For the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of LUXOS magazine, I looked into the history of French lingerie and some iconic luxury lingerie brands in Paris today.
In a culture where seduction is an integral part of every day life, French women have good reason to be proud of their powers of enchantment. But from where does this prowess emanate? After the French Revolution, in a time when the entire country decided to rebel against what was conformist and acceptable; the role of the undergarment became ever-present.
Think of the romantic Liberty Leading the People painting by Eugène Delacroix. With her dress sliding off of her shoulders, leading an army of men, she not only stood for the freedom of a country, but much more.
To the French woman, choosing an undergarment has been just as critical as choosing the outer since the turn of the 19th century. And now, thanks to the fine fabrics, and creative minds of the French design world, the undergarment has evolved over the last two centuries to become a thing of beauty, a symbol of luxury, and a couture creation of its own.
One of the first French luxury lingerie brands, Cadolle, made its mark during the 1889 World’s Fair- the same one that eternally engraved the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of Paris. Revolutionary French businesswoman, Herminie Cadolle, brought a genius new idea to the table that would change women’s lingerie forever.
By proposing her ‘Coreselet Gorge,’ or deconstructed corset, she not only eliminated the physical constriction brought on by wearing this undergarment, but also the mental constriction women faced at the time. The couture lingerie created by Cadolle defined what it was to be a woman in post-war France. Making undergarments for the likes of Coco Chanel and the Duchess of Windsor, Cadolle introduced luxury into the lingerie market.
These delicate, feminine creations are a culmination of the exquisite materials available in France, such as the finest laces from Calais and Chantilly, in Northern France, and the sumptuous silks from Lyon, in Central France.
In Calais, the lace industry gained its strength after craftsmen escaped the hardships in England for a new life in France. Refining their craft since the early 19th century, lace weavers in Calais are known today for their exquisite mastering of Leavers lace. Recognizable for its delicate flower pattern, scalloped edges, and enchanting quality, this lace is a luxury lingerie creator’s dream.
Odile de Changy, is one of those creators. After a summer trip to her family chateau, where she discovered drawers of lingerie from a bygone era, Odile was inspired to recreate the romance. Drawing upon the richness of lingerie history and lace making, Odile creates vintage-inspired intimates. In her workshop in the Marais, like a 19th century boudoir, old photographs of her mother, grandmother and other women whom she admires surround Odile as she works. To her, lingerie represents the soul’s independence, which she brings to life by mixing quality laces from Calais, delicate French silks, and the poetry of the olden days.
Like many creators of luxury lingerie, there is more to the craft than following trends and creating lacey negligees. Just as the French recognize the artistries of Haute Couture fashion, the same elements are respected in lingerie making. Hand sewn and often bespoke, couture lingerie is the ultimate luxury.
In the spirit of haute-couture lingerie making, Carine Gilson reigns supreme. Among luxury, handmade undergarments made from the finest materials, her Lingerie Couture line is considered top. The Carine Gilson woman isn’t afraid of her individuality or her sensuality; she is a master of seduction and is always classy, never vulgar. A philosophy that remains true to the origins of specialty undergarments. Working almost exclusively with Lyon silks, a difficult fabric to master, and the most delicate Chantilly laces, Carine Gilson Lingerie Couture is about quality and comfort above all else.
Considered an art form, couture lingerie in particular symbolizes the refined beauty and distinct power of the woman wearing it. Today, lingerie is one of the most unique luxury markets in France, and an especially delightful souvenir to take home after a trip to Paris.
4 Rue Cambon, 75001
+33 (0)1 4260 2807
18 Rue Grenelle, 75007
+33 (0)1 4326 4671
Odile de Changy
6 rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003