CADOLLE is first and foremost the story of a family.
This story started at the end of the 19th century, during the period that followed the Second Empire in France and is often known as " La Belle Epoque" or " The Beautiful Era".
Paris led the way in fashion in all the courts of Europe. The full crinolines and French taffetas were all the rage, from the salons of Saint Petersburg to the most exclusive balls in far off Lousiana.
It was the period of great scientific discoveries and the Industrial Revolution. It was also the time of a new wave of emigration from Europe to the far off New World.

In 1889 Herminie CADOLLE (first generation) made a choice. She was a woman of action and the thought of adventure did not frighten her. Argentina was one of the new nations of rapidly expanding South America. She decided to pack her bags and leave for Buenos Aires where she opened a lingerie boutique.
Herminie was not only a woman of action but also a businesswoman, exceptionally rare at that time. Very quickly her boutique became the meeting place for the most fashionable women ofthe new capital. Herminie made many trips backwards and forwards to France and brought back French seamstresses to train the local workers. Her business grew rapidly. She extended her premises and opened new boutiques.
An energetic and enterprising woman, she never missed one of the Great Universal Exhibitions, which were regularly held throughout the world.

It was during the Exhibition of 1889 (for which the Eiffel Tower was built) that she showed her new invention.Herminie had had a simply ingenious idea. For women's comfort she had cut in two the traditional corset. She had invented the first BRA which she patented and initially called the "corselet gorge".

Herminie was also the first to encourage the spinners of Troyes to incorporate rubber into the threads of the fabric. The time was right, with the development of cultivated rubber trees. The elastic thread (at the time called the "rubberthread") would take over from whalebones and lacing.
The irony of the story is that her greatgreat granddaughter Poupie CADOLLE would instigate the return to fashion of these components.

Herminie found the time between trips to open a boutique in Paris at 24 Rue de la chaussee d'Antin. It was left under the direction of her daughter-in-law Marie, who would take over for the second generation.

Herminie worked hard to develop her business. Two hundred people were employed in the Parisian workshops to manufacture and prepare her designs which were already being exported to the far corners of the earth. Herminie had seen the success of a certain sales method that was already in use in the U.S.A. - sale by mail order (see photo). It was demonstrated to the customer how to take their measurements, and how to place an order for what we would now call "demi-mesure" - these clothes were adapted to fit the customer's measurements. This method proved successful, there was no other company in the market offering products that could rival them, and the awards reflected this success : medals from Saint-Petersburg in 1904, Chicago in 1906, Saint-Louis in 19O7, Paris in 1910 etc...

In 1914 world war 1 commenced. Accompanying her three sons who where going to enlist in the french army, she returned to Paris.
Herminie would never return to Argentina
This first world wide conflict would radically change the trade of the corset maker.
The men had gone to the war, and women were called upon to work in the factories; the corset was out, and the bra was the essential undergarment,mass-produced for the manual workers.
Marie Cadolle understood the importance of a retail boutique to sell this type of garment.The area of the Chaussée d'Antin in Paris was the centre of fashion at the end of the 19th century . It was there that the Galeries Lafayette was established and ,logically,it was there that Herminie set up her first boutique.
During the decade 1910-1920, the Madeleine-Concorde district became the new fashion "capital".
Marie, along with her daughter-in-law Marguerite, decided to leave therefore the boutique at Chaussée d'Antin, in favour of an initially rented boutique on the rue Cambon, on the corner of rue St-Honoré, and just a few paces from the premises of Coco Chanel who had also just moved into the area.

A few years later, Marguerite bought her boutique, then she bought the whole building, then she bought the neighbouring building...

She installed her craftswomen and mechanics in the neighbouring rue du Monthabor. She opened a factory for the production of perfumes in the rue des Lyanes.

So, what had happened???

The First World War had, amongst its many other consequences, irreversibly changed the image of the female form.

Until that time, women's clothes served only one purpose - to be beautiful by accentuating the female form. After the war, clothing took on the role of CREATING the female form.

Haute Couture was born...

Marguerite saw her opportunity and seized it - she quickly assessed the advantages of the situation. Up until this point, the seamstress had built the dress for the woman who would wear it, now it would be the woman who would wear a dress that had been designed to represent a certain style.

Since dresses would no longer be shaped to fit the women, Marguerite CADOLLE decided that she would shape the body of the women to fit the dress ; she invented and put into production elasticated materials for which purpose she opened an entire factory.

Low cut necklines, dresses of extreme styles ; through her creations, Marguerite would build a union between underwear and outerwear.

She had already created the "flattening bra" for Coco Chanel. She created bras in fine silk which were embroidered entirely by hand for the Duchess of Windsor and many others.

Things had already come a long way since the ribbon and strap bras that Herminie made for the famous spy Mata Hari.

In the meantime, Marguerite made a business decision that made a radical difference to both her company and the other Parisian boutiques : Whilst almost every other designer was launching ready-to-wear collections in order to extend their Haute-Couture collections, Marguerite and her daughter Alice chose to create their first ready-to-wear lines under names other than CADOLLE, names such as MAGICIA and BIEN ETRE ...

These lines were developed independantly, on an industrial scale, and specialised in feminine underwear that was to be mass distributed.

But, the name CADOLLE remained, much to the pleasure of its regular clients, synonymous with rare luxury.

Alice CADOLLE would maintain this reputation as of 1933. The reputation of the company amongst the most elegant women in the world would know no bounds.

Many awards celebrate the loyalty of the company to its high standards. Alice won the most prestigious award of fashion in the United States in 1949, just two years after Christian DIOR, the Neiman Marcus Award.

Today more then ever, entering CADOLLE is like entering a World apart.
Poupie CADOLLE, the fifth generation, presides over the future of the company..

Faithful to the principles of the company, Poupie sees each of her clients herself. It is not unheard of to have to wait a while for an appointment, but like her mother and grandmother before her, she continues to be much-loved by her clients.

These days, crowned heads have been replaced little by little by wives of businessmen . The princesses of the Middle-East have replaced the Russian Archduchesses. Film stars have replaced the stars of the opera.

The porter who once waited on the pavement to open the door to number 14 has now disappeared, such is progress. But you will still only rarely see a customer leave with a package in their hands, these will be delivered to their home as it is in all the best stores.

There is nothing to stop you entering the boutique on the ground floor. Very little has changed in the last thirty years. The mahogany panels from the restaurant VOISIN (*), witnesses to the history of this building, still remain as part of the windows.
The famous tiny lift which served the appartments of La Castiglione (*) is now classed as an historic monument, although it has had to be brought up to modern standards of safety.


(*) The restaurant VOISIN, which in 19OO occupies the groung floor, has stayed famous thanks to the dinner of the four World Leaders which was held there.

(*) La Castiglione lived on the third floor (see the History of the Cadolle Family)

 Cadolle Story