Susan recently captured this picture of a little fashion posse in Paris, which is typical of the looks you see during fashion week, and it’s what I like to call X-treme chic. There is something very French about this look, but there’s another quieter side to French fashion, too, a side that doesn’t call as much attention to itself and is less hard. More romantic. And as much as I like to pretend that my heart is harder than a canary yellow diamond, I have a little secret, which I will tell you right now: I love romantic clothes.
I went down to Toulouse just before fashion week to check out a store called Département Féminin.
They sell Alaia, Balenciaga, Chloe, Lanvin -- you know, designers that none of us like very much at all.
It’s all in the way you wear something of course, and it’s too bad the owner is so shy, because she is just a walking billboard for the reason why French women get it right. It pains me to write such a cliché, and let's be honest, not all French women do, but the ones that get it right really get it right.
When I met the owner, Carole, she was wearing NDC derby shoes (they're like saddle shoes, but monochromatic), the most feminine and small Balenciaga bag (I’m kind of starting to get sick of big bags, personally), a navy blue jacket, and a blue and white striped oxford shirt. What stands out to me about the store and her personal style is that, while there’s a lot of ribbon-y, satin-y Lanvin in the store (mmmm, Lanvin), she really incorporates menswear elements. They are parlayed not in a hard and modern Calvin Klein way, but as a coquettish girl-in-chiffon-dress-with-boyfriend’s-jacket sort of way. Think Charlotte Gainsbourg. When you walk into a store in New York that has chandeliers and lots of lace (the touchstones of the America-doing-French look), those stores so often seems ersatz to me because they forget about the menswear side, such an important part of the French look. Le Smoking, anyone? Coco Chanel?
This is the Département Féminin inspiration wall, downstairs in the stockroom of the store. I feel like these pictures alone are some of the most valuable images I’ve ever put on this blog. It’s essentially a collection of the greatest hits of Jalouse, Paris Vogue, and French Elle in recent years. I live to serve, people.
The store recently created an online shopping site which is still bold new territory in the luxury market, especially in France (neither Colette nor L’Eclaireur sell clothes online, nor do the big department stores here. It’s very different from the US in that way, where you can shop Barneys, Neimans, Nordstom, etc, online).
I think the site really transmits the feeling of the store and takes you into the owner's world, which is again, pretty rare in the online shopping world. It’s done by a design firm called Spill, who created the much acclaimed site for Colette, among other brilliant sites.
I’m over the moon that they have asked me to do some work for the Departement Feminin site, translating the item descriptions into English, and potentially writing a newsletter for them. Because of this, I feel like I should stop talking before I go overboard, like before I say that I want to go into that black and white boudoir on the site and French kiss all of the silky, shiny Lanvin ballerina slippers. That would be unprofessional of me.