On a recent business trip to LA, I begged out of yet another client dinner on the shabby but reliable pretense of jet-lag, powdered my nose and hopped, bunny-fast into my so-not-glamorous rental for a happy pilgrimage to Faire Frou Frou. For those of you not familiar with Faire Frou Frou, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Earth. We all very much hope that your species mean no harm to us. We are truly sorry for all the “Reality TV” we have sent into your home planet’s atmosphere. We are not really like that, you know.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, about 20 miles north of LAX, 7 or so miles northwest of Beverly Hills pleasantly along Laurel Canyon, on a charming, pedestrian-friendly patch of Ventura Blvd. A toss of the keys to the gallant and handsome young Valet, a short walk past a brace of upmarket boutiques, with a heave on the door and a lyrical clang of chimes one steps into the perfumed, sunlit air of La BoutiqueFFF. (Choir of Angels sound goes here…)
I have been a big fan of FFF for ages now. My feelings for founders Alison and Gail Rubke waver always between simmering envy and happy, bubbly affection. I have long felt a kinship for this lovely Mother/Daughter team. You see, when I was first introduced to Faire Frou Frou 3 ½ years ago, we were both dealing with a flooded premise. Between the renovations and all the lingerie, it was clear to me that we shared nightmares and dreams both.
One thing that must be said in favor of a short flood is that you do get to start from scratch. Perhaps even realize a vision. The shop today is an absolute vision, a fulcrum of femininity, a realm of relaxation, a lap of pretty luxury. Everything I expected really. So lovely to have very high expectations met and exceeded even. So rare is that the case.
Muted tones, daylight dappled and softly lit, dashes of contemporary and classic, absolutely unique and yet the very prototype of what you would want your dream shop to look and feel like. I think I want to have some of my ashes scattered in one of FFF‘s darling fitting rooms. (Alison … I think there is a screenplay in here somewhere… surely you know someone in The Industry … you will get Producer credit and back end points on overseas distribution… OK?.. let me know…)
Upon entry, hellos, hugs and heartfelt nice-to-finally-meet you’s. Alison is just lovely, and stands out for attention even surrounded by so many gorgeous distractions. Easy, disarming and fun to be with. She combines an open, warm effervescence with a clearly cool intelligence about people, business and life that are hallmarks of success in all ventures. Thank goodness her venture is Lingerie.
And such Lingerie. From Andres Sarda to Zinke and practically everything worth mentioning in between. Amazing what can be comfortably merchandized in a cozy, intimate space. Amazing as well just how much having a robust on-line business allows a smart, independent, single-location merchant to stock a much broader line of inventory than would ever be imaginable pre-internet.
I think the benefits of the FFF business approach run the other way too. Online-only lingerie vendors get some customer feedback (returns, reviews, and etc.) but online feedback is kind of monochrome. Alison, on the other hand, gets all sorts of up-close, real-time consumer feedback. For example, she saw my eyes light up at the mere mention of Mimi Holiday, and could watch my face as I cautiously held and briefly imagined myself in the darling Lascivious Kitty cupless number (pictured with Alison above). Time with customers is invaluable. All the chit-chat on the shop floor and the instant verdicts rendered by real people in the fitting room must help you keep a firm hand on the business.
I suspect that this hands-on intimacy makes it possible for Alison and Gail to fall in love with and support young designers and brands that are just too small or unproven for big corporate retail types to make a risky bet on. And this is wonderful for all of us. Young designers bootstrapping their fragile business get precious income, premium shelf space and a proud endorsement from a leading retailer and taste-maker. Alison and Gail get a little differentiation from other vendors and reinforce the lovely exclusivity of FFF. And we consumers just go blind with choice. Goodness abounds.
As you would expect, Faire Frou Frou stocks a wonderful range of premium, niche and emerging European brands (all the usual lust-list suspects, Bordelle, Fleur of England, Maison Close, really too too many to fairly list here). And while FFF thinks globally, they happily shop locally.
Delighted to see home grown Guilty Pleasures faves like Between the Sheets and Itty Bitty Bra on the hangers and pretty table tops. Delighted to finally get my hands on pieces from Good Night Gilda too. The Romper (pictured with Guitar above) is clever, comfy and has come-hither written all over it. Romantic pieces with a vintage pin-up vibe built for the bustier woman. Her new SS ranges look gorgeous. Look up Good Night Gilda at the NYC Lingerie Designer Showcase later this month if you happen to be in the area.
So which blooms did I pick from the beautiful garden? I was super anxious to try pieces from Claudette (pix just above and below). Famous and fabulous friend Treacle picked Claudette as The Brand to watch for 2012. Always ahead of the curve, Alison is nicely stocked with Claudette and Treacle is correct: Claudette is irresistible. I came home with a gorgeous Sophia strapless bra/boy short set.
There are so many true notes sounded in Sophia. Touchable crêpe, prettily pleated at the cups and subtly color-blocked in mauve and tan. Lightweight and liquid on the skin, but seriously supported by very firm side stays at the wide bra wing and with a narrow but effective ribbon of silicon gripper at cup and band-bottom seams. Sophia’s removable straps (metal hooks and adjustment hardware) turn a specialty strapless number into a practical, durable everyday go-to bra. Pretty and eye-catching, clean and wearable under clingy things too. Priced nicely below the European premium lines, Claudette is a compelling story.
Hugs and so longs and off into the night, with the sexiest accessory in LA County, a Faire Frou Frou bag slung proudly on my shoulder, a great visit and so much better for me than that dinner I begged off on. I can’t wait to go back. Next time I will be sure to work up the nerve to try the Bordelle Angela Dress. And who knows what else?
If you have a favorite boutique (your own even) let me know. Always happy to skip a meal for a little visit you know 🙂