Underwire: July 2021

I love trends. I hate trends. I suppose I’m old and crotchety, but if I see one more Influencer’s underpants yanked up above her hip-bones, I might will an old Jane Fonda workout poster to life, like the ghost of trends past, calling a moratorium on that kind of camel-toe and reminding the youth that the ’80s were indisputably the worst fashion period in all of recorded history–I know, it was my decade. But that’s fashion: recycle, reuse, inspire, and recreate. I understand that what’s annoying to me is young and fresh to those who are, uh, young and fresh.

My tolerance ends, however,  when trends in the marketing of bras fall into rank dishonesty.  Young, supposedly feminist, marketers tout phrases like  “Woman-owned,” “Designed by a Woman,” or “Made by Women for Women” as though this is something new, revolutionary, and disruptive in the bra industry. The most charitable thing to call this is ignorant. If you see a company leaning hard into this selling point (as groundbreaking as it may be in other industries), I’d suggest this company may not have much else to offer in terms of the actual bra. I take personal offense to the erasure of our feminine lingerie dynasties, so I would like to show off a few of the ladies here, representing brands we sell: Simone Pérèle, Louisa Bracq, Chantal Thomass, Margaretha Van de Velde, and Nuria Sardá.

louisa bracq bras brafitting and women in business

Louisa Bracq

A gifted embroiderer with a passion for music, she quickly become the go-to embroidery hand for the houses of Haute Couture. Five generations of her descendants have overseen the brand–with grandsons Vincent and Jérôme launching the Lingerie division in 2009. Louisa Bracq is unique in that they are the only company to create, develop and produce their exclusive embroideries in their own workshop in France. Great-great grandson Matthieu has recently taken over Artistic Direction. Look out for the Ziggy Stardust-inspired collection coming this month!

Wolf Grodner & Simone Pérèle

A corset maker by trade, she began selling handmade creations under her own name in Paris in 1946. Her son and daughter and grandchildren, Mathieu Grodner and Stéphanie Pérèle run the company. My husband, upon learning that the young Frenchman he was chatting with at the Salon International de la Lingerie was the grandson of Simone Pérèle exclaimed, “I didn’t realize there was a real Simone Pérèle!” to which Mathieu replied, “Oh, yes, grandmère was real – she was very real.” Which may say something about what it took for a woman to run a company in those days (or these).

Chantal Thomass

Daughter of an engineer father and seamstress mother, her light-hearted bohemian style caught fire in the late 60’s and continues to this day. In 2016 she created costumes for the famed Crazy Horse dancers in Paris. During the Salon de Lingerie that year, I was invited with other retailers to a special performance (the show was perfectly astonishing) and when the lights went up I turned around and ran right into her! I babbled praises in my incoherent French. I would have killed for a selfie, but we had been told at the door “no photos inside” and the dancers had set such an atmosphere of discipline that my boldness deserted me.  Chantal, now 73, gave over her eponymous company in 2019 and is pursuing other creative interests.

Nuria & Andrés Sardá

Once elegant mantilla makers for pious Spanish royalty (and Jackie Kennedy) the Sardá name has been synonymous with fine lace since the late 1800s. Pivoting to the secular in the 1960s, Andrés Sardá  continued the family tradition by creating  sensual lingerie from their base in Barcelona. His daughter Nuria became Artistic Director in 1995 and following his death last year at age 90, continues to helm the ship.

Margaretha&Achiel Van de Velde

In 1919 they open a corsetry studio in Schellebelle, Belgium and for the next hundred years three generations of Van de Velde produce exquisitely crafted lingerie and swim for the full-busted woman under the brand names PrimaDonna and Marie Jo.

Liesbeth Van de Velde & me

Liesbeth, granddaughter of Margaretha and Achiel, and VdV Head of Design, visits our Westside boutique just before New Year’s eve 2019. We celebrated their 100th year in business the following month in Paris.

Spotlight on Lingerie

Ah, the power and intrigue of the Criss-Cross. Overlapping and intersecting lines that entrap the eye and enchant the viewer. Here are three ways to keep things interesting:

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