Parisian style: the brands and designers updating the basics of French fashion
- Here are the designers who are tweaking and questioning the very definition of ‘basic’
What is Parisian style? Despite 96,500,000 Google answers, it boils down to quality over quantity, never letting an outfit do the talking and picking impeccable pieces from the right brands.
Parisian style is a perfect storm of messy hair, minimal make-up and a basic uniform somehow magically transformed by a dash of je ne sais quoi and attitude. There’s dozens of books on the topic, one being:How to be Parisian wherever you are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits, written by a cadre of stylish women including Chanel ambassador Caroline de Maigret.
The lasting charm of Parisian style can be found inthe subtle details of an understated uniform of repurposed men’s basics, classic coats and finely tailored pieces. Here are the designers who are tweaking and questioning the very definition of “basic”.
Atlantique Ascoli – a shirt that can rise to any occasion
Sophisticated yet simple, Atlantique Ascoli’s poplin blouses are more than just white shirts; they embody that effortless chic that French women are envied for. “The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that unlike the T-shirt, you could slip a blouse on and be dressed. But never dressed up or overdressed. And to me, Parisian style is that effortlessness,” says Ascoli.
A long-time collector and wearer of Victorian tops, this former musician and songwriter loved the ease of wearing blouses, but could never quite find the perfect one. So she set about making her own, developing not only her first collection of seven blouses – one for every day of the week – but also an exclusive cotton-linen blend.
For all their elegant lineage, there is nothing stuffy or stiff about these crisp numbers that can be worn tucked in, left out, back-to-front or however its owner feels throughout the day and occasions. “Effortlessness means that you’re immediately on the go, too,” Ascoli says.
Francesco Russo – shoes to conquer the world in
Bette Midler believed that “with the right footwear one can rule the world,” and Parisian women certainly have a wealth of options at their feet. The cream of the crop is undoubtedly Francesco Russo, whose work is instantly recognisable thanks to a signature elongated heel-piece that connects his designs to the leg for a dramatic long-limbed look.
Francesco Russo honed his craft at Miu Miu, Sergio Rossi and most notably Stefano Pilati-era Yves Saint Laurent, where he designed the brand's cult tribute sandal and cage boot. The Paris-based Italian cobbler then launched solo in 2013 with a small range of designs that now include pointed-toe ballet flats, sultry sandals and perfect stilettos that feel of-the-moment yet instantly classic.
Even more in step with the times is his A-Gender Capsule collection, which offers five iconic styles including a stiletto pump, a Chelsea boot and tasselled loafers in an inclusive size range from EU35 to 45.
L/Uniform – the anti-It bag
“The idea wasn’t to revolutionise the accessory world. I wanted beautiful and simple everyday items, with shapes that have always been part of our lives,” says Jeanne Signoles, founder of L/Uniform, a brand born of her desire to have lightweight, handsome bags for daily use.
L/Uniform addresses needs rather than trends. Manufactured in the south of France, the brand’s pieces are inspired by work bags such as the plumber’s tote with its numerous pockets, or a bucket bag inspired by a tool pouch used in shipyards. Made of light, resistant canvas – the French army use a version of the same material – and trimmed in leather, these daily companions are as unfussy as it gets, in a market that’s filled with pricey “It bags”.
But that doesn’t mean the line-up is bland. While the timeless colour combinations, available through its website and cadre of high-end retailers feel irresistible, a visit to the brand’s Paris flagship offers the possibility to customise every detail of the bag, from its canvas to the edging, to the silk-screening of initials.
Officine Générale – tapping the male wardrobe
In 2012, Pierre Mahéo set out to launch Officine Générale on the premise that smartly priced, earnest classics he wanted for himself would appeal to a broader audience. Rightly so. It took only a few seasons for him to gain the attention of the press and also a cohort of followers – including a fair number of women – who flocked to the brand’s fine-tailored wardrobe.
After launching a full womenswear collection for autumn 2017, the brand opened its first stand-alone womenswear store in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés last June, a few doors down from its original menswear location.
Female devotees can find an androgynous wardrobe with lashings of feminine flair, full of sharply tailored jackets, flattering shirts and reasonably priced menswear staples. It would be a mistake to leave without at least trying on the Lydia coat, a generously proportioned cross between a tuxedo jacket and a dressing gown that transforms anyone into the embodiment of refinement.
Pallas – still smoking, forever smoking
Speaking of tuxedos, no wardrobe would be complete without a Pallas “smoking” tuxedo. From their atelier in Paris’ 9th arrondissement neighbourhood, husband-and-wife duo Daniel Pallas and Véronique Bousquet have developed a wardrobe that lives up to the tuxedo legend as created by Yves Saint Laurent.
Founded in 1960 by Pallas’ father, a men’s tailor, the house became highly sought after for its superior technical know-how. After Pallas took over in the early 1990s, it made suits and tuxedos for the likes of Céline, Balenciaga and Karl Lagerfeld.
Each tailored garment is still cut by hand, stitched and assembled by a single tailor (a tradition called “petite couture”). Women, including Beyoncé, flock to the brand for its smoking jackets as much as its jumpsuits and coat dresses, which can be ordered in classic suiting, daring animal print, metallics, or vibrant hues.
Philippine Janssens – she’s wearing the trousers
After polling fellow female business school graduates, Philippine Janssens discovered that finding the perfect trousers can be anear impossible task. In light of her findings, the budding entrepreneur made it her mission to address that problem with her eponymous brand, which offers made-to-measure designs that range from trousers fit for the boardroom to embroidered denim numbers.
Janssens leveraged her heritage as the daughter of a famous haute couture supplier and granddaughter of a noted seamstress to build her brand known for its variety of fabrics, cuts and finishes.
But this is no old-fashioned experience. Measurements are recorded digitally, and trousers can be whipped out in as little as a week by Janssens’s craftspeople thanks to smart production planning and execution.
Whether you want to channel Brigitte Bardot’s sultry gamine chic, Coco Chanel’s effortless distinction or Inès de la Fressange’s aristocratic flair, stopping by the brand’s shopfront at Le Bon Marché is a must for any Francophile.
Yasmine Eslami – underwear to seduce yourself
“Chic underwear is about revealing nothing at all,” once sang Jane Birkin. It is impossible to talk about Parisian style without considering its underpinnings. Stylist-turned-lingerie designer Yasmine Eslami ascribes to the idea that a woman is never dressing for anyone other than herself – especially with her underwear choices. Her passion for delicate unmentionables and the art of corsetry sprang from her training at the prestigious Studio Berçot and her time spent in London working for Vivienne Westwood.
After a detour as a stylist for publications such as Purple Magazine, Eslami launched her eponymous brand in 2010. Never resorting to padding or anything other than cunning cuts and luxurious materials, Eslami celebrates the feminine form “as it is”.
As technical as they are eye-catching – one style features black bands that recall black censor bars, while another is whisper-thin tulle moulded into a shaping cup – her designs keep with the idea that underwear is an intimate and day-long companion. “I liked the idea of reconnecting to that image of Parisian lingerie as a reflection of a free and joyous lifestyle,” she says.