AND I’M FRENCH!
Don’t get me wrong though, I like French style. But what I don’t get is that exaggerated glamorization surrounding it. Living in the UK, you don’t know how many articles I’ve come across inviting people to dress like [name that French girl]. To confirm my point, watch British Vogue video ‘Inside The Wardrobe of Caroline de Maigret’. While I’m not particularly fond of her style, I like her wit and the fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her book How To Be Parisian is the best proof to see it. But coming back to fashion, here is what she has to say on
French Parisian style:
“What I understand from what people think what Parisian is and how I find myself to wear clothes. Yes, they’re basics that I put all the time again and again.”
“You just have to learn to looking at yourself in the mirror and then you go, you do this and you have this little attitude that is you. And you feel good.”
For me those two quotes sum up perfectly what French style is: being and knowing yourself. Now this said, the French style myth bores me because:
- It’s only about Paris
- It doesn’t represent what France is nowadays: a mixed country.
Yes I’m French and I know how to dress for my body and what flatters it. I’m also not that influenced by trends and like to invest in pieces that I will keep and wear again and again. But I’m not only that. If French style is all about neutral tones, I’m all about colours. If French style is all about understated jewellery, I’m all about big jewellery. If French style is all about France, I’m all about what makes me feel myself. Born in Cameroon, I spent my childhood there and it definitely has influenced the way I dress today. Same can be said about the years I spent in Italy, Germany and now in the UK. While I’ve integrated elements of style of each country I’ve lived in, this experience also helped me see how French style is considered in France and abroad.
Magazines want us to believe there are only two French women. The rock’n’roll Caroline de Maigret and, the classic editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Emmanuelle Alt. Thing is even within those two stereotypes, you can be sure that the French woman is Parisian, wears Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent, and shops at Le Bon Marché. Needless to say it’s a woman I’m absolutely not. I’m certainly French but I’ve grown up in Bordeaux and above all I’m black. And it does make a huge difference.
The concept of French style which by extension also desbribes the French woman annoys me because it is alienating. It doesn’t take in account the diversity existing in France. Discussing with other black friends, I’ve realized how conscious they are about not having a fro’, wearing a headscarf or, even worse just being black. As if it diminished the fact they were French. And society actually makes you feel so. While I’ve had my interview with my natural hair here in the UK, I’m not sure that would be the case in France.
I believe this kind of issue wouldn’t exist if French style was inclusive and evolved with time. Now the French woman is not only anymore a Caroline de Maigret or an Emmanuelle Alt. She can be black, oriental, from South America etc…Because style is cultural, you will have people like me with a different vision of what French style is simply because I have another cultural background. That’s why I find the idea of French style ironic. It’s about being and knowing yourself and yet because it’s so attached to Paris and a certain kind of woman it prevents women having different backgrounds to be themselves through style.