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The Passion Behind Chantelle

The Design Virtuoso Behind Chantelle

An Interview with Claire Terentiev

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like,” Steve Jobs once declared. “Design is how it works.” Jobs might as well have been talking about lingerie, because the importance of how lingerie looks and feels is matched only by the importance of how it works. Supporting women of all shapes and sizes in comfort with a high level of a design integrity is no small task. Few people know this better than Claire Terentiev.

Claire TerentievClaire Terentiev has been the head designer at Chantelle since 1990. For over two decades, she's been designing and meticulously crafting lingerie with both superb French chic and American appeal. Her passion for design began at a young age, when she was growing up in her father’s furniture enterprise. “I was exposed to every sort of artisan and fascinated by the artistic aspect of working with wood, fabric, and making designs,” says Claire of her early years. “I’d design and sew clothes for my dolls with swatches of upholstery fabric. They were pretty awful,” she adds with a laugh, “but I loved it.” Her mother, who was adept at making handcrafted textiles, was also a guiding light in her life.

We recently spoke with Claire to find out more about her inspirations and incredible hands-on experience at Chantelle.

Lingerie Française
: Apparently you always knew, even at a young age, that you wanted to work in fashion.

Claire Terentiev: Oh yes. Absolutely. It was very clear from the get-go. I definitely came into fashion through the portal of fabrics and textiles, and at a very young age I read every fashion magazine that I could get my hands on. Once I finished my studies, I spent a few years in prêt-à-porter before turning to the world of lingerie. At first I was drawn by the fabric: lace, embroidery – I loved that whole universe, including noble fabrics like silk and lace that aren’t used in prêt-à-porter – but I was also drawn to the detailed precision and technical aspect of the business, because lingerie has an unquestionable precision to it. I’d worked on patterns for dresses, skirts, pants – everything! – but I’d never worked specifically on lingerie because at the time there wasn’t a specific training for that back then.

When I started at Chantelle, I really learned the creative art and technical craft of product development. I was very lucky in my professional career because I had the best training you could possibly hope for.

Stockman in Claire's officeLF: During your two decades at Chantelle, what innovations in the industry have struck you the most?

CT: There have been so many changes, but some things really stand out: Comfort and various advances in lightness, support, softness, and aesthetics. Everything, from fabrics to the overall structure of lingerie has become more comfortable and adapted to the morphology of women. Even elastic, which in the beginning was very thick and not very refined, has become softer and more refined through materials like microfibers. And the shape of lingerie has evolved, whether we’re talking about bras or swimwear or loungewear.

Another thing that’s evolved, thanks in large part to innovations at Chantelle and our truly international scope, are products like spacers that highlight the silhouette while still being invisible, comfortable, soft, and breathable. Shapewear is another big innovation; back in the day it wasn’t at all comfortable, but textile innovations have changed all that. Finally, another really big change in the world of lingerie is the act of showing or revealing your lingerie. Lingerie can be seen. In the past, you didn’t show your bra strap. Now it’s become a fashion statement.

LF: Speaking of fashion, what inspires you when you’re thinking about designing a new collection?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?CT: I’m inspired by so many things in the culture at large. And when I travel, I observe and look at everything, from fashion and décor to the environment and people, of course. Everything is connected. When I went to California it was very interesting to see all the different lifestyle brands there on the West Coast - everything that influences American women when they jog, do sports, and so forth.  You could really feel the impact of the sports trend in the culture: There were women in sports apparel-type leggings everyone on the streets, which is something you never see in Paris. In fact, I’ll never forget seeing women on Rodeo Drive wearing yoga clothes; you’d never see that on the rue St. Honoré!

However, I’m convinced that this will eventually come to Paris, like women in New York who walk to work in their tennis shoes and change into high heels at work. On the surface it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with lingerie but, in fact, these are trends are all related: What we see in prêt-à-porter, lingerie and the world of sports are connected. Again, everything is connected.

LF: Chantelle is one of the most recognized French lingerie brands in the States. To what do you attribute your great success here?

CT: It’s the result of many things, but it all involves the work of teams in both France and the U.S. There is a lot of on-going collaboration that goes into understanding what the consumer wants. We really listen to the many little details that are important to American women that might not be as critical for women in France.

We also have close relationships with people working in retail; we communicate with them and do a lot of fittings. We listen to salespeople and consumers.

We also have a very French reputation that represents French chic couture. That helps because the capital of fashion is still Paris. So the French chic aspect of Chantelle is important – but it is French chic that still takes into account the American consumer and responds and adapts to her needs with innovative new products and fabrics, with more breathability, greater comfort and bigger cup sizes, etc. All of this creates a new super French chic. And, of course, we have a name that works well in the States because it has a very French ring to it: Chantelle. That sounds very French to the American ear!
October 07, 2016 
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