I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Jennifer Zuccarini, Creative Director of Kiki de Montparnasse, in the exquisite SoHo space, home to her rapidly expanding brand. And to think, just two years ago, this brand was merely an idea beginning out of Jenniferâ€™s apartment. Her ambitious goals and creative talent have launched Kiki de Montparnasse to the forefront of the lingerie industry.
Read below for an informative, behind the scenes glimpse into this industry that we love!
Could you introduce yourself, and talk us through how you ended up in the lingerie industry?
Iâ€™m from Toronto. I always knew I wanted to be a designer. I studied fine arts and got my Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Art History. Then I moved to Montreal. While I was there, I worked with local designers before moving to New York. I attended FIT where I received my design degree. After I finished school, I worked at Nanette Lepore, and then was freelancing on lots of little projects. But I always knew I wanted to design.
How did you develop the brand and why do you think it became popular so quickly?
It started as just a concept about 2 years ago, but the store has only been open about a year. We set out for it and went for it. Itâ€™s still really new.
I think we had all the elements together and a lot of people supporting us. We really defined the brand as creating an intimacy experience. It all came together â€“ the space, the collection, the instruments of pleasure, the music, the books, the beauty products. We designed everything, even our own line of high end lubricants, massage oils, etc.
We want to make women feel confident and sexy. Our goal was to create an environment different from whatâ€™s already out there. At a lot of those other stores, itâ€™s a joke. We wanted women to be able to explore their intimate sides without embarrassment. We saw it as filling a void where there was a need. Purchasing these items should be like purchasing a nice pair of shoes. It should be a designer experience.
A lot of people have a difficult time making a name for themselves if they only produce a few items, but we had a very strong concept and people really embraced it. Even more than we thought.
How did you decide on the name Kiki de Montparnasse?
The name Kiki was inspired by a woman, Alice Prin, simply known as Kiki. From Montparnasse, a very art heavy area in France, she was a muse of many artists in the 20â€™s. She was a cabaret singer, writer, artist. For the time, she was sexually liberated and was a sex and beauty symbol. We liked what she embodied. The name is sophisticated and has a feeling of a heritage.
What inspires you and how do you continue to develop new ideas?
With my work, I donâ€™t want it to ever be trashy. I want it to be sophisticated. I get inspired by fabrics and I like new silhouettes. A lot of it is instinctual, especially with colors. Personally, I have always liked trend forecasting. For instance, Iâ€™ll think of a color palette months in advance and then just commit to it. Itâ€™s just a feeling. I am also inspired by vintage pieces, but not of any particular time period. I also travel to Paris twice a year. I look at fabrics, but I look at everything else as well.
I am also inspired by the work of Sam Haskins. We have a lot of his work around the store â€“ Cowboy Kate, November Girl, Five Girls. Itâ€™s a very playful and sensual aesthetic. I really like that.
There is also a ready to wear element with some of the pieces that is suggestive of the bedroom outside of the bedroom. It plays on the idea of the flirtation and the dance that takes place before you even make it to the bedroom!
The signature handcuff print that appears on many of your pieces is really unique. How did that idea develop?
We worked with a company, Base, to design the logo. We started by thinking about and looking at lots of elements that we could use to stand for Kiki. We looked at illustrations, books, etc. I also used a lot of vintage prints, especially scarves. We wanted an iconic image that would represent luxury. We ended up choosing a handcuff, but the design of it is 100% our creation. I like the symmetry of it. It is strong and geometric and represents our theme.
Speaking of your theme, the store truly encompasses this theme throughout from the art and music to the books. Do you sell the books in the store? How are they chosen?
We do sell both new and rare vintage books. We have an evolving list of books. We often get suggestions from people in the industry.
One of the other unique elements about Kiki is the focus on events. Tell me a little more about that.
Events are really important to us here. Through the salons, we want to provide an educational service for people to explore their intimate lives.
We are opening a store in L.A. in July. The store has a garden space in the middle, which will be perfect for events there.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Right now, we are in our own store and a few other small stores in New York. Also, we are the only lingerie line carried in the Barneyâ€™s of Japan â€“ Restir. They really grasped the concept and even have one of our custom made cabinets there.
In 5 years, I want to have stores opening in all the major cities. Vegas. Miami. London. Paris. Like I mentioned, we are currently opening a store in L.A. on Melrose. I want Kiki to be a major, well-known global brand.
Thanks so much to Jennifer and her staff at Kiki de Montparnasse. It was truly an eye opening experience into their brand. Lucky for me, I got a sneak peek at what is to come for fall and spring collections â€“ and it is fabulous! In the meantime, check out the exquisite collection already in the SoHo store. Canâ€™t make it? Explore the ample selection on the website. For you ladies in L.A., be prepared to welcome Kiki in July!