Interview: Kate Kemp-Griffin – Part one
Eighteen years ago Kate Kemp-Griffin moved from Toronto to Paris to learn French and start her own lingerie business. Today she runs Paris Lingerie Tours, and is not only an expert on lacy French underthings, but also the co-founder of Pink Bra Bazaar.
Kate took a few minutes to speak with MaVieFrançaise® about her passion for lingerie, how she got started and the importance of breast health.
Kate, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Practical, curious, and would love to say spontaneous… but I can’t!
What are your personal passions outside of lingerie?
Writing, and the art of writing.
For you, what is the essence of the quintessential French undergarment?
The essence of French lingerie is to inspire and to evoke strong emotions and sensations.
How did you get into the lingerie industry in France? Has it always been a passion of yours?
I came to France wearing faded ‘Jockey For Her’ with shredded elastic that floated around like tentacles on a jellyfish. I wasn’t a savvy lingerie-wearer, nor did I speak French very well. Added to my sartorial and language difficulties was the fact that I didn’t have working papers. I started a lingerie company as a way to gain legal working status and as an alternative to taking French classes. My passion for lingerie grew from working in the industry and fortunately my lingerie habits changed!
Why do you think French lingerie conjures up such a specific idea of sophistication and mystery?
I think the ‘mystery’ is really more about confusion. Lingerie reveals a great deal about our personality, yet it doesn’t always reflect how we want to see ourselves. It’s hard for women to reconcile the difference – even in English! Add the word ‘French’ and the whole thing becomes a tangled mess of silk and lace lost in translation.
The idea of sophistication comes from the attention to design, detail and the luxurious fabrics used to make French lingerie. The French value quality and appreciate the savoir-faire behind any creation.
How would you explain the difference in perspective on underwear between French women and, say, North American women?
French women are at ease with their sexuality and lingerie is simply a form of expression of their femininity and sensuality. North American women need to have a reason, or give themselves permission to wear lingerie, saying, “I’m saving it for a special occasion,” or “it’s date-night”. For the French, every day is a special occasion.
What inspired you to establish Pink Bra Bazaar? Can you tell us a bit about this charity?
I’d love to and thank you for asking! I was diagnosed several years ago with breast cancer, which was detected early because of a routine mammogram. As I listened and spoke with other women undergoing treatment, it became clear that the lingerie industry had a leadership role to play in educating and supporting lifelong breast health. Together with co-founder Marie-Dominique Tabard, we started Pink Bra Bazaar to create a platform within the industry to promote breast health education and support women diagnosed with breast cancer.
We work with designers, manufacturers, retailers, and media to create programs and initiatives to encourage women to play an active role in their own breast health.
The annual Pink Bra Bazaar ‘lancer du soutien gorge’ is a great way to promote breast health awareness! How did you come up with such a unique idea?
We wanted to create a joyous moment bringing together men, women and children of all ages to promote breast health awareness, and to support those women undergoing treatment, or living with breast cancer.
Pink Bra Spring is an annual event held in March on the first Sunday of Spring on the Esplanade du Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower in the background. We all have forgotten or gently-used bras at the bottom of our lingerie drawer, so it’s easy to participate!
We are working to make Pink Bra Spring a global event with bras being tossed around the world!
Merci, Kate, for taking the time to speak with us at MaVieFrançaise®! It was great to learn more about you and the Pink Bra Bazaar.
Read our recent article on the Pink Bra Spring here, and keep an eye out for part two of our interview with Kate.Image credits:
1. Courtesy Kate Kemp-Griffin
2. Courtesy Kate Kemp-Griffin
3. Courtesy Simone Pérèle
4. Courtesy Les Jupons de Tess
5. Courtesy Simone Pérèle