What a year! Unbelievable but it’s already 12 months ago that we kicked off our lingerie business with a visit at Europe’s most famous and most prestigious lingerie fair in Paris – the Salon International de la Lingerie, short SIL.
For us two girls it felt like entering lingerie’s paradise. By January 07 my best friend Edlyn and me finally had the guts to quit our safe and well paid marketing jobs for a not so safe and well paid career as lingerie entrepreneurs. But hey, what the hell! For years we had suffered from lingerie desert in Germany. Having an Italian boyfriend at the time and a French father, I just could no longer accept the fact that my choice of lingerie should be limited to white, crème, champagne or maybe rose – to ask for something very extravagant.
Where were all these beautiful labels that I had seen in VOGUE or Sex & the City? Of course there were one or two shops selling one or two pieces, but this had nothing to do with the choice a girl gets in Paris, London or Milan. Where the most beautiful cheeky and ironic Chantal Thomass pieces hang next to glamourous ID Sarrieri bras with all their affluent luxurious Italian details placed side by side to Madame V with her unique sexy styles. Something had to be done and www.liaison-dangereuse.com was born. Goal: bring the most stylish lingerie labels to Germany – and to us two girls ;-).
Paris 07 was lingerie’s heaven. Unfortunately our favorite lingerie-queen Chantal Thomass was not at the fair, but after the first disappointment we somehow managed to get a private invitation to her fashion show. Imagine a grand boudoir style apartment in Paris’s chic 1er arrondissement with ornated walls and ceilings, golden mirrors, marble fireplaces and, instead of a catwalk, everyone seated around cosy small tables. Music starts, a glass of champagne in your hand and off the show goes. A brilliant play with female/male stereotypes: naïve posing with strawberry red lips and blonde Hollywood curls versus black pixie-cut and pinstripes. And our admired and beloved lingerie-queen herself just next to us! A glamourous French dame with straight black hair and deep red lips, dressed in her famous “dessous-dessus” styles, radiating pure Grandezza with every inch. That’s exactly how we fantasized about starting in lingerie.
However, after the first hype, we soon realized that building a lingerie business is a lot of work. And not everything is as fancy as sitting in a fashion show. Right after the show for example you have to decide what to buy. And there you go. Having opted for the most exclusive designer lingerie only, you cannot buy the pieces off the shelf just in time whenever you need it but you have to decide on two dates only what you are going to sell over the year. There are two designer collections per year, summer and winter, and that’s it. Meaning 6 months in advance you have to know what to buy and how much to buy. No way of bringing obsoletes back or reorder if you run out. Quite a risk to start with. What will be hot and what not? What are the pieces that earn money and what are the ones that ruin my return quota? There is no way to guess the right trends and quantities in advance. Ok, white, champagne and rose will probably always sell. But we started out to offer some choice!
And then, how will people know that we are there and have all the lingerie pieces in stock that they have fantasized their whole life about? With no budget for expensive advertising or PR agencies? Even though having seen “The devil wears Prada” we decided that there was nothing to loose and just phoned all the German fashion mags ourselves. Being scared as hell when we first had the German VOGUE on the phone, we got so surprised by how nice they all were! With all that glamour one sometimes probably tends to forget that the work of a fashion journalist, even at VOGUE, is about introducing new trends, new labels and new stores, including ours if we are lucky. So they would usually not bite over the phone but respond friendly to your request. In the end, we met a lot of very nice and very human fashion journalists.
And yes, we had quite some sleepless nights over the finest French lingerie that didn’t sell because of too high prices or charmingly playful English bras that sold as hell but didn’t fit and all came back. But all in all the first year into lingerie has passed so well that we will expand our online business with a real classic boutique in Hamburg. We already painted the walls, in violet! It looks gorgeous! A beautiful cosy boudoir in the city center to open in a couple of weeks. But more about this in next time…
Edlyn Mauke and Laurence Saunier, two German lingerie-victims in their early 30’s and founders of liaison-dangereuse.com, a fine French web-boutique for designer lingerie and accessories. Soon, they’ll also be opening a ‘real’ boutique in Hamburg, Germany!