Each year there is an event in Paris — open only to industry professionals — that is one of the best shows in town. Some might call it “tits and ass.” I call it big business, as well as one of the most erotic exhibitions anywhere.
It is the annual Salon International de la Lingerie (The Paris Lingerie Show) which takes place during the month of January at the convention center at the Porte de Versailles.
One has to be in shape to attend this show. Four hundred and twenty brands of lingerie and accessories are represented in the 30,000 square-foot area. Manufacturers from 12 different countries exhibit their wares.
Buyers from many more countries show up. “We need to see what is the hot trend this year,” said my friend Suzy, a lingerie czar, who flies in from Hong Kong each year to see the show.
Suzy swears that the Paris salon is a must if you are going to keep au courant (up-to-date). “I can’t afford not to come!” she said as she took off at a full gallop.
In reality, the show has more of the feeling of an international airport where every language is heard. However, there are two major differences: The buyers (many wear running shoes) are loaded down with brochures while frantically taking notes. Calculators are prominently displayed, as the decision makers can definitely make or break the bottom line of the creators of these undergarments.
The second difference is that there are beautiful girls (and beautiful men) parading around in what is little more than their “all-together.” Lingerie models must have perfect bodies and never an ounce of cellulite. The female models can have no body hair visible (except on their heads).
The larger manufacturers do not expect their goods to be displayed simply on a hanger. One exhibitor said, “Yes, we have beautiful things. But they are made more beautiful by a beautiful women modeling them.” Based on the orders he was taking, he was right.
There are non-stop defiles (fashion shows). The major hit in one of the shows was a man who was a spectacular specimen of male — nearly all 7-feet-high of him. The person sitting next to me asked me what he was wearing. I had to confess that I could not remember! All I could recall was that he had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen, not to mention…hummm… body…
While Suzy was off shopping for underwear and accessories that would be right for her Asian clientele (“remember, winters are cold in China, and the women like being warm as well as being in brightly colored patterns”), I headed for the fantasy section.
Not that practical underwear is not available at this show of all shows. There is something for everyone, including an array of Calvin Klein sportswear — in every conceivable color.
What I found was some of the sexiest soie (silk) and dentelles (lace) underwear. Any man would be hard put to resist a women wearing such an outfit if she were in a seductive mood. I wanted to buy all to wear under my jeans because, as my mother always said, “You dress from the inside out!”
Avid underwear buyers do not seem to go for non-matching bras and underpants. When it comes to underpants, there are so many choices; strings, bikinis, underpants with a high-cut thigh and those for more full-figured women. When you factor in the garter belts, “bodies” and other musts, what a woman wears under her clothes can cost far more than the clothes. There are bras designed to maximize, others to minimize, and still others which are practically invisible.
When it comes to women’s legs, there are pantyhose in every color and design, but don’t forget stockings. They are very in, especially ones bordered by lace. Those may be self-supporting with a strip of elastic or depend on the security of a tiny or wide suspender belt. And don’t forget guepieres (now back in style) which used to be thought by many as the dreaded corset.
As the salon’s publicity materials stated, “there is a time for different types of underwear in each woman’s life and this show left no period of a woman’s life sans (without) a solution!” After all, pregnant woman need underwear, nursing mothers must have special bras, joggers can’t possibly jog in a regular bra, and all these needs were represented.
By this time, I definitely needed a rest and headed to the bar to order a Diet Coke. If this show does nothing else, it makes a woman vow to go on an immediate diet. I found myself surrounded by a group of exhausted-looking people. The man sitting next to me commented, “This is hard work.” But he conceded that this show had its benefits too.
At least a dozen models, discreetly covered by terry-cloth robes, reminiscent of ones you would see at a boxing match, were relaxing, too. Their names were not visible but you can be sure the names of the manufacturers they were representing could not be missed!
With my reporter’s notebook in hand, I started asking a million questions. Some of the models were as young as 16 — but admitted to being relieved that girls could “work the lingerie circuit until they were really old.” When queried, “really old” means 26. Oh well!
The models were unanimous in saying that they rarely get propositioned at the show. Inga, a striking Swedish model, said that males buyers know better than to approach them, even though she was wearing an ensemble that could have weighed no more than six ounces.
Maria, an Italian stunner, explained that very few of the models at the show were French. “They are too short.” She apologized as she got up from the table to run to her next show. “Ciao,” she said to the group. “If I don’t see you before, I will see you in Milan,” adding that many of them work together at other lingerie shows.
By this time my friend Suzy had reappeared, ecstatic over the new things she had seen. “Knits are in!” she exclaimed, adding that they are perfect cover-ups for her clientele. I had already spotted a Spanish designer from whom I wanted to buy an entire wardrobe of silk negligees with coordinating knit robes, trimmed in silk and lace. When I priced one of the outfits, I calculated the cost would equal a down payment on a small car and resisted the urge to say, I will take all! On the other hand, Suzy had not! “I’ve spent a fortune and MUST come back tomorrow!” she confided.
She asked if I would accompany her since “there are so many stories to be written about lingerie.” Based on the trade magazines I saw on sale, Suzy was absolutely right. Unfortunately, I had another assignment and besides, I was exhausted from this outing, especially when I realized we had been at the show for six hours.
Suzy understood and said that she would return the next day with her male colleague. But I heard her mumble, “He always takes too long. Joe insists on looking at the models rather than exclusively focusing on the show.”
This is frustrating for all-business Suzy. I resisted the urge to say that I couldn’t blame him and she should show just a wee bit of compassion!
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