Style Inspiration: The Best Under-the-Radar French Fashion Brands
Wednesday 22nd March, 2017
It’s spring time and fashion’s love for French style seems stronger than ever. There’s a certain romance in wearing a pair of frayed Levi 501’s with some classic espadrilles, a polka dot blouse, and a handwoven wicker basket; or strolling Palais Royal in a ruffled babydoll red dress with matching scarlet red lipstick. Ask any Parisienne for her favourite clothing item, and she will point to a pair of jeans or a stylish jacket that are impossible to find anywhere save a tiny boutique tucked in a cobblestones street in Le Marais. Exclusivity is important. And so, below, there is a selection of every type…from new clothing lines by French it-girls, to the shoes every Parisienne is wearing.
Jane Birkin’s signature was her handwoven wicker basket. She would carry it everywhere, from the market to nights out, and pair it with cocktail dresses and dainty frilly tops alike. This season, it seems fashion it-girls are taking cues from the style icon, carrying small raffia options and full-blown straw totes. French brand Bonjour Coco’s baskets are the closest version to Birkin’s, for the traditionalists. Hand-made in Portugal by specialised artisans, they are swinging from the arms of everyone from Leandra Medine to Sabina Socol.
The fashion industry has been obsessed with French street style, and Jeanne Damas may be the star. With a penchant for red lipstick, the perfect frayed boyfriend jeans, and a sultry je ne says quoi attitude, it’s no wonder women everywhere are enamoured by her. Last year she launched Rouje, her own fashion line, with subtle pieces that will remain in your wardrobe for years to come. There are silky blouses, ribbed t-shirts and sweaters, LBDs to take you from day to night, and floral dresses that bring a certain nostalgia for the 70s. We’re in love.
Her clothes are understated enough not to grab unwanted attention, but have the right details to attract covetous ‘where did you get that outfit’ stares from passers-by. In a small store in the 12ème arrondissement, Nathalie Dumeix makes timeless and minimal pieces, in a quintessential Parisienne style. Think perfectly high waisted buttoned pants, suede 70s jumpsuits that wouldn’t look out of place in Serge Gaisnbourg’s crew, and crêpe dresses for the warmer months.
Morgane Sézalory founded Sézane (a contraction of her first and last names) as France’s first online fashion brand, and today, it’s the favourite of fashion girls around the globe. There is a permanent collection that runs through the seasons, and additional monthly limited-edition capsule collections that sell out in a matter of hours. The clothes? High-quality is at the forefront, with a focus on textiles and leathers sourced from the best workshops and finest weavers. You’ll find Breton stripes, perfect day dresses, and everyday blouses and denim. But there’s a twist. A simple A-line dress will have a trimmed v-neck at the back, and a silk blouse will have a cut-out back with scalloped lace and a silk bow. It’s all in the details.
If you’ve ever spotted a cute pair of shoes on the Instagram of a French girl, they’re probably from Jonak, the brand born back in 1964, when the company opened its first boutique in rue Saint Placide, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris. The appeal? They don’t follow trends, but extend through seasons. The fringed leather moccasins will take you from spring to autumn, and the top cap block heels will look gorgeous with a shirt dress in the summer.