With autumn’s chill settling in, it’s hard to ignore what’s ahead. Shan knows how you feel. For 25 years, the Laval, Que.-based company (which counts Céline Dion, Katy Perry and the newly married Kate Moss as fans) has been helping to outfit pasty-but-stylish northerners for that essential rite-of-winter: the frantic migration to warmer climates.
Perhaps surprisingly for a company that specializes in couture swimwear, this is Shan’s busiest season, when customers in Canada and Russia — their second biggest market — are packing their bags and getting ready to escape the imminent cold.
And this year, travelers sporting the Shan label while lounging by the pool will have an extra reason to feel proud of their fashion choice: the Canadian brand was named Designer of the Year at last summer’s Mode City expo in Paris, beating out more than 600 premium labels at the world’s most prestigious showcase for couture lingerie and swimwear.
For Shan, the recognition came after more than two decades of carefully developing its own niche within the crowded luxury swimwear market, and focusing on product quality, technical execution … and stylish looks that make any woman stand out on a crowded Caribbean beach.
Shan is credited with coining the term “resort wear” — that mid-season range of elegant caftans, beach cover-ups and casual daywear pieces that have become an essential component of a winter holiday wardrobe. Expanding fashion options for the glamorous traveler seemed like a natural evolution for Shan a decade ago, and the trend quickly caught on in Europe as well.
Chantal Levesque, the label’s founder and designer, says Shan’s exceptional story — a trendsetting couture swim label from Canada — helped it earn the prestigious Mode City award. The label’s relentless focus on “raising the bar on quality” didn’t hurt, either.
“I think the fact that Shan designed and executed 100% of its product in Quebec in 2011 and saw it distributed in more than 25 countries makes it a completely unique scenario within our industry,” Chantal (below) told Lingerie Talk.
Shan (the name is a modified version of Chantal’s name, spelled with an “S” to favor international pronunciation) has always focused on the needs of a nomad clientele that doesn’t want to compromise on image. Shan’s collections are “versatile, comfortable, easy to travel with, and stylish,” says Chantal, who spends half the year criss-crossing the globe to meet buyers and see other cultures. “It’s important to maintain a nice look — even if you’re living out of a suitcase.”
Their top seller (also their most expensive) is their bra-turned-swimsuit, the balconnet top (below) with removable strap and padded underwire. “Technically, it’s a bra … in a swimsuit,” says Chantal. “It’s a very good reflection of Shan’s values as a brand.”
Being named Designer of the Year won’t change the company’s DNA, she adds, but it will open more doors as Shan looks to grow its international presence in new markets such as the Far East.
At the same time, Shan plans to expand its product line with new offerings in lingerie, homewear and accessories such as sunglasses. But “the heart of the brand will stay in swimwear,” she adds.
“Lingerie is an intimacy product, but swimwear is very technical because everyone sees your body. People want to be comfortable in what they’re wearing. People will always come to the stores for the right swimsuit.”
With so much on Shan’s horizon, it might just be a winter to look forward to after all!
Have a look below at some popular pieces from Shan’s 2011 collection. You can find Shan in numerous luxury boutiques and resort retail locations around the world.