In the 1940’s a charismatic and elegant French woman named Simone started a small made-to-order corsetry business. Her mandate: To liberate women from the constraints of traditional corsets and marry comfort with aesthetics. Starting first in her own home making satin bras by hand, she worked diligently at her trade and was eventually joined by her husband, referred to simply as “Monsieur Pérèle.”
LF: Do you have personal memories of her?
SP: Oh yes, I have many memories of her. I was a teenager when she passed away. Those memories aren’t tied to her professional life, however. She had already retired when I was old enough to understand the métier, so I really knew her as my grandmother, not as Simone Pérèle the businesswoman. She had a lot of charisma. You noticed her when she walked in a room. She was tall and beautiful, with a natural elegance about her. She was not interested in artifice; she was naturally chic but not pretentious. She came from a modest background and created her enterprise on her own merits.
LF: Surely you only wore Simone Pérèle lingerie from an early age.
SP: Of course! (Laughs) I was born and grew up in that world. My mother worked her whole life for the company. So naturally as soon as I was old enough to wear a bra, there was no question that we’d look for any other French brand. I was lucky enough to grow up wearing lingerie that was beautiful but that also fit me extremely well: lingerie that was so comfortable I could wear it all day and forget that I even had it on. That’s pretty incredible, because if I try on a different brand that doesn’t fit well – even if it’s one of our own models in development – it’s unbearable. It’s out of the question that I might wear or produce uncomfortable lingerie that does fit perfectly well.
I hear a lot of women say that their bras are uncomfortable and don’t fit them well; they’ve gotten used to discomfort. I can’t imagine that. Lingerie should truly be so comfortable that you forget you’re wearing it. But it should also be aesthetically well-designed. That’s the equation for us.
LF: I think that in the States many women have gotten used to separating beauty and comfort. It’s hard to imagine them both co-existing. I’ve heard many American women look at beautiful French lingerie and say: “It’s so beautiful that it can’t be comfortable.”
SP: But that’s false! I think that American women have a very different take on lingerie than French women. French women will first to look for a bra that’s beautiful – that has lace or certain seductive attributes. After that, if the bra is also comfortable, all the better. You American women have an entirely different approach: First you want to feel okay and comfortable in your bra, even if, in fact, you might be wearing the wrong bra size. If that bra has a few seductive attributes, all the better, but that’s not the priority.
It also seems to me that American women buy lingerie as more of an obligation, not a pleasure. It’s interesting: we’ve noted that in Germany, women are also inclined in the same way, and to look first for comfort, and secondarily for aesthetics. It’s not at all the same type of purchase for French women. French women are more inclined to exalt aesthetics and sensual attributes when they buy lingerie. This might seem totally twisted, but a French woman generally prefers to wear something beautiful, even if she’s not comfortable in it. Aesthetics first – we’re talking about two extremes. But once a woman puts on a Simone Pérèle bra that’s both beautiful and fits correctly, she’s hooked. We have a loyal customer for life. My grandmother instinctively understood this.
January 04, 2016