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Bright Young Things (9): New French Star Takes on the World
Posted by melanie | January 22, 2011

When the annual Salon International de la Lingerie trade show opens in Paris today, a lot of people are going to want to meet Caroline Tannous. And they’ll all be asking the same thing: how did she do it?

At the Paris show two years ago, Tannous earned the coveted Coup de Coeur jury prize for the debut collection of her label Les Jupons de Tess. Today, LJDT has become one of the most admired luxury labels in Europe, and has an aggressive strategy to expand its reach overseas in 2011.

Designer: Caroline Tannous
Age: 40
Label: Les Jupons de Tess
Launch: 2008
Based: Paris

What exactly is making people go ga-ga for Les Jupons de Tess? Well, Tannous has found an intriguing formula that combines elegant modern styling with an ultra-vintage feel that reaches way back: her collections are inspired by the haute luxe of 18th century French ballrooms and boudoirs.

Her creations, infused with frivolous symbols of pre-Enlightenment decadence such as ribbons and frills, are glamorous pieces that recall the coquetterie of 18th century women, with evocative names like Joséphine, Louise, Capucine and Manon.

If there’s any secret to Tannous’s success, it’s that she got to know the industry from a business standpoint before plunging in with her own signature label.

The granddaughter of the Lebanese painter Georges Guv, Tannous grew up in a cultured household but actually never attended design school. Instead, she describes herself as a ‘self-made woman’ who, after graduating in 1996 with an MBA in Luxury Brand Marketing and Strategic Management, learned the art of couture fashion while working as a European distributor for other lingerie brands such as Cosabella and Ed Hardy (!). It was only in 2006 after becoming pregnant that she found herself wondering “how to express the burgeoning beauty of her daughter Tess” — and thus was Les Jupons de Tess conceived.

Still, launching a high-end luxury lingerie line in France is a bit like storming the Bastille: the orthodoxy doesn’t yield ground (or market share) very obligingly, and there is always the risk of losing one’s head in the process.

But Tannous clearly understands her market and her customers; she knows that French lingerie is all about seduction and romance, with more than a little self-indulgence thrown in.

LJDT intimates are created with the finest fabrics such as silk, chiffon and Leavers lace, which appeal to women wanting to adorn themselves in nostalgic pieces that are constructed with the utmost attention. You can think of Les Jupons de Tess as “romanticism redefined for the 21st woman.”

As if to make that point, her lookbooks have included photos of LJDT items tossed over lampshades and furniture (right) — which, when you think about it, is exactly where they should end up.

Today, Les Jupons de Tess is making inroads into the North American market: it’s been available through Faire Frou Frou for at least a year, and the label is carefully looking for more distribution channels.

Helping the cause will be the release this spring of LJT, a more affordable diffusion line aimed at younger women. The photo at the top of this article offers an early look at what to expect from LJT.

Keep Les Jupons de Tess on your radar for 2011 and beyond. With the label’s gorgeous aesthetic and its high regard within the lingerie industry, LJDT is set to become a new obsession for women everywhere.

Below you’ll find Caroline’s responses to our Bright Young Things questionnaire, followed by a fabulous gallery of images from Les Jupons de Tess’s Spring-Summer 2011 collection.

But first, a tease: the image below is from next winter‘s collection. Something to dream about!

Q&A with Caroline Tannous — Les Jupons de Tess

How long have you been in business?
Les Jupons de Tess exists now for 3 years.

Were you profitable in 2010?
Things are really moving for us, and 2010 was a great year.

How many people are employed by your label?
4 people are in-house plus several agents, distributors and freelance people.

What plans do you have for new products/collections in 2011?
We have just launched for the Spring/Summer our more affordable line, LJT. It is a great success.

How do you hope/plan to grow your business in 2011?
We are now targeting different market segments with our two lines: Les Jupons de Tess being the main one with luxurious fabrics and leavers laces; and LJT, just as creative as our main line but at more accessible prices.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your label?
Find reliable partners, especially a serious factory.

What is your most popular design or product?
Our So Naughty line, which is updated every season.

Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
Going through the crisis successfully.

Anything else people should know about you?
Our collections are inspired by the XVIIIth century era. Our collections are updated and more confortable to wear, to create a glamorous range of corsetry and lingerie for a woman who, depending on her mood, wants to be flirtatious, seductive or mischievous.

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