Good foundational pieces are the cornerstone of any sophisticated and versatile wardrobe. With lace accents, quality cotton and personal touches, Dessous helps develop just that. More than just underwear, Sophie Simmons’ Dessous line of underpinnings aims to serve as the base of every woman’s wardrobe. The collection uses high-quality Japanese cotton and custom embroideries from a Parisian lace mill to help customers slip into their femininity.
Coming back from a hiatus, the original Dessous collection has been reimagined with customer relationships as the focal point. Now based in Nashville, Sophie’s line launched with a number of local female entrepreneurs in promotional shoots. We talked to Sophie to find her inspirations and aspirations for the line.
What exactly are dessous, and how did you get started designing them?
So dessous is the French word for “underneath,” and it’s the French philosophy that you shouldn’t overwash or overwear your outerwear.
I first started in 2005 as wholesale. I just loved these pieces, and they were a big part of growing up in France for me. I’m currently reimagining my brand since it was such a major part of my heritage. These were the things I enjoyed and the things I bought growing up in France, so I decided to do it. This was after making bridesmaids’ dresses for seven years, so this was quite the breath of fresh air. Now I want to do direct sales to take out the middleman and give myself a lot more freedom. During those years between when I took a break and came back wanting to start up again, it was that really weird environment in 2008 where little family-owned luxury companies like mine really struggled. We had to cut back, and as much as I love doing Dessous, I also have a lot of ambition for other things like coats and dresses and so on. So the idea is that I’m re-launching with the most basic pieces of how I think we should dress, which is Dessous, and then move forward to other things.
The collection I’m putting out right now is more of a permanent collection – it’s not going to change a lot over the seasons because it’s so ubiquitous. It’s a fine cotton, and the embroideries are made in France on these little machines that are the last of their kind. They’re all cut and sewn in New York, and I ship and design everything down here [in Nashville].
Beyond your French heritage, what inspires these pieces?
The idea of soft femininity and the idea that femininity is not necessarily showing all your body parts. I feel that what’s suggested is more exciting and alluring than what’s actually seen. The pieces are really made in that spirit. I wanted to do something that contained zero plastics, and the imagery of it is a butterfly — the idea of transformation.
How do your designs help to connect you to your family’s past?
It’s hard to describe because it’s such a part of me. I’m connected to my mother and my grandmother through genetics, of course. But there are very few things we all have in common, and the idea of dessous was one of them. They were some of those items that were really cherished and passed down like a piece of jewelry. There was a lot of emotion behind those pieces because we could only buy them in Switzerland where our family would vacation. Whenever I put on these pieces I feel especially connected to my grandmother, who was a very elegant and extravagant woman with extraordinary style.
How did you choose the models for this line?
As I moved away from New York, I started to move away from the idea of models and fashion and the flatness that it felt like to me. A lot of the designers I was close with in New York were working with real people for their shoots. I decided to source mostly non-models, but it’s an unusual thing to find a woman who isn’t a model who is willing to be photographed in her underwear. So it was very cool to see different body types and show what comfort looks like on each of them. When I first started in sourcing models, they were mostly 16-year-old girls, but I really wanted to see women my age wearing stuff. Beauty is for all ages and all sizes. I’m not the first to come to the table with that idea, but it’s very important for us as women.
How do you hope people interact with your designs?
I’m so excited to bring this brand back because I was originally doing it through department stores, but this is such a personal garment that needs some explanation. I’m most excited about the ability to reconnect with my customers. The thing about Dessous is that when you look online it just looks like a t-shirt with really pretty embroidery. But what it is when you put it on is so much more than that. The thinness of the fabric and how it feels against your skin is something that should be shown in person.
I want to show women that they can layer their pieces and style their wardrobes to feel more feminine. Once Dessous becomes a part of your wardrobe you really can’t believe you didn’t have it. The lingerie world that I had seen was made up of this super-sexy “come hither” underwear, then the underwear that women barricade themselves in and deeply hope no one will see. It’s such an extreme thing, but there’s an in-between where you can still be very feminine and also feel protected. Dessous has a very specific voice in the industry and that feels good to me.
Where are these pieces available?
Right now I’m doing direct sales from my website, as well as some pop-ups in little areas. I’m keeping it really small and tight so I don’t get ahead of myself and to see how it feels doing this. I’m a mom, so this is a whole new world.
To learn more about the Dessous collection, visit Sophie’s website at sophiesimmons.com.
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