If ever there was an erotic archetype due for a modern-day makeover, it’s the French maid outfit.
A fixture in burlesque, vaudeville and bawdy stage and screen comedies for more than a century, the French maid costume has a peculiar appeal — it evokes both amorous submissiveness and a kind of class-based subjugation that hasn’t been politically correct for generations.
Still, it’s proved remarkably resistant to changing public values. The classic French maid outfit — a peek-a-boo black pinafore topped with a white apron — has remained a staple of Hallowe’en, BDSM play and bachelor parties. For references, see the stripper scene in American Wedding or any number of XXX videos; Felicity Huffman even sported a French maid kit to patch up her failing marriage on Desperate Housewives.
How interesting, then, that a talented young designer hoping to make a memorable debut in the crowded European lingerie market should do so by re-inventing the classic French maid look!
The Maid range is one of four styles in the first collection from designer Cécile Mattray under the new label KS Paris. The brand’s AW 2013 collection will launch in September in shops in France, Germany and the UK.
Cécile’s Maid series retains the black-and-white color scheme of the classic maid look and includes a couple of tiny, modified skirts, a few ruffles and bows, and a choker collar on the bodysuit.
But that’s where the similarity ends. The KS Paris maid look is no cheap costume; it’s powerfully seductive statement lingerie made from luxurious Calais lace and premium Italian silk satin. This naughty little outfit will achieve its purpose in any situation — the cosplay is entirely optional.
What makes this new spin on French maids even more interesting is the fact that it’s NOT based on historic Parisian archetypes. Instead, like all the pieces in KS Paris‘s debut collection, it’s inspired by Japanese manga characters — those enormously popular eroticized cartoon re-imaginings of Western iconography.
KS Paris is one of the most unusual cultural hybrids to enter the lingerie market in recent years, and one with a thoroughly modern origin story.
Designer Cécile is a manga-obsessed 30-year-old who was born in South Korea but adopted by a French couple when she was a baby; ironically, her taste for Japanese anime came from watching it on French TV.
Cécile (below right) studied fashion and lingerie design at ESMOD Paris and after graduating landed a career-making dream job: working alongside Caroline Tannous in the development of Les Jupons de Tess, the widely admired young French luxury brand.
While at LJDT (where she worked for four years) Cécile launched Kimy’s Sweeties, an accessories label aimed at Japan’s highly stylized Gothic Lolita fashion culture, and which debuted at the 2012 Paris Japan Expo with a range of umbrellas, corsets, headpieces and more. (The company name, like the new KS brand, comes from Cécile’s original Korean name.)
Mixing Asian and European backgrounds gives the new KS Paris label an interesting entry point in the marketplace: Cécile hopes to sell her manga-inspired luxury French lingerie in Japan, just as she sold her Lolita fashions in France.
“Japanese people are in love with French fashion,” she told Lingerie Talk. “And in France there are a lot people who are Japan addicts.”
But it also puts Cécile in the delicate position of competing with her former employer LJDT, which is now successfully established and widely distributed.
“I really loved Les Jupons de Tess but it wasn’t totally me, so I decided to launch my own brand,” she said. “I know .. I might be still inspired by its background but I don’t like to be compared with [LJDT] as I am doing everything to make my own brand different.”
Along with the unique Maid series, the KS Paris debut collection includes the stunning Hasu (“lotus flower”) line of bride-worthy ivory lace and satin; the racier Shibuya range (above) crafted from imitation leather and lace; and a comfortable lounging collection called Yume (“dream”).
KS Paris made its public debut at the Salon Internationale lingerie show in Paris in January and, if it enjoys the same reception as LJDT, should find an enthusiastic audience at home and abroad.
And Cécile is already planning ahead: KS Paris‘s SS2014 collection will feature lingerie styles cut from kimonos imported from Japan.
Below are several lavish styles from all four ranges in KS Paris‘s first lookbook.