Chantal Lévesque is a woman who always looks towards the future. Smart and creative, for over 25 years she has dared to push boundaries and markets. After conquering the States, France, Spain and further east, such as Russia and Ukraine, Lévesque now has her eyes set on Asia.

Shan
Shan
Shan
Shan
Shan

Even though you can find her line in over 400 retail stores across the world, Chantal Lévesque remains humbled by her success. “Each time we open a new retail location, there’s a direct impact on the rest of the business— you’re never fully used to it. We have been at a store, Printemps à Paris, for a long time and this year was our best. To be number two in our market in Paris is amazing. It’s all very stimulating; fashion can never be taken for granted. Each collection is a new challenge. It’s not developing new markets that’s hard, but rather keeping the ones we already have.”

One of the strengths of this designer is how she has assembled a team of great expertise and knowledge. Control over the quality and creation is possible because, unlike many retailers, Shan bathing suits are made entirely in Quebec. “That will never change. We want to control how the pieces are made and play with new ways of making them. I think that it’s entirely possible to remain competitive and creative while keeping a local base.”

Her creativity, which was the fuel that got her noticed on international markets in the first place, is found equally in her constant search for the perfect prints. “Early on I went to Italian businesses that made silk and I asked them to help me print onto lycra. They are able to make the same print on silk as they can onto my swimsuits; they can find dyes that we can’t find elsewhere. Because of this, prints have become our strength. We are number one in Russia and Ukraine. These countries love our prints because they don’t want something that is too aggressive. They like colour, and they want an allure that is closer to clothing.”

Her incomparable sense of detail and expertise come from her mother who has come to the rescue of Shan since its beginning in 1985. “She designed wedding gowns at home. True haute couture— bustier, built-in corsage, honeycomb pattern, pearls and slanted cuts. She did everything. Since I was the oldest, I had to help her. Eventually I learned, but in the beginning I didn’t really like it. I always said that I would go into finance and not fashion. I saw my mother working late to finish dresses and in my young head I thought that it was a job that was so hard and keeping my mother from sleep. So, subconsciously I hated the job, but I had to learn it anyways.”

Despite the hardships of her apprentice, it soon developed into a passion. And the future of Shan is promising because her three sons seem to have also caught the bug. “More than I had thought. My son Shan is very attached to the business. He has always worked here. When he was a baby we would leave his crib on the cutting tables. Nathan, my second son, has been less involved on-site, but he’s the artist of the family, he paints, and he’s like me, he’ll end up enwrapped by this business. My third son is more into drama and theatre, but I think that he will also work here someday too. Of course, I would definitely like that… .”

— Stéphane Le Duc

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Stéphane Le Duc
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