Atelier aka Underwear: New Original Series on Netflix

Have you ever looked at a Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Me? I’d love to but haven’t had the opportunity. And for those of you who might be intrigued and would love to wear those kinds of unmentionables, I’ve got a brand new TV series for you.

The folks over at Netflix have partnered up with Fuji TV from Japan and a new Netflix Original Series has just been released. The title of the series is called Atelier, which is a French word for workshop or studio, especially when it is used by an artist, artisan, or designer.

The Atelier of this series is an upmarket lingerie boutique called Emotion in Ginza, Tokyo. Their products are bras and panties sets of the haute couture variety – meaning custom-made, handmade, and very, very expensive.

They don’t know what the term prêt-à-porter (pronounced pret-a-por-tay and rhymes with holiday, or replay, or area way) means at this boutique. Actually it means RTW or ready to wear, or OTR aka Off The Rack. These term do not apply to Emotion.

The alternate title for this series is Underwear, a word more likely to be immediately understood than Atelier.

The series is about a young woman called Mayuko Tokito (dressed in the striped jacket and black skirt above), played by the gorgeous Mirei Kiritani, and she’s in fact just out of college where she studied textiles and fabrics (no fashion studies for her). She’s something of a country bumpkin, also known as a hick from the sticks. On her first day on the job, she shows up in standard Tokyo office lady wear, a gray suit, a white blouse, and flat shoes. It won’t take her colleagues very long to jump all over her (albeit gently) for her lack of fashion style.

In fact there’s nothing wrong with her clothes which would go over just fine in the corridors and cubicles of corporations. But here, at Emotion, she’s an eye sore. Initially, she’s asked to make coffee, do the dusting, keep the display counters sparkling, and organize the records, stock, and supply room. And as Mayuko learns about the bra business, we are drawn deeper into shop itself. The front room, meaning just off the street, is a show room.

Behind the double doors is the actual atelier where the designers and business side works, and then there’s a second set of double doors.

This is where the owner and founder of the business, the chief designer, and CEO works. She’s called Mayumi Nanjo. When the staff talks about her, she’s called The Boss, and when they address her, the Japanese word for Corporate President is used – shachou. She’s played by Mao Daichi. While she may be a bit of a tough boss, a la Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, she is in fact not nearly as severe or feared.

That's Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

That’s Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

Her look is apparently based on the long time doyenne of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour. And doesn’t the above picture tell that story.

Within the first few moments after Mayuko meets the shachou, Nanjo tells her that she’s tacky. Which is a pretty good indication that Mayuko will not only have to learn the ropes of this business quickly, she’ll also have to work extra-hard to get on the good side of her boss.

What lies ahead (there’s 13 episodes), is a coming of age story, as well as a Cinderella story lacking only a prince-charming. It is a story that mixes industrial espionage, corporate maneuvering, theft of intellectual property, jealousy between designers who some day may want to create their own brands and labels ( we can almost call that overriding ambition) along with insights about creativity, ageing, motivation, evolving as a creator, and determination – yet while all of this is happening we continue to learn about all the players – from the shachou down to the lowly summer intern.

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