If you’re looking for French fashion that channels the sunny south instead of understated Parisian chic, Souleiado, on 78, rue de Seine in the 6th Arrondissement, is for you. The colors and patterns date to the 16th century, when fabrics arrived in the port of Marseille from the Indies. You are probably already familiar with their cheerful, country-style table and bed linens. The clothing brand dates back to 1939, but only became hugely successful in 1947, when New Look-style dresses with tiny waists and full skirts made with the color-soaked fabric created a sensation in Saint-Tropez. Even Picasso was a fan of Souleido’s brightly patterned shirts. By the mid-80s, there were 2,000 boutiques world-wide. And then, the business slowly faded out of existence, finally to be re-born in 2009. I treated myself to a supple suede belt in a gorgeous berry shade.
The new owners have the archives of 360 years of fabric designs to draw on for inspiration, but the clothes are simultaneously contemporary and timeless. There are now 20 boutiques in France, 18 of which are in the south. If you can’t get to France, you may soon see Souleiado near you as the brand has expanded to Japan (23 boutiques) and there are planned openings in the US, Switzerland, and Italy. Unlike so many “French” labels, the materials are French whenever possible, such as wool from La Crau in the Var region, and the manufacture is too, in Souleiado’s factory in Tarascon.
In the provençal dialect, souleiado refers to the moment when the sun breaks through the clouds after rain, which is appropriate for this company, both in terms of the sunny colors, and considering that the skies are again bright for this re-born French company. I hope that Souleiado will enjoy temps ensoleillé (tohm ohn-sole-ay-ay), or “sunny weather” for many summers to come.