Imagine a lingerie store which cares not only about how you look, but also with how you feel. No scratchy fabrics, no suffocating straps. Now imagine intricately crafted pieces, centered around design and inspired by the beauty of ballet dancers. Lille Boutique, aims and successfully succeeds at achieving both of these ideals. As owner Sarah Wizemann puts it, this is not your mother’s lingerie store.
E+E: How does Lille Boutique stand out from every other lingerie shop out there?
Lille Boutique: Everything we do is focused on the design, which is unusual for a lingerie store to be fashion forward. We are the alternative shop to your mother’s conventional lingerie store or what the mall offers. We are here for the modern woman to find something that is comfortable and sexy. No matter what you define as sexy.
Another large focus for us is sustainability. We want to know where things are coming from. I know all of the designers personally. I sit down with them, make sure their production is up to our ethical standards, talk to them about their design process. They show me their mood boards, and sometimes I even see their apartment. These are real people trying to produce in the United States and make a bold statement with their lines. It’s very difficult but it’s just as rewarding. I believe all of this background work comes through in our store and the products we sell.
E+E: Who are some of your heroes in the lingerie industry?
LB: I love the swimwear designer Malia Mills and she has been around since the ‘90s. She is incredible. She bases all of her designs on the real women who work in her showroom and on her line. She’s not inviting a new need that doesn’t exist. For example, she makes bikini tops that are as small as a 30’ inch band for those who are smaller up top or cup sizes all the way up to an E. Not everyone is a typical small top, small bottom. Nor should they be.
E+E: How did you fall into this line of work?
LB: When I was growing up, my mom was a seamstress, costume designer and a tailor. I was always around design and creation. I was a ballet dancer and my mom would make all of our outfits for the company. It’s amazing what goes into construction, especially for dancers because it has to look beautiful from the last seat in the house. There are many considerations for a leotard which translates to the construction of a corset or bra.
I moved to Portland from New York City six years ago, and I realized there wasn’t a lingerie store that was addressing the needs of modern women in this City. They were focused a little too much on older women trying to lure their men back into the bedroom, which isn’t necessarily what is comfortable or sexy for the woman. Or the stores would be wildly expensive. There wasn’t anything in the middle and women were not having a say in what they could wear under their clothes.
The brands I purchased and loved in New York were nowhere to be found in Portland. Many of the companies’ stock that was manufactured and handmade in New York I started bringing here and they sold rapidly. I decided to open up the store and we just celebrated our five year anniversary. It’s a retail milestone. Especially in this economy.
E+E: Talk more about the two stores Lille Boutique and Lille Trousseau.
LB: Lille Boutique is a little off the beaten footpath on East Burnside. We love the fact that we are a destination spot and have a huge built-in space. Large dressing rooms and a comfortable sitting area was very important in the location of the store. We want people to be comfortable here. I offer them tea, and there are plenty of coffee table books and magazines for people to peek at. I want them to take their time, find something special and be excited to wear it. Even if that means trying on a hundred bras! We are so focused on service. We are dealing with women’s bodies and they should be serviced properly.
Lille Trousseau houses a great deal of our bridal line. Because of its location in Southwest, it has a bit more foot traffic and walk-in customers. We still focus on servicing our clients. That’s a theme that runs through both stores.
Only Hearts Trunk Show
Exclusive appearance by designer Kaya Stuart
Friday, July 20th 6-9pm
Saturday, July 21st 12-6pm
1007 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97214
1124 SW Alder
Portland, OR 97205
Photos by Lisa Warninger