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BEHIND THE SEAMS: Greg Gimble of Va Bien

(Photo courtesy of Va Bien instagram)

If there’s one thing men don’t understand, it’s buying lingerie for their woman. Going to Victoria’s Secret and getting some cheap “5 for $20” underwear isn't going to cut it. Luckily for you, we sat down with lingerie expert and Vice President of Va Bien, Greg Gimble, to tell us about the inner workings of lingerie that even our #JockOfAllTrades can understand. Being in the business since the day he was born (his mother Marianne created the company in 1979), Gimble tell us all what he's doing to put a personal stamp on the company and which piece of lingerie he finds sexiest on a woman.

Labeling Men: Hi, Greg.

Greg Gimble: Hi. Just wanted to let you know, I really love the site!

Labeling Men: Thank you so much. Tell us about the beginnings of the brand.

Greg Gimble: My parents launched the brand in New York back in 1979, and back then my mom attended lots of social events and she was frustrated that the underpinnings at the time showed through the tops that she liked to wear. She wore a lot of "St. John," so with help from my grandmother from France, where my mother is originally from, she came up with a body suit with shaping panels hidden on the inside and that was totally smooth on the outside. That piece launched the line and back then when every city had its own regional department store, before everything was consolidated into a few big chains. My father had it in each one [in NYC] and it expanded from there to address other needs such as strapless bras, low back, all those tricky silhouettes, pieces for the boudoir and bridal became a part of the business.

Labeling Men: When and how did you get involved?

Greg Gimble: I've been surrounded by the business since I can remember. It was launched just a few years before I was born, so I grew up in the throws of its development. As a kid, I spent most of my time out of school at my parents’ office in their studio and showroom. That is where I did my homework while the fit model and salespeople would come in and out. It was a couple of years after I finished college that I found my way back into the business and it felt like I was there all along.

Labeling Men: How do you put your own personal spin on your parents’ company?

Greg Gimble: A few years ago I really noticed a bunch of beautiful Ready-To-Wear collections with lingerie elements built into them, lots of bustiers built into them, bra tops, and then lots of sheer paneling in general, lace and embroideries. My thought then was, "Why can't a lingerie brand go in the other direction too?” That is where the Atelier Collection came from. It begins with the basic silhouettes that we are known for, our bustiers, and we designed them with fabrics and techniques typically reserved for Ready-To-Wear. For example, the first season we made bustiers with tool and laser cut flowers appliqued onto them. Pieces tend to become a bit expensive, but they are special and pretty cool to style into a wardrobe as separates.

Labeling Men: You're paying for what you get!

Greg Gimble: Exactly.

Labeling Men: Is that how you stand out from other companies, say Victoria’s Secret? Your stuff is more well made?

Greg Gimble: Absolutely. What sets us apart the most is our ability to pull off the most challenging silhouettes with grace and comfort, to make a strapless bra that doesn’t slide down or a low-back bra that really fits properly and gives great support. Those are really significant challenges to pull off. The Ateliers group is extremely special and it’s really about our commitment to design something new and different and expressive, something that is beyond just being beautiful, something unique.

Labeling Men: What kind of woman buys your lingerie?

Greg Gimble: Well for the basics line, she's seeking to look perfect in her dress for an upcoming event while also wearing something gorgeous at the same time. She wants something that can transition seamlessly from the event to bedroom. For the Atelier group, it’s really somebody who is looking to make an expression and to own something that is very unique and special.

Labeling Men: For each collection, tell me one piece that every woman should buy?

Greg Gimble: Well, I would say for sure one of the strapless bras; they are very handy. Then I'd say with the Atelier Collection it’s really a matter of personal preference, because as I mentioned the designs are very expressive and certain seasons are going to call to certain women more than others. I personally love the last season that we did with the three-tone geometric embroidery mirrored across corsetry patterns with the chintz lace applied to the embroidery. The pieces are very striking and have a mix of an art deco and a futuresque look to them. I really think they are stunning. They are a little pricey but if it fits in their budget I would definitely say one of those pieces from the collection are some of my favorites.

Labeling Men: Do you think that by wearing your pieces it makes a difference in the bedroom?

Greg Gimble: I would say if they make a woman confident and beautiful then the answer is yes! In my view, everything else falls from that. It’s more about embracing femininity than seduction; I think seduction will follow suit.

Labeling Men: What is your favorite piece of lingerie on a woman?

Greg Gimble: Well…Similar to the last question, I think it’s really about what she feels beautiful in. I think at its core, lingerie should be about embracing femininity and invoking seduction. In terms of different pieces, it depends on the woman. Different silhouettes fit certain woman best...and I completely dodged the question!

Labeling Men: [laughs]

Greg Gimble: In terms of the aesthetic of the pieces themselves, I'm partial to a bustier. I think it’s feminine and also versatile in terms of design. It can be designed to be delicate and sweet with a lightweight laced construction, or it can be dark and risqué with a black satin. I personally find that the paneling of a bustier to be a very interesting canvas.

Labeling Men: When you go on dates, how do women react when you tell them that you're part of a lingerie company?

Greg Gimble: Pretty much as you'd expect! It’s typically greeted with surprise and certainly a fun conversation piece. I've been around lingerie so long - since I was born - so I feel pretty at ease talking about it with anybody who wishes to.

Lableing Men: Have you gotten any negative comments on it?

Greg Gimble: I have never gotten a negative comment on it before. I think it’s because I have the ability and am willing to talk about it, so whoever I'm speaking to is at ease having that conversation with me.

Labeling Men: We expected you to say they'd be freaked out!

Greg Gimble: Thankfully, no…maybe one day!

Labeling Men: Tell us a little about your personal style.

Greg Gimble: I would say more importantly, my style is to treat others well and say what I'm going to do, that is important to me. But in terms of fashion, I would say it’s a mix of uptown and downtown. I grew up uptown so I'm a little buttoned-up, and half my family is French and has a strong respect for classical design, but at the same time, I'm always drawn to what’s fresh and what is new.

Labeling Men: Do you every feel like you would make lingerie for men at any point?

Greg Gimble: Well there is certainly a market for it and we definitely receive inquiries for men. One category we were playing around with a few years ago was shapewear for men; it’s something that Spanx went after and I believe are still doing. We actually made some prototypes and fit tested them and it was nice actually to be able to try on our own things, but we didn't end up bringing it to market.

Labeling Men: Last but certainly not least, what can we expect from the company and yourself in the future?

Greg Gimble: I think an expansion of the Atelier Collection. What I would like to do is expand the silhouettes that we make in the group. Currently, it’s a corsetry focus and focused on those kind of pieces, and I would like to do some more deconstructed lingerie silhouettes, maybe some camisoles slips, those kind of more traditional lingerie pieces made with those really interested textiles that we have developed. I'd like to do more silhouettes with those amazing fabrics that we are doing for the collection. If for no other reason than because the fabrics really are amazing and deserve to be expanded upon more within the group. Currently Va Bien's distribution is in retailers but I feel like the Atelier Collection can help us expand into Ready-To-Wear retailers, especially with the Fall-Winter 2015 season that we are working on. It’s really going to take the Ready-To-Wear crossover to a new level with using fabrics like tweed in our corsetry design and really looking to expand into that.

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Interview by Nisim Frank

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