A Short History Of A Very Small Costume

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    Since it first came into existence (and that’s only since the advent of railway and seaside jaunts in the mid-1800’s), beachwear has always had a connection with the sea and sun, but not as we understand it now.

    Then, the purpose of a bathing suit was to protect its user from the sun and the outfits were not designed to swim in at all. However, the Roaring Twenties saw the introduction of a new material, namely jersey, with a new design, more comfort and, consequently, giving more freedom to the young sirens with their classic bob haircuts.

    Under the reign of Mademoiselle Chanel, the rules of elegance were drawn up in her studio. Then came 1948 and a revolution. A certain Louis Breart launched a brand new idea called the “bikini.”

    Since then, we have learned how to tan, swim and surf and a world without our versatile bikinis is now beyond our imagination. Let’s see how we’ll look this summer on the most beautiful beaches of our little blue planet.

    IN THE MOOD FOR SUMMER

    If you’re lucky, you soon get used to it. All those beautiful days in early spring were particularly conducive to premature fantasies of pristine beaches lazily washed by undulating tides and disturbed only by the graceful fall of huge petals. I might dream of countless shades of ultramarine 365 days of the year, but I don’t usually start looking seriously at bathing suits and flip flops until a few weeks after April. But this year, circumstances and meteorology – the most inexact science – decided differently. Thus, I was drawn to Princesse tam-tam. While Lournia Hiridjee is away somewhere, probably looking very much like what I secretly imagine, a horde of perfect-looking people in elegant bikinis suddenly invade my computer’s desktop. Her creator may be on holiday, bit it doesn’t prevent Princesse tam-tam from materializing. The brand is now 22 years old and more stunning than ever. Looking at her, I remember Josephine Baker and one or two questions come to mind.

    INTERVIEW

    Together Magazine: Princesse tam-tam is the title of a French comedy from the 1930’s, starring Josephine Baker. In the central scene, Princesse tam-tam joins the orchestra, removes her dress and starts to dance joyfully. So, manifesto or humorous allusion?

    Princesse tam-tam: “Humorous allusion, definitely. Princesse tam-tam doesn’t make any references. The title of the film just appealed to us. But it’s true that the brand values can also be found in Baker’s personality and in the storyline too: freedom, audacity, energy, vitality, the feminine touch and a taste for contrasts without provocation.”

    To begin with, underwear and beachwear is unusual. On top of that, in the 1980s, the general taste for women’s underwear and beachwear was for minimalist and monochrome outfits. But you decided to launch a line of mischievous colourful underwear, non-coordinated, a departure from the accepted taste of the time. Success was instantaneous. Was this choice guided by something in particular?

    “When the two sister-creators were still students, they opened a gift shop where they sold printed boxer shorts for men, which were very trendy, to young women! That’s what led to the idea, in a context of hidden, colourless, plain lingerie. A Parisien reminiscence ‘à la Française’ of colourful fragrances from a childhood spent among flowers in Madagascar. It is indeed unusual but that’s mainly where the DNA of the brand comes from: creativity. The expertise and technical mastery came later.”

    Princesse tam-tam is now a prestigious label that has been awarded prizes and recognition for its success. A big Japanese group now owns the company. What are your projects in this context?

    “Making the label international.”

    Your current line still has that distinctive touch of nice mischievousness blended with vitality, but it’s still practical. You cater for women on the move. How do you solve the “seductive and comfortable” equation?

    “the ‘looking good’ factor is fundamental in corsetry if we want to continue long-term. Comfort is equally important because it’s true to the label’s vision of being a woman: free, sparkling, an actress of her own life, mother, woman and friend all at once. It’s the label’s promise and we must keep that promise.”

    Creative designers often give titles tot heir work. If you had to give one to this year’s beachwear line, what would it be?

    “This year, we’ll be the most beautiful label to go swimming in.”

    For yourself, on the beach, do you prefer bikinis or one-piece bathing suits? And for town?

    “A sober and dark one-piece for Lournia, with meaningful detail. Chic and sober in the city with a cashmere pullover, men’s trousers and Repeto ballerinas.”

    The sun has already gone down and, while I look at the burning sky mirrored a thousand times in Brussels’ windows, my delightful apparition gives me an amiable smile and fades softly. Nobody will ever believe me, but I still have the hibiscus she removed from her hair and left on my desk while we were talking.