Store Visit: Lille

Valentines Day is right around the corner and we can’t think of any Portland lady that isn’t dreaming about slipping into something pretty from Lille! Owner Sarah Wizemann and store manager Courtney Roby-Sage have done an excellent job of perfectly curating a sexy and timeless lingerie boutique and excellent customer service. Tucked away on lower East Burnside, Lille has an amazing selection of hard to find brands like; Morgan Lane, Unforeseen Circumstances, Fortnight and Shakuhachi. Lille also carries great accessories to make any girl feel fancy including shoes, jewelry by Orly Genger by Jaclyn Mayer and AK Vintage, as well as apothecary items. We love shopping for our fancy skivvies at Lille! Stop by the boutique for something for your sweetheart or for yourself this Valentines!

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Questions were answered by Store Owner Sarah Wizemann

1. Tell us about Lille Boutique!  What made you decide to open a store front?

I opened Lille almost 7 years ago after moving to Portland from New York and not finding any lingerie stores that catered to my aesthetic sensibilities.  I was looking for some place tasteful, elegant, fashion-forward yet simultaneously vintage-inspired, with a good selection of natural fibers and non-padded options that offered a range of prices, and that just didn't exist here (or anywhere really), so I decided to fill that niche. The East Burnside neighborhood was still very up-and-coming at the time, and I loved the industrial feel of the area, which reminded me of New York.  Our space is a former dance studio in a landmark historic building that is over 100 years old.

2. What is the concept behind the store?

“Closer to who you are” is our tagline, and it epitomizes the concept of lingerie that real women want to wear (often made for women by women) for everyday, not only for special occasions. The store was created to provide an alternative to the cheeky, costumey, gimmicky options in the lingerie world that were largely synthetic and padded—7 years ago, that’s about all there was out there, though I’m pleased to say that the market has changed tremendously.  In the beginning, the most important thing was to provide lingerie made of natural fibers by independent designers, since no one else was doing that, but I’ve opened the scope of my search considerably over the years. The store has evolved beyond lingerie, hosiery and loungewear to include swimwear, shoes, jewelry and a small selection of ready-to-wear, all of which just has to adhere to one basic rule: I have to love it.  I am always encouraged by the many young female designers who are taking the lingerie industry by storm, creating garments that are truly made with modern women's needs in mind.  We support many independent designers who manufacture locally, employing ethical business practices and treading lightly on the environment.  I also really love when fine techniques like French Seams, Pintucks, Box Pleats, etc., find their way into the lingerie world.  I think my years as a dancer put me so in tune with fit, since leotards epitomize the form follows function rule--I'm very pragmatic in that sense and I tend to be hyper-critical of garments with superfluous design elements.

3. How did you come up with the name Lille?

The French city of Lille was famous for producing hand-made bobbin lace at the turn of the century (although Calais became the major production center for lace-making in France). I liked not only the association with this painstaking construction that is truly a labor of love (as the design and production of hand made lingerie is for so many of our labels), but also the sound of the name and the way it looked in print. It appears in many languages with different meanings and pronunciations, all of which are lovely, so we don’t mind terribly when people misconstrue the origin.

4. How do you find designers you showcase in your shop?

I travel extensively and do a ton of online research. I always check out new designers who toe the line between ready-to-wear and lingerie.  I don’t limit myself to attending only the “lingerie” trade shows, but prefer to see what designers are doing in every realm of fashion. This keeps our perspective relevant and makes our offerings different from any other lingerie store in the world.

5. What are your top 3 favorite things in the store?

Right now, I’m in love with the Lois de Fee collection by Morgan Lane-- classic silk flowers are embroidered onto a contrasting modern stretch mesh and then individually hand cut; the incredible one-shouldered, asymmetrical Elmar One Piece Bathing Suit by Araks, and the hand silk-screened Umbrellas of Cherbourg tights by French husband and wife team M & O (Les Queues de Sardines.)

6. What’s a funny shop story you have?

We once had a customer accidentally take home a shopping bag from another store that belonged to a different customer by mistake.  It was totally innocent and unintentional, and after some major head-scratching, we consulted our security cameras and discovered what happened, so we were able to contact the accidental thief (who was obviously mortified!) and return the items to their rightful owner. Fortunately, everyone was very sweet and understanding about the mix up.

7. Who are your style icons?

Audrey Hepburn, Tilda Swinton, Jean Seberg, Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louise Brooks, Francoise Hardy, Faye Dunaway, Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich

8. Tell us two truths and a lie.

I studied classical Japanese dance in Tokyo with a kabuki master.

I own two wild dogs from the Caribbean.

I don’t know how to whistle.

9. Where are your favorite places to shop?

Una, Alder & Co., Muji, Gimme Shoes, Le Bon Marché, Colette, Comme des Garcons, Ludivine, Totokaelo, Stella McCartney, Zara, any antique store or flea market