In 1990 Kathryn Kemp-Griffin moved with her partner from Toronto to Paris. She began a lingerie-care business, and ended up being the Paris correspondent for Lingerie Journal, an American online trade publication. In 2009, she established Pink Bra Bazaar, a breast health charity.
This week she is releasing her very first book, Paris Undressed-- The Secrets of French Lingerie (with gorgeous illustrations by French underwear design er Paloma Casile).
The book is a remarkably fun take on the "us versus them" Paris expat experience, and shows that good underwear-- don't ever call it underclothing-- belongs to the growing of the sensuous that is important to the French art of living.
What drew you to Paris?
" A coin toss. Early into our marriage, my other half and I wanted an adventure and chose to live elsew here . We narrowed our options to San Francisco or Paris. The coin arrived at heads and we are still in Paris more than twenty-five years later."
How did you start in the underwear company?
" I wanted to work and it was hard to find a task without working documents or knowing the language. So I started my own company, Soyelle, focusing on lingerie devices and charm items."
Why did you write the book?
" After I sold my underwear business 7 years ago I chose I wanted to write.I understood that it was a great time to compose a book about lingerie. I had operated in the industry for several years and found out a lot so I wanted to get it down on paper."
What shocked you the most in your research study?
" The value of the language of lingerie and the relationship between words, feelings, and textures. The French language brings richness and offers layers of subtlety in shaping and defining one's lingerie experience.For example, the expression à fleur de peau (fleur= flower, peau= skin) describes the surface area of the skin and the feeling of something really close, like the touch of an enthusiast who makes you shiver! A Fleur de Peau is a popular name for underwear shops in France, interesting the feeling and caress of lingerie."
French ladies have a credibility for wearing beautiful underthings even when they're in ripped denims, a T-shirt and sneakers . Is that focus on well built lingerie the trick to the well-known French nonchalant chicness?
" Yes, but the secret of trendy is confidence. A French woman comprehends that through underwear she can above all delight in the art of being and have a good time and please herself."
Can one use underwear as empowerment?
" I think the word empower is better matched for equal rights! Underwear changes the regimen of getting dressed to an enriched sensorial experience that has a ripple effect throughout the day."
Is it true that North American females tend to favour more colourful lingerie vs French ladies's underwear staples?
" Not necessarily. I believe we see more colour in underwear marketing and merchandising in North America than in France. Simply take a look at the stacks of panties on display! In reality, nevertheless, I think beige prevails in many North American lingerie drawers. In France, colour is abundant and the French love an abundant colour combination for their underwear and use many shades and tones."
What are your thoughts on letting your bra strap or a bit of bra lace peek through your clothing, what the French call "veiled seduction". Are there difficult rules about what's appropriate with concerns peek-a-boo and what's just vulgar?
" I would much rather see the fragile detail of a bra strap than an unnoticeable one made of silicone! Stirring the creativity with pleasure is never ever vulgar. In Paris Undressed, I go into fantastic information about sensuality, not sexuality. Sensuality is the charm and secret that depends on the space in between modesty and provocation, and from style to marketing, the French understand the really great line between elegant provocation and vulgarity, and dance on that line with grace-- and lace."
What is the primary distinction in between Canadian and french attitudes to underthings?
" In North America, the focus is on function; the function, convenience, and functionality of panties and bras. The majority of us are more comfortable with the word underclothing than underwear. Lingerie, on the other hand, is a euphemism for sex or the promise of sex. In France, females mostly use lingerie for themselves. [It's a method to] provoke sensations and influence feelings. With or sans sex."
What must every female have in her lingerie drawer.
" A bra and panty in her favourite colour. Her real preferred colour. Like the colour she would have chosen when she was a child with a brand new box of crayons. That colour."
What should you understand and know to ask when looking for a bra?
" We are all designers of our femininty and sensuality, which ultimately discovers expression in our lingerie. In Paris Undressed, I guide the reader through a number of simple actions to choosing a bra that fits. However eventually, don't buy anything unless it triggers an emotion or experience."
You lead lingerie-themed tours around Paris. Tell us about those. Who is your common customer for the trips, and what are some of the highlights?
" Well, first of all I have the opportunity to fulfill great women. Females of all ages and expert backgrounds: moms, daughters, and girlfriends who are either single, married, divorced, or any combination of all three! Trips typically last 2 hours and I begin with among my preferred places: Le Bon Marché. One can discover most French lingerie brand names there and the setting is magnificent-- it's a cross between a museum and a candy store!I then might introduce the woman (or women) to a more fashion-forward label, meet a designer, or check out a vintage underwear shop. The trips are customized for each person. Ultimately, I wind up in the dressing space with them all and females entrust restored confidence about themselves and a brand-new point of view on their lingerie."