CHALLENGE: Agents Are Spies like Us; Top Lingerie Firm Agent Provocateur Has Enlisted 'Ordinary' Women for Its Latest Ad Campaign. but How Do These First-Time Models Feel about Posing in Such a Revealing Way?

Article excerpt

Byline: EXCLUSIVE by JANE RIDLEY

WHEN the owners of Agent Provocateur were planning their latest advertising campaign, they knew supermodels and celebrities would kill to take part.

The British lingerie brand is synonymous with risque but sophisticated glamour and the likes of Kylie Minogue, Sophie Dahl and Kimberley Stewart have already showcased its outfits.

But this time, instead of clothes horses or icons, co-founders Joe Carre and Serena Rees wanted "real women" to promote their new range of bras, knickers, G-strings, stockings, basques and shoes.

So they placed an advert in newspapers, magazines and on their website, appealing for ordinary women of all ages, shapes and sizes to model for them. The only condition was that they were "sexy and confident".

The response was overwhelming - with more than 1,000 hopefuls sending in pictures.

Each entry was accompanied by a brief explanation of why they thought they were suitable. Serena, Joe and their team whittled them down to 100 candidates, who were invited to a casting in London in June.

There, the women used a private booth with a camera mounted behind a two-way mirror. They pressed a button to activate the shutter, allowing them to control the way they were photographed.

"Some were shy at first, while others really got into it and were quite outrageous," says Joe, the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols producer Malcolm McLaren. "The beauty of it was that they were real, sensual women."

Eventually, 15 winners were chosen for Agent Provocateur's new mail-order campaign, which has a James Bond-style, espionage theme.

The women - whose sizes range from eight to 14 and are in their early-to-mid 20s - appear on posters, postcards and brochures, as well as the website and a special DVD.

Each woman was cast as a "special agent", including safe-cracker Baby, cat burglar Leila, blackmailer Francoise and phone tapper Peonie.

"These are real customers who wear our lingerie and look amazing," says Serena. "We're delighted with the results. They show that you don't have to be a supermodel to be alluring, sexually-confident and glamorous."

But what did the models think about the experience? We found out...

For more details about the Agent Provocateur range - and its latest agents - log on to www. agentprovocateur.com

'I got my inspiration from poses in FHM'

Hannah Elwell, 21 - aka Agent Baby - is a PR executive from Leicester.

I'M a devoted Agent Provocateur fan and, when I spotted the ad on its website, I didn't hesitate.

I hadn't done anything like this before but my boyfriend, Carl, took a few pictures of me in a bikini when we were on holiday and I emailed them through. Carl was very supportive and even came down to the casting session in London.

I never realised what an exhibitionist I could be. Although I was nervous at first, once I'd put on the sexy underwear, I felt fantastic. I think I got my inspiration for my poses from magazines like FHM.

I heard that I'd made the final on the day of my graduation ball and I couldn't stop talking about it to the other students.

When we did the final shoot, I could hardly recognise myself in the mirror because of the way my hair was piled up.

The make-up was outrageous, too. Mine was done as a kind of blue mask studded with jewels, which looked surreal.

The worst part was trying to balance in the high shoes. I had to keep sitting down because it was so exhausting. They're definitely bedroom-only shoes!

When I look at my pictures, I have to pinch myself. I can hardly believe it's me. It's like looking at a supermodel.

My parents have been supportive though I was bit nervous when Dad saw the DVD, which is really raunchy. But he was OK with it.

I'd love to take modelling further and now I've got Agent Provocateur to my name, the sky's the limit. …