Morgana Femme Couture started life in Austin, Texas, on Christmas Day, 2003— the day its founder says she finally dealt with her inner demons.
The demons’ loss has definitely been our gain. The world has been a better place for the five years that women have been able to pamper themselves with Morgana’s creations.
While her online store’s home page proclaims its business to be “lingerie with an edge” — and the site offers luxurious bras, briefs, thongs and garter belts that live up to that description — it’s Morgana’s creativity with corsetry that gives her brand its distinctive appeal.
Her talent for tightlacing has acquired special significance among the fetish elite. Look around the label’s website or its MySpace pages and you’ll see Morgana’s creations embracing some of fetish’s finest, including Masuimi Max, Emily Marilyn, Jami Deadly, Darenzia and Sabina Kelley — all of whom are pretty picky about the labels they associate themselves with.
Appropriately given such an enviable roster of models, the photographers Morgana works with are also major players in the fetish/erotic genre — people such as Ama Lea, Beatrice Neumann, Christine Kessler, Perry Gallagher and Michael Helms.
Though Morgana Femme Couture was born and raised in Texas, the label has been UK-based since June 2008 when its founder moved to the East Anglian county of Suffolk with her new husband.
By chance, the same area was already home to another corset queen also called Morgana — the well known Spanish artist, model and photographer behind Iberian Black Arts. And since Morgana the model appears on Morgana the designer’s website modelling some of her corsets, some confusion has inevitably resulted.
The designer assures us it is not intentional. “Morgana the model and I have been asked if we are the same person many times! We find it quite amusing but my intention was definitely not to mislead or confuse people. It just worked out that way.
“She found me one day and, because I love Spanish women, I said yes, and we've been working together and confusing people ever since. She could be my doppleganger... we have a lot of similarities.”
The potential for confusion has not been reduced by this particular couturier’s preference for revealing as little as possible about herself. However, I did persuade her to part with a little bit of info about her background.
Turns out she is completely self-taught, having started sewing at the tender age of six, using a secondhand toy Singer sewing machine to make dresses for herself because her immigrant parents couldn’t afford to buy her many school clothes.
When she was older, she started going to goth and fetish clubs, and would make a new outfit to wear every week. “By then my sewing skills were near perfect,” she recalls. “I had also upgraded to an adult Singer machine — the brand I still use to this day, being the purist that I am.”
A spell designing the women's gear for a snowboarding company was followed by a job in the couture department of a bridal company, before she took the break to deal with those aforementioned inner demons that led to the launch of MFC.
But how did Morgana become so interested specifically in corsetry and lingerie? “What can I say?” she teases. “I'm a perv and it allows me to see beautiful naked girls!
“Totally kidding!” she adds quickly. “I am a very sexual and sensual person and I admire the female form. Lingerie and corsets seem very natural to me. To me it's like wearing jeans and a t-shirt, though if I wore only lingerie and corset to work, I think I would freak people out!
“My continued inspiration comes from my husband. It's sort of a love story between us and that's all I'll reveal.”
Looking at her website, it’s evident that she has taken as much care to present her garments online as she takes to produce the garments themselves. And with good reason, she believes.
“Well, would you feel so inclined to purchase from a Mickey Mouse website? I wouldn't. I try to show my clients the quality of the products I am selling, with as much integrity as I can give, as far as internet shopping goes.
“I can't tell you how many times I have purchased from a website and been disappointed with their product and/or quality once I received it, or how frustrated I became while trying to navigate their poorly designed site! But I don't think my website is entirely perfect yet, so there's continued fine-tuning.”
‘I can't tell you how many times I have purchased from a website and been disappointed with their product and/or quality’
The high quality of the models and photography is clearly an important factor in the overall pleasure of the MFC web experience, and I wondered how involved Morgana herself gets in the creation of the imagery.
“Photography is the most vital part of an online business,” she asserts. “People have to see what they are actually buying, so it's important to work with the best. So I do get involved in the creative aspect when I can.”
But, she adds, most of her models and photographers who have now worked with her “countless times” know exactly what she’s looking for. “So that makes it easy when I’m too busy to get involved.”
Another notable aspect of MFC web imagery is the prominence of tattooed skin among the models. Inking aficionados like Masuimi Max and Sabina identify MFC as a cool, rock’n’roll brand not afraid to offer glamour and toughness in a single wasp-waisted, silk-wrapped package, and I wondered if that was intentional.
“I'm not concerned if a girl is heavily tattooed, fetish, burlesque, alternative or porn-ish,” claims Morgana, “just as long as she is, to me, beautiful and I see something in her which is unique.”
Ironically, the designer who probably uses more fetish girls than anyone else to model corsets claims she “didn’t even know they were fetish girls” when she started using them.
“I just knew they were stunning — and from Texas, as far as Masuimi and Jami go. Ruby and Sabina, fetish? Really? Same goes for them: I don't see labels, just gorgeous girls. It's like what I said about wanting high quality pictures, and that only comes from working with the best photographers, be they fetish or commercial.”
So none of this is being done with any conscious ‘crossover’ positioning of the brand in mind? “I'm not consciously doing anything!” Morgana insists. “I just create what I am passionate about and those who love it will embrace it. I'm a terrible business person. I'm an artist first and foremost.”
Nevertheless her work has been as well received outside the alternative/fetish scene as within it. “I think once they look past the ‘sheer number of tattoos sported by the lingerie-clad models, some of whom pose languidly against a Munsters-style hearse’ — to quote Dana Wood, the fashion editor of W magazine — they see wearable couture art and not some freak show.
“Besides, even good vanilla girls are naughty vixens in bed. Those are my clients!”
In reality, Morgana Femme Couture customers come from all walks of life, and the designer is justifiably proud of the amount of repeat business she gets — some 70 percent of her clients are repeats, she says. Why does she think these people keep coming back to her?
“I think if you offer quality at a fair price and combine that with great customer service people will always return. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told by my clients that they had to wait five to seven months for their custom corsets from other makers!
“Some never even got their corset or their money back and they tried numerous times to contact the corsetmaker only to be completely ignored. That's what happens with a lot of these newer fly-by-night firms.
“Yes there are new corsetmakers popping up almost every month wanting to do it as a hobby, side business or fulltime job. Their low prices appeal to people, but in the end people are left disappointed. Those same corsetmakers disappear just as quickly as they came.
“I can tell you, to this day I have never missed a deadline. My clients are paying good money for their corsets, they expect them within the stated timeframe and I hate to disappoint.”
So what’s next for Morgana Femme Couture? Does she have a particular ambition such as getting the cover of Paris Vogue, or dressing a particular celebrity?
“I don't think that far into the future,” she insists. “I just introduced my new cupped overbust corsets so that'll keep me busy for a while. As for a celebrity I'd like to dress, I'd say Angelina Jolie. Well, ‘undress’ would be more accurate, but wouldn't we all?”
‘I'm not consciously doing anything. I create what I am passionate about and those who love it will embrace it. I’m an artist first and foremost’