Milan. Paris. London. No doubt about it; Europe is synonymous with fashion.
Everywhere I look, I see chic, stylish women, impeccably groomed in clothes that are faultlessly tailored and I feel a bit bashful for heralding from a country whose national wardrobe is a baseball cap and a track suit...preferably worn together.
What's more, this attention to luxury and detail extends beyond outerwear to the very foundations of any good ensemble--the underwear. Or, to use the French, lingerie.
I can't tell you how many lingerie boutiques I've passed since my travels have taken me to Italy and France. Suffice to say, the strategies of mass market retailers like Victoria's Secret would be utterly out of place here. Rather than simply being something to cover your bottom, European lingerie is meant to provoke a reaction, create a mood, encourage a sensation.
That kind of intent, the outright deliberateness behind the design becomes apparent when you compare those powerhouses of seduction and sensuality: France and Italy. In this post, I'll discuss the Italian labels Intimissimi and La Perla and the French labels Aubade and Chantal Thomass. Unfortunately, the computer won't allow me to illustrate this post, but I'll try to include a few links here and there so all of you get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Of the two Italian brands I mentioned, La Perla is the elder by over 40 years. Founded in Bologna, Italy by Ada Massotti in 1954, La Perla is all about innovation, tradition and, of course, luxury. If you want an idea of how they fuse all three of those, just think at this couture dragon bra from a few seasons back. Even when they're not casting metal bikinis, La Perla's attention to quality is evident in their choices of satin, lace, and silk. The very first word that came to mind when I walked into any of their shops was "Sexy!" and not sexy in that mass-produced, airbrushed, falsely glamorous way but sexy in a very secretive, luxe kind of manner. La Perla lingerie is as much for the person buying it as it is for the person who might see it, if not more so.
If I had describe Intimissimi, our second Italitan lingerie label, in three words or less, it would be "La Perla lite." Founded in 1996 by the Italian hosiery chain, Calzedonia (certainly worth a post in it's own right), Intimissimi has always strived to offer attractive products at attractive prices. Two years after their founding, they had 80 stores around the world. Now they have 100 times that, and every one I passed (and I passed quite a few) was full. You won't find the same kind of innovative, couture design that you do at La Perla, but you will find both trendy and classic pieces which are well-constructed and well within even a meager budget.
To me, Italian lingerie (and I saw other stores besides the ones I'm talking about here) is all about smoldering, smoky eyed glamour...like Raquel Welch or Sophia Loren in their heyday. It's good enough for show, but it's also good for making the buyer feel confident about themselves, and that's what any good lingerie should do.
This entry is a little long, so I'll share my impressions about French lingerie in another post later on. For now, bon soir.
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