Letter From Paris: Designer Interview with Fifi Chachnil
Kathryn Kemp-Griffin is the founder of Paris Lingerie Tours and offers exclusive lingerie tours as an unusual alternative to the regular tourist attractions.
Fifi Chachnil never did manage to color within the lines. As a child, she remembers swooshing her paintbrush haphazardly, enthusiastically adding color and life to an otherwise prosaic drawing. “Tsk, tsk,” her older sister chided, waving a finger. “That’s not how it’s done.” As Fifi tried to erase her mistake, the colors blended and beauty spread across the paper, and Fifi was enchanted.
Fifi’s penchant for fashion and creativity manifested in many ways: from bloomers peeking out from underneath a hiked up school uniform skirt, to challenging the conventional monochrome by mixing red and pink. The youngest of five children, Fifi grew up in a family of silk manufacturers and spent her after-school hours next to one of the designers who helped Fifi design her own dresses, selecting fabrics from the rolls piled high in the office near the Opéra.
“Femininity is in my DNA,” – Fifi Chachnil
After high school, Fifi packed her suitcase and headed west to America where she studied graphic arts, and then packed her bags again and headed east to Eygpt where she pursued her passion for singing and songwriting and recorded an album – in Eygptian. Perhaps the ultimate declaration of creative independence was when she selected the pseudonym Chachnil, which doesn’t have any particular meaning, but reflects her admiration and appreciation for the arts and culture of the Orient.
Fifi spent some time designing stage costumes before finally settling on lingerie as her form of artistic expression. “Femininity is in my DNA,” she confesses. And so is pink. “There are so many different shades and nuances.” From the palest to the most vibrant, pink is her signature color and embodies the softness and strength of femininity.
Whether it’s a ruffle, a ribbon, or a whisper of lace, Fifi Chachnil knows how to bring out the girl in all of us.
FIFI – THE DESIGNER
You live and work in Paris, the lingerie capital of the world… what is it about Paris that inspires fashion and creativity?
La Parisienne for style, but the look of wonder in the eyes of foreigners as they take in the beauty and culture of Paris is also an incredible sense of inspiration for me.
What is the distinguishing characteristic of your collection?
Humor, color, and luxurious fabrics. Fabrics must feel soft and delicate next to the skin.
What is the most important thing to consider when designing lingerie?
For the client to feel better wearing it. Not necessarily in the sense of complete comfort, but feel better as in more beautiful. Like the way a corset or waist cincher sculpts a more defined silhouette and makes one feel more feminine and more assured.
What is the biggest challenge in designing your own label?
To be on time. To coordinate design, manufacturing and delivery without sacrificing quality.
Do you listen to music when you work?
Yes, music is very important and each collection starts with a play list. All music inspires me. I think of life as a musical and I find inspiration in the lyrics and the notes.
What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?
Singing. In fact, I’m enjoying a bit of a renaissance with my music and I am performing again.
DREAMS & INSPIRATIONS
Where are you likely to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon?
Swimming off the coast of Normandy. The water’s cool and refreshing.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon?
Again, swimming off the coast of Normandy. The water’s warm and comforting.
Salé or sucré? (Salt or sugar?) Which do you prefer?
Salt. Oysters in particular. And I love a good salad.
Favorite restaurant in Paris?
I have two! A La Pomponnette next to the Moulin Rouge, and an Italian restaurant, Divinamente.
Anything from Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris. Their brioche prâliné is delicous!
Spring. A real spring offers so much change and hope.
THE BUSINESS OF LINGERIE
As well as designing lingerie, you have created a perfume. What inspired that project?
A good perfume interprets emotions and I wanted to create an essence of pure femininity. There is freshness in the top notes of citrus and coriander, sweetness in the floral scents of rose and lily of the valley, and insolence and sensuality in the bottom oriental notes. A real mixture to reflect the contradiction and harmony in all of us!
You have two stores in Paris and you are opening another one next week. Any other expansion projects?
It’s very exciting to open another boutique. You are all invited to visit when you come to Paris. It’s 34 rue de Grenelle. I’d like to open as many boutiques as possible.
Where are you sold in the States?
Faire Frou Frou in Studio City, California.
JUST FOR FUN…
Do you remember your first bra?
Of course! I was with my mother. It was a very special day. The bra was white with a little embroidery.
Do you wear mismatched lingerie now?
Yes! I love the surprise.
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68 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
75001 Paris, France
tel: +33 (0)1 42 21 19 93
231 Rue St Honoré
75001 Paris, France
tel: +33 (0)1 42 61 21 83
34, rue de Grenelle (Opening May 10th)
75007 Paris, France
48 Beauchamp Place
SW3 1NX London, England
tel: +44 (0) 20 7225 2226