According to French girls, marinière stripes, berets, and trench coats are stereotypes, and don’t represent the way they actually dress. Lou Doillon, the French “It” girl and daughter of Jane Birkin – who famously inspired the classic Hermès bag style – once said, “French style has got to do with a certain form of arrogance, which I love. French girls have a tremendous respect for themselves, and so they have what they want to wear and what they won’t wear – even if every magazine cover is saying, ‘this is what you should be wearing.” This quote captures the essence of the French attitude about fashion: aloof but uncompromising.
Because of this, there is no single definition of French style, except to say that there is a certain je ne sais quoi or ineffable aura that defies explanation. However, if you’re a Francophile who wants to capture the essence of French-ness, you may be left to wonder exactly what that looks like and how to infuse your own wardrobe with it. Instead of looking for pieces that “look French”, why not try shopping at cult favorite French labels instead and let them do the guesswork for you?
Marie and Cléo are the mother-daughter duo behind the new French brand, Maison Cléo, whose sold-out ‘Agnès’ blouse was the obsession of every “It” girl this summer. Cléo is a longtime seamstress, and Marie’s great-great grandmother Louise – herself a fashionable doyenne – was the head of a tailoring workshop in the 19th century. As a family-oriented French label, Maison Cléo promises transparent pricing, beautifully handmade clothes from quality materials, and looks that possess the kind of je ne sais quoi that drives the fashionably-minded to buy out styles in a matter of hours.
Instead of clothes, Simon Porte Jacquemus sells “poetry” at his eponymous label, or more accurately, covetable “It” girl fashion with both a romantic and surrealist aesthetic. Jacquemus is a self-taught designer who started working in fashion at 18, and by building a social-media following was able to parlay his online reputation into bigger and better collections. Eventually, he won the LVMH prize, caught the notice of celebrities like Solange, Emily Ratajkowski, and Selena Gomez, and became the breakout star of 2017 with his incredible Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
Delightfully quirky and offbeat are as much descriptors of Amélie Pichard’s fabulous and fearless accessories line as they are of the designer herself. After working at a French fashion label for five years, Pichard discovered her passion the first time she ever set foot inside a shoe factory. After eventually winning a design contest, which told her she was on the right path, Pichard went back to that original factory and they assisted in her making her first collection. Right out the gate, Bon Marché bought the entire thing. Since then, Pichard has done famous collaborations, and has become a favorite of “It” girls like Jeanne Damas and Emily Ratajkowski.
Split between Paris and New York, brothers Arik and Laurent Bitton eventually came together to start an exciting new fashion venture called IRO in 2005. What started off simply with tees and dresses quickly went global as the brothers saw a huge demand for the cool, rock-inspired aesthetic they were producing. Now, IRO is sold in stores all over the world, and has a flagship location in Soho.
The French footwear label, Robert Clergerie, has been going strong since the 1980s, and even boasted fashion designer Roland Mouret as its creative director for some time (he departed earlier this year, in May). The line maintains a high favorability status among celebrities, socialites, and influencers alike, and its slides in particular are a sell-out success.
The French women’s ready-to-wear label, Maje, was created in 1999 by Judith Milgrom, who happens to be the younger sister of Sandro founder Evelyne Chétrite – so you could say that fashion runs in the family. In fact, Maje is an acronym of the names of the her family, Milgrom, André, Judith, and Evelyn. Practically overnight, Maje became a French “high-street” favorite among the locals, which has led to steady growth and expansion over the years. Between luxury and mass market, Maje exists as a stylish salve for chic wardrobe seekers, and offers major French style at affordable price points.
Three 26-year-old designers are behind the cult favorite label JOUR/NÉ, but their expertly turned-out collections belie their age. A fusion of urban streetwear and chic workwear combine for gender-fluid collections that are ideal for the active modern woman. Their most recent collection pays homage to India and Wes Anderson’s film The Darjeeling Limited, with rich textures and travel-ready outerwear.
L’autre Chose, which means “the other thing” in French, started out as a small family footwear business in the Marche region in 1959. Over the decades, due to its use of innovative materials and interest in unusual silhouettes, L’autre Chose has become a go-to for the fashionable and French. In 2005, the company launched a ready-to-wear component, which helped transform it into a global brand.
You may recognize the name Christopher Lemaire as the former artistic director of Lacoste and later Hermès. Clearly, his fashion pedigree has helped shape his reputation, but it is his own eponymous label that has our attention now. Lemaire is a constant editor’s favorite at Paris Fashion Week, and proffers collections filled with collectible pieces that are both classically French and innovatively fashion-forward.
Rouje by Jeanne Damas
“It” girl and fashion muse, Jeanne Damas, is the talent behind the incredibly French brand, Rouje. If you’ve long searched for a dream wardrobe, look no further, as this label is packed with impeccably styled head-to-toe looks at affordable prices. Handsome jackets, well-cut trousers, flirtatious mini dresses, and more await the Rouje shopper.
La Fée Maraboutée
Born out of a French textile company in 1996, La Fée Maraboutée is a treasure trove of sophisticated, simple French basics made in Europe from only the best materials. Easy, slightly bohemian separates and printed dresses, cozy sweaters, and handsome outerwear are the must-have items “It” girls stock up on when shopping at this perennially chic establishment.
Ba&sh is the brainchild of real-life best friends, Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief, who decided to launch the brand in order to fulfill women’s desire for a French dream-girl wardrobe. Metallic mini skirts, velvet ankle boots, gorgeous knitwear, and elegant cardigans offer understated luxury for the Francophile shopper.