me the new line, which is far from a given when it comes to luxury boutiques.
La Perla, 5085 Westheimer Rd., Ste. 2160 in Galleria I, 713-621-5285, laperla.com
Score: 3/5 Shopping Bags