that’s so tight(s): the erotic fashions of erica m.

December 18, 2013

There’s a new designer for sexy legwear and bodysuits: Erica M. The lacy, intricately detailed wearables are the brainchild of Erica Young, who started sketching out her tights after multiple visits to funky boutiques in China and South Korea while on the road for her gig as a footwear designer. After her favorite pair got snagged on a tree branch, she knew she had to create her first collection. A bi-coastal woman at heart, Erica hails from Los Angeles, but has made her home and studio in New York, namely Bushwick, Brooklyn, and her stockings are made with love in Italy. Her brand’s popularity has led to a legion of legwear devotees from around the country, from celebrities like Beyoncé, Dita Von Teese and Anne Hathaway, to trendsetter women in both metropolitan cities and suburbs. A surprise hit has been among men who buy Erica M. styles for their wives or girlfriends (hint, hint: shop Erica M. for a nice holiday stocking stuffer…).
I had a chance to catch up with Erica M. about her inspirations, life in Bushwick and successes as a young woman of color entrepreneur in a market ready for her visionary revamp.

By Tanwi Nandini Islam, AFROPUNK Contributor *

What serves as your inspiration for Erica M. Legwear? 

This may sound cliché, but I gather inspiration from everywhere. I feel if you live a fulfilled colorful life, inspiration subliminally comes to you. A shirt you saw someone wear one day, mixed with a painting you saw in a museum, mixed with a pair of snagged tights creates ideas. I focus on being open to receiving inspiration from everywhere and it is as if a light bulb turns on one day and I have a new concept for my next collection.

What is it like to create in Bushwick? What’s your typical day at the studio?

Bushwick is full of artist lofts where a variety of eclectic artists live and work. It has a unique vibrancy where you feel creativity exude from each loft building. If you get a glimpse behind people’s doors, there is always something interesting happening inside. It is one of the few areas where it seems raw and somewhat untouched. I definitely feel like I am apart of a community where people are trying to create the next big work of art. It is inspiring and pushes me to work hard on my own craft. 

I don’t have a typical day in the studio. I have to do a variety of tasks that change daily from shipping samples to customers and press, fit testing new styles, social media, and taking meetings with my showroom and PR agents. I don’t have set hours, I run around during the day, work on my laptop at night, and I talk with my factory in Italy quite a bit in the middle of the night so I catch them when they first start working. 

Your photography is very erotic–what is the spirit you’re trying to convey?

I think the type of products I design lends itself to erotic imagery. I focus on conveying my aesthetic, sophisticated dark eroticism, in all the imagery associated with my brand. I rarely see ads for lingerie brands that convey a type of sex appeal that speaks to me so I try to push the boundaries with my imagery and provide something new for my customers. It seems like most brands follow a formula for their photo shoots. They focus on shooting a certain type of model in specific poses without any context or story. Victoria Secret is a perfect example of this. I want there to be a story behind all my imagery so viewers can fantasize and insert themselves in the plot line. 

How do you envision the evolution of your brand? Any cool collaborations happening?

I definitely want to continue to strengthen my equity in the hosiery market but I want to expand my product range of bodywear. I designed a body suit for my SS14 collection and it was really well received. I’m designing more bodysuits for my FW14 collection. I’d also love to do a line of loungewear in a similar aesthetic and possibly a line of children’s hosiery in the future. 

I’m currently developing a capsule collection of hosiery for Chromat. Free People has also done very well selling my products on their website so we are in talks to develop exclusive styles for their FW14 collection. There are a few more collaborations in the works but it’s a bit too early to discuss them. I will keep you posted. 

How has your experience as a young woman-of-color entrepreneur been? Have there been challenges?

Throughout my career, my designs and professionalism have always trumped my gender and/or the color of my skin. My job consists of winning people over a bit when I first meet them. It takes a certain charm and finesse. I’m like the wild card that people are not sure of at first. When they see my design capabilities and my resume they are even more impressed with me than if I was the designer they initially envisioned me looking like. For example, when I designed footwear and worked with Chinese factories, most times I would meet my factory point people via email first and then fly over to meet them in person. Most times they thought I was Asian because of my last name. When they realized I was African American, they seemed a bit timid at first. Their uneasiness always seems to come from ignorance. Once they understand my background they’re excited to work with me because it’s so new for them. I have made great friends, they go out of their way to show me how they live, I have been invited into people’s homes, I have been to weddings. However, working with overseas factories is still predominately a white male dominated industry. Being a white male definitely has its perks, they are offered my luxuries, they are invited to more restaurants, karaoke bars, they are offered fine cigars, fine cuisine, they do business a lot of times in more comfortable settings. But at the end of the day I get just as much work done as they do whether it’s over sipping liquor and smoking a cigar or not. 

* Tanwi Nandini Islam is a writer and artist based in Brooklyn. She writes for,, The Feminist Wire, and her debut novel Bright Lines is forthcoming by Viking Penguin in 2014. Follow her @tanwinandini