Frustrated lingerie retailers in France are protesting their closure during lockdown by sending underwear to Prime Minister Jean Castex along with requests they be classed as essential businesses.
Since the beginning of the week, lacy panties and thongs have been posted to Castex from around France with a note requesting that lingerie shops be able to re-open their doors.
Like other retailers judged to be “non-essential”, underwear shops were forced to close at the beginning of the month as France entered its third national lockdown to contain rising Covid-19 cases.
The protest campaign is called “Action Culottee” – a play on words that translates as “cheeky action” – and has been coordinated by shop owners on Facebook.
“We wanted to raise the alarm about the very serious situation faced by hundreds of underwear shops around the whole of France,” said a statement from the group.
“We all have a very strong feeling of injustice,” it added.
A rapidly filling map on the group’s Facebook page shows location pins for the retailers who have taken part around the country, with around 200 having joined in.
“We chose a small thong, in orange. We wanted to be a bit cheeky with the colour,” Vesna Savovic, a lingerie seller from Sens, southeast of Paris, told the local France Bleu radio station.
‘We are essential’
Other campaigners point out that underwear shops cater for all sorts of demands, not just for women wanting something luxurious or seductive.
“You can come to us for seduction but there are lots of other reasons,” a shop owner in southeastern France, Sylvie, told France 3 television.
“Women with large chests who can’t find underwear without trying it on, women who need bras for breast-feeding, adolescents…” she added. “For us, it’s obvious that we are essential.”
The prime minister’s office has been responsible for drawing up the list of essential shops which are allowed to stay open during the lockdown.
These include food and drink shops, but also florists, booksellers, hairdressers and garden centres among others.
“We can’t understand why we are closed… even though there are people in the street everywhere and you can spend four hours in the hairdresser getting your hair done?” campaign founder Nathalie Paredes told AFP.
She says there are now 500 members of the group.
France was the birthplace of the lingerie industry in the 1800s and domestic sales amount to more than €2 billion annually today.
French women spend around 18% of their clothing budget on underwear, according to the French lingerie industry federation.
The government is in the process of drawing up its plans to reopen the country gradually from mid-May.
Daily cases in France have been topping 40,000 but the government expects them to fall to 20,000 because of the effects of the lockdown, which began on April 3.