If you’re a connoisseur of couture lingerie, you probably have a passion for the French and their classic boudoir styles, exquisite materials and unrivaled craftsmanship.
Happily, there’s plenty of fine French lingerie available in North America, even if that choice is mostly limited to a dozen or so major corporate brands.
What we don’t see that much over here is the full breadth and depth of the French lingerie industry, including boutique labels, new indie designers and small niche players that don’t have international distribution partnerships.
But a pair of French filles have embarked on a mission to fill in those gaps and introduce American women to the hidden gems of luxurious European lingerie.
Antoinette Paris is a new online boutique launched by sisters Laure and Caroline Gilleron as “a love letter to France” — and a tribute to their insatiable lust for French underfinery.
The Gilleron girls moved to Los Angeles from Toulouse four years ago to attend school and quickly fell in love with the U.S.A. Only one thing was missing, older sister Laure (left in photo above) told Lingerie Talk: “We couldn’t find the lingerie we were used to in France.”
Recognizing a business opportunity, the pair — Laure, 27, earned her master’s in finance from UCLA while Caroline, 23, completed a cosmetology program — decided to create a new distribution channel to introduce American women to lesser-known French brands.
“We knew some French brands like Aubade are successful here, but we thought it would be good to add more,” Laure said. “The idea was not to bring in already well-known brands but to bring emerging designers over from France to expand the market.”
Antoinette currently stocks three labels, although it must be pointed out that they’re not all strictly French:
Antoinette Paris is keen to add more new French labels “whenever we find something we really love,” Laure said.
But the Gilleron sisters aren’t just selling underwear; they want to help American women develop a more refined appreciation for fashion lingerie in general. They’re hoping that their passion for sensuous silks, delicate lace and intricate sewing will catch on in North America, too.
“What I love most about lingerie is that there is so much detail in such a tiny garment,” Laure said.
Women should devote as much thought — and budget — to their lingerie choices as they do to their skin-care product purchases, they believe.
American lingerie, she added, is “more casual, (with) more simple designs. In Europe, it’s something more elegant and special. It’s something we wear everyday, but it still needs some sophistication.”
The early customer response to the company’s offerings has been enthusiastic, Laure noted.
“Customers love the quality of the lingerie, they love the designs. It’s really new for them.”
“American women are starting to get very interested in this kind of lingerie. They want to feel more beautiful, more confident, and this kind of lingerie will help them do that.”
Here’s a look at some of the brands available through Antoinette Paris: