Fashion Victims In Paris

There Are Never Really Fashion Victims In Paris”: Inès De La Fressange On Parisian Chic

Inès de la Fressange’s personal directory of Paris’ best shops, haunts, restaurants, and cafés made her a perennial go-to among recommendation-seeking friends—and, she says with a rueful laugh, journalists. For her own sanity (and that of her assistant), she’s spilling her secrets and making her picks public with the new Parisian Chic (Flammarion, $29.95). Part guidebook, part style bible (and already a best seller in Paris), the book includes the Roger Vivier brand ambassador’s timely recommendations and timeless wardrobe advice. (For the accompanying photos, she passes the modeling torch to her 17-year-old daughter, Nine D’Urso; that’s her, above left, alongside one of her mother’s own illustrations from the book.) De la Fressange (left) will launch the book in the States with a public reception at Saks on April 26; before then, she spoke with about the how’s, where’s, and why’s of style—and her victory over Keith Richards.

What inspired you to write a guidebook to Paris?
To tell you the truth, it’s because I’m lazy. Here at the office, we have lists prepared of addresses because so often journalists, or friends, or friends of friends, they ask me some addresses…they know that all the time I know new shops and little things. My assistant, who is a kind of saint, has plenty of lists—lists for decorations, lists for presents for children, lists for clothes and all that, and we print them and we give them. But we don’t have pictures, usually, of the places—for this guide I did pictures, because usually in the [other] guides things are written and it seems fantastic and you go and are disappointed. Sometimes it’s not what you expected.

There’s also a long section in the front devoted to explaining Parisian chic.
I also have some journalists keeping asking me all [about] the French women. The Parisian girl—why she has more style? Then I answer, but not at all! American women, they take care of their hair much more, they know much more about fashion…And I explain that Italian women also they spend a lot, and South Americans are very elegant. And usually these journalists are very disappointed because it’s not at all what they want. And then with my friend Sophie Gachet, she was a little bit like a shrink; I used to see her in the early morning in the bistro in front of the school of my daughter’s. I used to explain [to] her what I was doing at the office nearly every day and she said we should do a guide and try to think about this Parisian women and what is really different or not.

Not to be one of those prying journalists, but what does distinguish the French girl?
It is true that in France, women put on less things. If they have a necklace, they don’t put on earrings; if they have nail polish, they don’t put on all their rings and all their bracelets. They keep things from a season to another or from a year to another; maybe American people have the feeling they need the brand-new thing more. And maybe Parisian women—and Parisian women, it’s not only French women; I mean it can be someone living in Paris for a long time, most of the time it’s this actually—they have vintage things that they find at the flea markets. When you ask a woman in France [about] a beautiful jacket, she’ll say, oh, but it’s an old one. You don’t ask when she bought it. It’s like she doesn’t want to show that she’s interested by clothes or by fashion. There are never really fashion victims in Paris—which is funny because Paris is supposed to be the city of fashion, you know?

What advice do you offer them?
A lot of women have prejudices. They don’t dare to put some black with navy blue and even if it’s Saint Laurent who invented that—like old prejudices from their childhood. I wanted to tell them that if you have a jean shirt, for instance, it’s fun to put it with diamonds, or a fake diamond necklace, things like this. I remember this friend, she had huge tits and she was all the time showing them. And then I was explaining to her that she was very sexy and that she shouldn’t have a problem with that and it was quite obvious that she had huge tits like this and that she could try something else, like a man’s shirt or things like this. Very often or not, women don’t dare to go in the men’s section or not even the children section—I mean [they go] for their children but not for themselves. I wanted to explain that suddenly you can find a navy blue V-neck sweater at Uniqlo at the men’s department. It can be very nice, just white jeans and flat ballerinas—even if you’re not very tall.

Never in the history could we find so easily nice clothes everywhere in the world. Even if you live in a tiny village, there’s an Internet site. It’s quite easy to find clothes but sometimes women don’t know how to mix them. What I wanted to explain is that it’s not the quantity that’s important—it’s having the good things. I think that’s not the purpose of the magazines—magazines would be a little bit boring if they would do that.

Would you ever live elsewhere?
I would love to live in India or in the South of France, but Roger Vivier doesn’t have offices yet in New Delhi or Jaipur.

Well, now you’re a published authority on Paris, anyway.
When the book came out, I thought, I’m ridiculous, I shouldn’t do something like this. But It was a huge success. It was amazing! They had to reprint it five times. My children are so proud because we sold more than Harry Potter. I was very proud because we sold more than the book [by] Keith Richards where he says Mick is not what we imagine
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