Several years ago, when my children were still in primary school, another mother, a Frenchwoman named Gigi, brought some Allande pieces back from France and introduced this artisanal lingerie fine to a small circle of her friends. It was like nothing available in the stores - beautiful, exquisitely detailed, but also robust, comfortable and flattering. It is long lasting, and easy to care for (just pop it in the washing machine) and I especially liked the perky, youthful silhouette these pieces gave me.
Then Gigi had the temerity to move back to France and our source of pretty, exclusive lingerie fine dried up. By this point, nothing else would do, so we eeked out our pieces until we could stand it no more. I contacted Allande in France and begged for help. The only answer, it turned out, was to represent the company myself. And so Allande de San Francisco was born.
That autumn, I travelled to France for training on the latest collection. And what I found was that as well as producing beautiful products, Allande is an honorable company with a caring, ethical soul.
The company has a family feel: owners M. Lefebvre and his daughter, Catherine, take great care of their staff and plainly feel great responsibility for them. Since that first visit, M. Lefebvre has taken a well-deserved retirement, and Catherine and her husband have taken over the day-to-day running of the business. Unusually in today's world, a high percentage of the staff and vendeuses (Allande advisors) have been with the company for more than ten years.
The company is loyal to staff and suppliers alike. At one point, the Dentelle de Calais industry was facing seemingly insurmountable competition from abroad, especially China. The Lefebvres, unwilling to compromise quality or long-standing relationships, remained loyal to their supplier, Noyon. When the Lefebvres faced their own challenges, Noyon helped Allande by granting extra credit until things eased.
At that first collection défilé (fashion show) I attended, held in Calais where we all toured the Noyon factory, the president of Noyon, Olivier Noyon, was an honoured guest. You don't find this sort of loyalty and trust very often. Coming from exciting but cut-throat Silicon Valley, the integrity and loyalty of this family firm is a breath of humanising fresh air.