Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by Les Rituelles.
The world is filled with cookie-cutter lingerie boutiques. As much as I love bra shopping, it does get somewhat less exciting when every boutique I walk into is carrying the same selection of products. That’s why I was so intrigued to learn about Les Rituelles.
Located in the intimate neighbourhood of Montmarte in Paris (and also with an online storefront), it’s a brilliantly new concept of what a lingerie store can be. It focusses on independent designers, presenting a tightly-edited collection of high-end intimates that combine elegant French style with eroticism. But the store has more going for it than just nice products – the founders Aline and Lobbiaz also want to transform the standard shopping experience.
Les Rituelles isn’t a boutique you simply walk into to buy a bra and leave. It’s a place to browse art, discuss fashion, and yes, perhaps pick up some new lingerie in the process. You might also leave with a book just signed for you by the author, or even a new tattoo, if you time your visit to coincide with one of the boutique’s event days.
Of course, most of us are not in Paris. But the online store also has something unique to offer. Les Rituelles takes almost all of its own product photography, and releases frequent lookbooks showing its lingerie out and about in Paris. If you like fashion photography and lingerie, you’ll like following this brand.
Browsing the website, you really do get the feeling that the founders live and breathe their business. Their passion for lingerie is clear. And the brand is flourishing as a result – Les Rituelles will be celebrating its 3-year anniversary next month. Below, I speak to Aline to find out more about what makes this boutique and brand so unique.
What first drew you to the world of lingerie?
Before launching Les Rituelles I was already in the fashion industry. I was stylist and textile designer, and worked in ready-to-wear and accessories. I’ve always had a deep and natural sensitivity to textiles, prints, shapes, and details, either in a technical or creative way. I literally love touching the materials. It’s both sensory and sensual.
Years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) Lobbiaz gifted me a lingerie set and harnesses from Hopeless Lingerie. The brand was on Etsy back then. And I started to dive into the world of independent lingerie designers. I discovered a lot of them through Instagram, Tumblr and by digging deep on the internet. I was fascinated by the bold universes, the daring designs and the strong community around them.
I wondered to myself, what brands pop up first in my mind when I think about lingerie? The answer was either big groups/brands (such as Chantelle, Dim, Simone Pérèle, Lise Charmel…) that delivered an old and dusty image of lingerie. Or more affordable brands everybody here knows and wears (such as Princess Tam Tam or Etam). Maybe one or two edgy brands such as Chantal Thomass or Agent Provocateur. But not indies designers at all, yet I felt that some of them were the future of lingerie. I felt that this kind of new and fresh lingerie needed to be seen and known.
And I take it that’s what inspired you to launch a lingerie boutique of your own?
There isn’t another multi-brand lingerie shop in Paris gathering independent lingerie designers. And I always wondered why. Why always these classical and, I dare say, boring shops, all carrying the same big brands while there are so many indies designers out there waiting to step up? So there we were: “oh, there isn’t this kind of shop here, let’s do it”.
Well, it wasn’t so simple and took me years of thoughts, reflections and research while working at the same time. But the idea was growing in my head since that gift, to fill this gap. The two or three interesting (from my point of view) multi-brand lingerie shops in Paris are quite fetish-oriented or ‘love shops’ selling sex toys. I like them but this wasn’t really ‘me’ and my idea. I wanted to build something else, off the beaten tracks.
My husband and partner in crime is an erotic photographer. The concept was obvious and came naturally when we talked about the project. We simply decided to gather his world and mine. Different yet very similar, and complementary.
Many retailers nowadays are online-only – it’s cheaper, and seems to be the way retail in general is going. What was behind the decision to launch a physical store?
The brick and mortar shop was non-negotiable. We didn’t want an online-only store because it’s lingerie – it’s intimate, it has to be tried on. Online, you can’t touch the materials, you can’t see the items’ details. The experience is not as pleasant as in a physical shop.
We wanted to break the codes of typical lingerie boutiques, to create a living place rather than a ‘shop’. A salon where you are always invited and warmly welcomed. Somewhere with cool vibes, where you want to stay because you feel comfortable.
It’s clear that a lot of thought has been put into curating your product range. What would you say are the most important factors when deciding whether to stock a particular brand?
This is an interesting point and I will answer very honestly. Three years ago I would have said stylish, sexy designs, high quality material and construction, eco-responsibility, and a good feeling with the creator.
Now with more experience, price is also seriously taken into consideration. This is a bit frustrating, but it’s the truth. In France, talking about money is a bit taboo. Yet I think it’s important to mention it because if you are not part of the industry, you won’t be aware of all the issues. You won’t understand why a piece of fabric can reach a price with three figures. It’s part of our job to educate people, to open a gate that will make them question their consumer habits. On the other hand, I have to make the business work! So for me, it’s all about the right balance.
