Swimsuits: A ray of winter sunshine
Finding a swimsuit out of season can be tricky – unless you've been introduced to the chic styles and year-round luxury of French swimwear brand Eres, says Rebecca Gonsalves.
It's undeniable that a swimwear brand choosing the chilly month of October to open its first UK standalone store is making something of a contrarian move, freak heatwaves aside.
But when you delve into the history of Eres – the French brand whose flagship London boutique will open its doors this week – it becomes apparent that going against the grain is in its DNA.
Established more than 40 years ago by Irène Leroux, the story of Eres is one of a revolution in swimwear design and retail. In 1968 Leroux took over her parents' boutique and made the bold decision to sell swimsuits throughout the year, rather than adhering to the industry tradition of making hay while the sun shines. This move cleverly aligned the boutique with couture houses, whose cruise collections catered for clients wealthy enough to chase the sun in a time when international travel was truly the preserve of jetsetters.
Turning the traditions of the industry on their head for a second time, Leroux then began to sell the tops and bottoms of her swimwear styles separately, giving her customers the freedom to suit themselves.
Inspired by sleek lines, Leroux strived to liberate her swimsuits from the old-fashioned constraints of padding and boning, choosing to flatter and enhance – rather than falsify and alter – natural curves and contours.
This became a cornerstone of the Eres philosophy: "The Art of the Body".
The distinctly understated styles showcased all those years ago remain to this day, made contemporary through fabric and pigment innovation and extremely focused technical details, ensuring that the designs fit like a second skin – one that is immune to puckering and wrinkles, to boot.
In 1996, Eres became part of the Chanel group. This new backing led to the company branching out into lingerie two years later and once again defying the rules of the time. Ignoring the brash and blatant sexuality of the Wonderbra, somewhat de rigueur in the dying embers of the last millennium, Eres's sleek and minimalist triangle bra became its signature style. Focusing again on the needs of a woman, the clever use of innovative materials provided comfort, freedom and support along with style. The use of supple, featherweight tulle and fine Lumière jersey married modern textiles with traditional craftsmanship.
Since her appointment in 2007, artistic director Valerie Delafosse, who trained under Azzedine Alaïa, has developed beachwear along with homewear and accessories to extend the reach of the brand, while remaining true to the founding ideals. As well as launching the flagship UK store on Wednesday, the brand has just seen its e-commerce website go live. "The brand isn't well known in the UK yet," Delafosse tells me from her office in Paris. "It seems like the English clientele have been waiting for this new philosophy of pure body art – graphic and luxurious – in lingerie and swimwear." Eres has long strived to set – rather than follow – trends and Delafosse treads a very personal path in her pursuit of inspiration. "I get inspired by my readings, my trips, contemporary art, photos, old fashion magazines, exhibitions and contemporary dance shows," says Delafosse. She emphasises: "What talks to me most is what comes out of contemporary art: the new fabrics, translucent colours and graphic forms in art work and sculpture."
The lasting quality of the pieces remains important to the brand, combining the latest innovations, Delafosse talks of "laminated foam inspired by wetsuits that we apply on some parts of the body for a modern and technical feel", as well as the use of laser cutting which enables seam-free construction.
Investing in pieces that boost your body confidence is an undeniably smart approach to the daunting tasks of dressing for the beach or the bedroom.