After meeting at Lingerie Fashion Week, Anaïs Bouchard invited me to her Brooklyn studio, where we sat down to discuss the heart and soul of Naïs Lingerie.
RR: What are the major concepts behind the brand?
AB: I would say that I wanted to have a brand that would fulfill a gap in the market between over glamorous or Victoria Secret lingerie and the very boring and very practical. I wanted it to have a more trendy and more fashionable feeling to it.
RR: Who is your customer?
AB: She lives in the city. She is a creative person and she is starting her career. I have a big diversity of customers but my core of customers is 25-35 years old. I’m not targeting college girls or anything, that’s not my thing. I feel like there are plenty of brands for that already. She’s a woman who is starting a career and who is starting to have her life together. She’s very fashionable, but doesn’t have a large budget. She’s you, she’s me, she’s kind of that normal woman.
RR: You fit into your demographic. Do you feel like you design for yourself as a customer?
AB: I started like that. I moved to Miami and when I moved there I was disappointed by the lingerie market in the US. I was 24, but I had already started my career and I was at that stage when I felt like I didn’t want to shop at H&M anymore. I want what I’m wearing to have a story.
RR: What is inspiring you right now?
AB: I’m always inspired by so many things. I am inspired by travel and cultures in general. I wanted to have a new collection with a lot of weird combinations like African print on a Japanese kimono. Prints are always the start of the collection. I’m inspired by sportswear shapes. Sometimes history from the 1930s, sometimes 1950s or 1970s. I’m very sensitive to colors. So yes, that’s one of the strong points of the collections. I have a strong color palette each season.
RR: Do you limit your color palette?
AB: I try not to have too many because it has to have a strong impact on the collection. If there are too many colors, the impact is not the same. I usually start with more colors then narrow it down to a few colors that are very strong in the collection. This collection was emerald and amethyst. For the next collection I’m thinking about a very deep and bright blue. I’m inspired by everything. I watch a lot of movies, I go to a lot of art stuff. I have a lot of creative friends. I feel like exchange is my main inspiration because I need to bounce ideas otherwise I’m very bored.
RR: You’re moving through the world being inspired by everything, every sight and sound. Is there a point in the day when you’re overflowing with inspiration and have to break out your notebook to start sketching?
AB: Oh yea, sometimes in the night too, which is really disturbing. It hits me all at once sometimes. It could be one thing, one shape, one color, one mood and I’m like oh my god, I have so many ideas now.
RR: How does being a French woman living in Brooklyn affect the collection?
AB: Well, I have a relationship with lingerie that is very French. My mother taught me how to choose my bras and panties in the right shapes. It’s a very cultural thing in France. So, it’s in my nature to have that obsession with lingerie. Being in New York has made me drop my limits. In France, my bra has to match my panty. When I’m designing here I know it’s completely about mix and match. I need to give lots of options to the customer. It’s fun. It’s so different.
RR: How did you know you wanted to move to NY?
AB: I was really bored in Miami. I spent a year there; it was great. It was a nice break from the craziness of Paris. Then I wanted a more exciting city within the US. I needed to be here so I could get into the US market and meet people in it. New York is close to Europe. I can even find my favorite French things which is reassuring for me.
RR: What are your upcoming plans for Naïs? What’s next?
AB: I have a lot of plans. I would say, focus on the retail side. It’s a spirit and lifestyle brand, now I want to go all the way in the retail oriented direction. I want to be closer to my final customers. I want to know what they want.
RR: What has been your favorite moment as a fashion designer so far?
AB: My favorite moments are when I’m done with my collection and I have to think about presenting it visually. Thinking about the photoshoot and the way I’m going to do it. It’s my favorite step of the creative process and brings me a whole vision of the collection so it’s more than just pretty bras and panties.
RR: Tell me about your own lingerie wardrobe.
AB: I have a few really good pieces from Chantal Thomass, who for a long time was one of my favorite lingerie designers. She influenced a whole generation of designers and completely changed the way of seeing lingerie. I actually have more than a few pieces. I have a lot of pieces from her. I also have loungewear. I love vintage kimonos. I fell in love with them after my first trip to NY. I found a Japanese shop with a huge rack of hand painted kimonos from the 1950s and 1970s. It was so fuckin’ cool. I have a lot of basics, too. I shop a lot of different brands so I can see and feel what other brands are making.
RR: What are your favorite pieces to wear from the Naïs collection?
AB: The invisible wire bra. I’m obsessed with it in the yellow. I was worried about the yellow on my fair skin but it is a warm yellow, not an acid yellow, so it’s really friendly with every skin tone.
RR: What is your favorite travel destination?
AB: I can’t decide yet. I need to travel more. I want to go to Iceland and Japan and South Africa. I really love France!
RR: Have you been to Lille, the city?
AB: Yeah, I’ve also been to Calais because of the lace, of course. It’s not too far. The weather is so bad all year there but the cities are very dynamic. That’s where most of French lingerie was made.
RR: Maybe the bad weather has something to do with it…