I have just returned from a week in Paris and cannot return without discussing the city as a style destination. It’s nothing new to talk about Paris in terms of fashion and indeed style; the city has a reputation for taste, culture and sartorial swagger. It has produced many notable design houses, such as Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chloé, Givenchy, Lanvin, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton. Paris also remains a premier destination for shopping, with streets such as Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Champs-Élysées hosting boutiques from designers around the world. It also boasts a plethora of cosmopolitan cafes with seating that faces out into the street, as though the pavements themselves were catwalks. For fashion voyeurs, a huge treat is to sit at a cafe, order a coffee and watch the people go by. Parisians appear to have made a pastime of people watching, and it was whilst I was people watching myself that I decided FashionBeans should acknowledge the French city’s own brand of style.
So how is Parisian style different from any other cosmopolitan European city? From my time there I realised it’s not an eclectic or particularly forward thinking style city such as London, for example – but an understated, tailored and sophisticated look. This elegant look coupled with the mandatory cigarette and espresso befits to a certain extent the historical stereotype we all imagine when we think of the French and the fashionable, but that is in no way a bad thing. When you explore the city’s tree-lined boulevards, intricate pathways and open parks and spaces you notice ornate and beautiful structures and buildings and it seems the people have, over the years, attempted to mirror the stylish architecture in the way they dress and behave. So, to me, the Parisian look has become a sophisticated elegance and more than just an outfit; an overall image set off by small but key tweaks that are subtle and understated. Young and old, it doesn’t seem to matter, the effortless, simple tailoring seems to transcend generations.
Lookbook: Parisian street style
Paris collaborates with the British high street
The French influence has hit our own shores of late as well, with British high street labels collaborating with Parisian fashion houses. Most notable of which is formerly high end couture label Lanvin. It has been billed as Parisian luxury hitting the high street with a one off range for H&M which went on sale from 23rd November in 200 stores worldwide but only 15 in the UK. Also, landing on our beaches is renowned fashion house Sandro, whose flagship store is set to open in London’s Westbourne Grove, and it’s the first time a male range has been available in the UK. So it’s possible for us to achieve Gallic sophistication without having to jump on a Eurostar train.
Focus on: Lanvin
In the early 1900s Lanvin was heralded as one of the most important couture houses in Europe. A century later however, the label began to languish badly due to financial problems. It was dealt a fresh and exciting lifeline when it appointed new artistic director Alber Elbaz in 2001 and his plan was to re-establish Lanvin as a fashion powerhouse but without the unattainable price tag; at the same time maintaining the elegance and high end quality of its golden era. I believe that Lanvin for H&M’s winter collection is perfect for the party season and ties in beautifully with our own assistant editor Luke Todd’s article, the A/W Party Season Lookbook. For H&M it adds to an impressive legacy of high fashion collaborations that have included: Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld and Roberto Cavalli.
The Lanvin range consists of a daytime relaxed fit tuxedo jacket with matching tailored jogging pants, tuxedo trousers with white shirts that have a bib front and pin-tucking that continues this day to night theme – which seems to be integral to the whole look. Some other highlights include a double-breasted military detailed coat, a paper-bag trench, oversized bow tie and the signature Lanvin metallic shoes. Now don’t take my word for it, take a look at the range below.
Lanvin for H&M: The Collection
Paris Fashion Week 2010
High on any fashion conscious Parisian’s diary has to be Paris Fashion Week, and it wouldn’t be right for me to talk about Paris without talking about one of the biggest style events in the world. In the Autumn/Winter show this year the runway was awash with more masculine colours, outstanding detail and more wearable garments. The tailoring was sharp and slim fitting and had some very clever detail to give each garment some fresh features. In terms of accessories bags were classic leather, eyewear is still dominated by the bold, solid black frames and hats are a wardrobe staple this winter. Scarves were oversized and wrapped around the neck to give a cobra-like-look.
This year’s event and its key trends link very clearly with what we now know of Paris as a style destination. The common Parisian themes of sophistication, tailored elegance and creativity were all there, with designers working hard to update and use clever detail to continually modernise the look.
How To Light Up The City Of Lights
So how does one achieve the Parisian look? I thought about this question a lot whilst I was away; in fact I had it in my head even before I got to Paris.
As I mentioned previously it is about more than just a set of clothes to look good in this Gallic city; it’s an image and a lifestyle. It’s about cafe culture, sophistication, a distinguished feel that’s more than just a nice new pair of slacks. Whilst sitting outside one of the numerous cafes in the St. Germain region of Paris, an area so elegant that it feels as though its residents have absorbed some of the stunning architectural style into their blood, I decided I should put together this article for you guys. The city’s heritage of couture styling, beautiful architecture and a cultural legacy in cinema, theatre and art means that the people of Paris have inherited a style that is almost innate. However, that does not mean that FashionBeans readers and sartorial enthusiasts alike cannot achieve the look. As well as the Parisian street style Lookbook above here is a check list for anyone eager to take on the Parisian look:
- Tailoring appears hugely important to the Parisian ensemble. Sharp and slim fitting jackets tend to be the key, either as a smart casual outfit with tailored jeans or chinos or as part of a suit the debonair appeal of a blazer is very important.
- Accessorising yourself in a subtle and understated way is something that Parisians do well. Try an oversized chunky scarf in masculine colours or an elegant leather bag with your outfit.
- If you’re feeling brave clever detailing is prominent this season as you can see from the Lanvin for H&M collection for the party season. Try oversized bow ties, bib front shirts, metallic shoes or tailored jogging pants.
- Just the subtle things can provide the final touches to your overall look, like a proverbially cherry on a metaphorical Belgian bun. So why not consider a crisp, slim fitting white shirt, solid black frame glasses or a vintage pair of brown brogues which can bring that touch of classic European style to your wardrobe.
- Finally, if you want to fulfil the Parisian style criteria pull up a chair at a cafe with a newspaper under your arm, order an espresso, chat to friends about philosophy, art and politics, and people watch to your heart’s content. OK that bit is optional but you get the idea!