I choose the brands/designs in order to offer a wide range of styles that make my customer feel beautiful, in her own way. For every woman at every time of her day and her life, in every mood. Women are all unique and different. I want them to feel sexy and seductive.
Sexy isn’t a bad word and seduction is not shallow. It’s important and seducing yourself is the priority! Whether you need microfiber panties from Esquisse, a sparkly bra from Superbe, or something black, strappy and lacy from Paloma Casile. At Les Rituelles, we consider that lingerie is as a powerful tool to gain self-confidence and embrace yourself. I want my customer to look at the mirror and say “yeah, I’m such a warrior”.
Eco-responsibility is important as well. While it’s difficult, even impossible, to be 100% clean in fashion, many designers do their best. It can be through local manufacture, recycled jersey, eco-sourced material from France or Europe, ensuring that workers are in good conditions and well-paid, a low carbon footprint etc.
Your husband takes a lot of the photos that appear your website. Do you believe it’s important to create your own imagery as a brand?
Yes I do. It’s more than important, it’s mandatory! I didn’t consider for a minute building the reputation of my shop on the imagery of others. Not because I don’t like it. But because we had to build Les Rituelles as a brand with its own visual identity. It matters a lot to me to untie Les Rituelles from the editorial policy of each brand I carry. Doing our own photoshoots with our own models, and using our own copywriting – it’s a way to reappropriate each item we carry and put a fresh eye on it. Our perspective.
A few years ago, the female representation by classic lingerie brands was simply not real, not close to everyday women. Nobody is Photoshopped in real life! I want something very natural, maybe imperfect, but images where you can see yourself – and with a bit of humour.
I’ve noticed that other multi-brand lingerie retailers don’t take the time to create what we call a ‘brand voice’. Because they think they are not a brand. They are hidden behind the identities of all the brands they carry. What a shame! Times are difficult enough for retail and differentiation is the key more than ever.
You said earlier that you wanted your physical store to be a cultural space as well as just a place to shop. Can you tell me some more about that?
We want to go beyond the simple proposition of lingerie in the shop. We chose to make an art gallery and organise events. I consider lingerie as a meeting point between you as a person – your body, your intimacy, and your sexuality. Erotic art involves the representation of bodies, in all its shapes and colours. They go well together.
There is a new exhibition every three months or so, with an evening preview each time. Exhibitions are organised be me and I carefully choose the artists, the schedule, and the theme. We also organise events such as launching magazines, book signings, flash tattoo days, photobooths, pop-up stores… I’m looking forward to diversifying them with atelier ‘workshops’, for example we once did private shibari initiation.
In store, on a day-to-day basis, Les Rituelles offers a corner with books, magazines, fanzines, prints, postcards, colouring books… all from erotic artists, photographers and illustrators.
What have been your most memorable moments since Les Rituelles opened its doors?
I don’t have a particular one in mind. Every day I receive compliments from people coming into the shop and telling me how they feel good being here, how they love the refinement. All these words mean a lot to us, it’s memorable each time. As well as the emails I receive from customers saying thank you.
But here’s a highlight. January 2019, when we were selected in the Top 100 of the best lingerie shops in France by trade magazine Intima. And we won an additional prize, the “Coup de Coeur” of the magazine. It was really unexpected and it’s a huge professional recognition.
And the most rewarding part of running your business?
I don’t deal with colleagues I don’t like anymore and nobody tells me I’m late (except my husband!).
Joking aside, running my own business made me learn a lot about myself. Besides being freelance, I’ve never run or been part of a business before, nor did I do commercial studies. I’ve never even been a salesperson before! Learning constantly, about the business or yourself, is rewarding but you realise it only afterwards. I learnt how to balance emotions and reason in business. I discovered how I can deal with tricky situations I never experienced before, with nothing but trust in my intuition.
It was and still is very hard sometimes. And facing difficulties of any kind, you have no choice: adapt and keep going, or quit. Honestly, surviving these hard times is actually very rewarding (this is the masochist in me speaking at the moment). Because you feel proud of surpassing yourself by building Les Rituelles’ dream. Sometimes building your dream is a nightmare.
Another rewarding part is very simple and cheesy – making people happy! I love when they leave the shop smiling, whether they buy or not. It’s not about buying, it’s about the long-term relationship you create with the customer.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone shopping for high-end lingerie for the first time?
Forget all your prejudice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep your mind open for the unexpected. Dare to try and take your time. Don’t let your self say “it’s pretty but not for me” or “it’s not my age anymore” or “I could never wear it”. Take pleasure in your shopping as it’s a ‘me time’ moment. You are beautiful, your body is a piece of art, and so is lingerie. Enjoy it and have fun!
Find Les Rituelles online here or at 6 Rue Houdon, 75018, Paris, France.
All images in the post photographed by Lobbiaz @ Les Rituelles.
Now over to you! Let me know in the comments below what you think of the Les Rituelles store concept. Is this the kind of boutique that you’d enjoy shopping at?