You may have seen the new dresses and baby wear we've added to Parlez-Vous Provence. They are made in Draguinan in the south of France. Arlette Forstier, the owner of l'Ensoleillade ("sunbeam" or "lighting up"), very kindly agreed to be interviewed by me, as well as share an article from Nice Matin. We'd like to tell you a little bit about her background and the design sense that is so apparent in her beautiful creations. Pardon in advance for any clumsy translation.
In Draguignan, Arlette Forestier creates household linens and apparel, 100% "made in France," sold in boutiques in Provence as well as abroad. She is a little bit of woman, who never stops, not even for catastrophes. Since she created l'Ensoleillade in 1997, she has survived a fire in April 2006 and floods in June 2010. Each time, she lost everything, and each time, she rebounded.
Specializing in the manufacture of table and kitchen accessories (napkins, towels, runners, fabric baskets) and in apparel (dresses and skirts for little girls, skirts for women), she uses fabric printed in the eastern region of France, to her specifications, or fabrics like jacquard. She favors the motifs of Provence, from the classic to the modern, and has exclusive rights to certain designs, like those in her Estérel range.
In the beginning, says Arlette, apparel represented about 90% of her production, and table accessories about 10%. Now, it's the inverse - 90% table accessories, 10% apparel. Her company invests about 300,000 euros each year in fabrics. They are all cut and sewn by her "very good team" in her atelier in Draguinan, where foreign clients come to verify everything is, indeed, "made in France." About 30% of her sales are for export, and the rest are sold domestically, some in her own boutiques in Nice.
When we asked Arlette, and her daughter Estelle, whether they themselves designed the beautiful, classic clothes, they told us: "Yes. For our exclusive dress prints, we look for motifs and colors with the help of a design agency (n.b. - these are the powers-that-be behind fashion trends) or a designer works in collaboration with us in creating the motif. Because of this, our dresses and designs are exclusive to l'Ensoleillade." So these beautiful little dresses won't be found just anywhere - not even on 5th Avenue! But we have them - for the time being.