PARIS — What goes into an Eres bathing suit? The famously discreet French luxury swimwear brand gave WWD an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, lifting the curtain on the elaborate process behind its swimwear creations, from the color selection and testing of its exclusive fabrics to the manufacturing of the final product at one of the brand’s partner factories.
Part of the Chanel group since 1996, Eres was founded in 1968 by Irène Leroux, who sought to liberate the swimsuit from the constraints of padding and boning, approaching the garment as a second skin based on the body’s architecture. Also part of Leroux’s modern vision, Eres was the first brand to sell swimwear year-round.
The philosophy still applies today, with body-sculpting materials, graphic lines, laser cutting and flat-seam construction among the brand’s signatures. Plunging V-necks, streamlined cutout backs, bandeau tops, and androgynous boy shorts figure among its bestsellers. Key fabrics include Parachute, which dries instantly, and Peau Douce (soft skin), which has a more dense weave. Both are made from a secret formula based on polyamide and spandex. Retail prices range from 195 euros to 450 euros.
“When we put on an Eres bathing suit, it’s light, it’s like putting on a second skin. It’s sensual, because it’s the only thing we have on the body; it’s an intimate garment,” said Marie-Paule Minchelli, studio director at Eres, during a visit to the creative studio, a light-filled space on the top floor of the Eres headquarters in the 11th arrondissement here. This is where the designs are conceived, with an extensive color library among the resources, and the prototypes are mounted.
For each palette, the team will have tested numerous nuances of each shade. “At Eres, the color has to be spot-on. We also have to factor in things like how a color will sit on different shades of skin, or the sun at the different times of year, because we also do winter collections. A color will change under the sun or in water,” explained Minchelli, who experiments with the cuts and materials to shape the pieces on the body. “Eres is all about the architecture of the body, color and liberty.”
Once the fabrics have been selected and the validated designs have been translated into patterns that are cut out in fabric and mounted, each prototype is perfected by the team in preparation for the industrialization stage.
The pieces are graded from 38 to 48 in European sizes. All retouches are made on models, using mirrors to see the pieces from all angles, and testing each size on a range of morphologies. Adjustments to the patterns — such as the tweaking of a décolleté or a neck strap — are made using computer software for precision.
“Here we’re talking about products that are very close to the body. It’s important to do all of the fittings on a real model to see how the fabric behaves — the tension of the material, which is a living material, especially when there’s elastane,” said Valérie Buisson, a patternmaker at Eres.
All validated fabrics are put through a series of tests in a lab in the site’s basement before being green-lighted for production.
First, the fabrics are stretched out on machines to be scrutinized for defects, which are marked out with chalk or stickers. Then Marie-Astrid Laplanche, director of quality control for materials at Eres, tests the consistency of the fabric’s color under different lights. (One of the rules at Eres is that a color has to remain unchanged in both daylight and cabin light.)
Laplanche also checks the robustness of the color, placing the fabric in a machine that simulates the Miami sun at noon, both in terms of brightness and heat. The fabric is slotted into metal holders that leave half of it exposed, and the other half covered in order to spot any variations in color using a scale once it comes out of the machine. It’s left there for four days, the equivalent of a person using a bathing suit in the sun every day for a year.
Another machine that simulates body heat tests the fabric for bleeding when subjected to water, sweat, chlorinated water and seawater.
The fabric is also stretched using a membrane that pushes up like a thumb to create a dome shape that distends the warp and the weave, to test how quickly it regains its shape.
Eres also opened the doors to one of its factory partners for lingerie and swimwear: Macosa, France’s last remaining corsetry specialist, based near Le Mans. Owned by Philippe Hache, Macosa also produces tutus for the Paris Opera Ballet. (Eres works with five factories for its swimwear, one based in Italy and the rest in France.)
Around 25 operations go into the production of each swimsuit, explained Valérie Bellemère, who runs the Macosa atelier.
The rolls of Eres fabric are delivered to the site, and once the orders are received, a puzzlelike placement map is drawn up, calculating how best to place the fronts and backs of each piece in order to optimize the use of the fabric. The fabrics are then superposed in stacks of 20 layers called “mattresses” and left to settle for the cutting process. Using the placement map, which is positioned on top of the stacks of fabric, a machine then cuts out the patterns. The team refers to removal of the pieces from the stack as “uncorking.”
The models are then assembled, with the seamstresses carrying out a variety of operations on different machines throughout the day. Eres’ signatures include flat-felled seams, and the curved bust darts that feature on the cups, a dexterous manual operation.
The assembly process includes sheathing foam bonnets in fabric, stitching the straps in between the two parts of the top and applying the rubbers.
The final stage is referred to as “épluchage,” which means “peeling” in English. There, the finished garments are sent to a station where workers manually inspect and clean up the pieces, removing stray threads or trimming any parts that overlap using scissors and blades. The measurements are also checked to make sure the piece corresponds with the size marked on the label.
“Once they’ve been controlled, they’ll come out flawless,” said Bellemère.