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Old-school lingerie stores offer foundation garments that support and conceal, and elegant-looking pajamas and camisoles.
Liliana Mann has been running stores based on this approach for 20 years — her mini-chain Linea Intima has built a loyal following. She’s now ready for something new. She wants to appeal to younger buyers and get them interested in her world. “I want them to love lingerie,” says Mann, 63.
So her new outing, Rêve Rouge at Bayview Village, offers intimate wear that’s fun, colourful, celebrates all shapes and often comes with a story. “It’s a totally different style of store,” she says.
You can compare: the new store is just steps away from one of the locations of Linea Intima (there are four more of the latter around the city). While Linea is classy and comfortable, with plush and very private change rooms, Rêve is more pared down, with dramatic red popping against stark white and a slick, polished concrete floor.
On offer are brands such as the brassy yoga line Alo, fashion-forward Dutch bra brand Marlies Dekkers, and hot Canadian lingerie designer Mary Young. Argentina’s socially conscious Juana de Arco stands out: the line promises that each item it makes is one-of-a-kind.
The change rooms look like they’d suit a Queen West boutique. Cubicles are decorated uniquely: one has white walls stenciled with red lips. There’s the slogan “for the love of me” on the wall.
Mann studied architecture in her native Romania, mainly to please her mother. “I always loved fashion,” recalls Mann, who never enjoyed her first career. She married at age 17, and in 1980 moved with husband Imi and their two sons to Canada. “There was no fabric,” she says of the country under Communist rule. (There was no money, either.)
Imi found work in his profession — he’s a textile engineer — but she could not find a good job in architecture. So she founded a lingerie line called Romantic Night. She designed the clothes, had them manufactured in Canada, and did well.
For close to 20 years, Man ran that business, but found the profit margins were too slim. In 1997, she opened a lingerie store in Etobicoke. Her accountant — who’s still with her, along with most of her office staff — immediately approved.
So Linea Intima grew across the city. Imi later joined the business, too.
All was well. Until: “Nine years ago I had a dream,” says Mann, and she means that literally. She dreamed one night of a bright store with hip, international brands for younger buyers.
Mann tested a section of her Bayview Village store, bringing in new lines, pumping up the colour and using younger salespeople. “It didn’t work,” she recalls. Older clients didn’t appreciate a bra fitting by younger staff, for instance.
For the next few years, she stewed on her concept and researched brands. “I’m a perfectionist,” she admits. Bayview Village liked her new concept and offered her a space.
She named the store after her dream and the colour red, which denotes confidence. She insisted that the store open on her birthday, June 21, and it did. She brought in young sales staff from a range of cultural backgrounds, and the approach seems to be working.
Her colleagues in the lingerie industry are telling her this is the way of the future. Meanwhile, Mann and her husband have found that running this store has got them excited in a new way about doing business, and has even triggered a more active lifestyle.
“It’s giving us such energy,” she says.