One would be hard pressed to find anything in fashion journalism as sacrosanct as the concept of ‘The Parisian’. The recent elapse of fashion weeks across the globe saw fashion publications taking to the streets in an attempt to document the street-style turn out and I defy you to find a look more widely aspired to or applauded than the ‘Parisian’.
But what is meant by the term in its sartorial use? To channel Bardot and Birkin, or to don a starched shirt, neat trousers and sensible shoes, has become the ubiquitous ‘Parisian’ trend. But many would argue that it is more a state of mind than a particular type of attire. Vogue identi es it as an “overall air of gamine insouciance”, and one of the movement’s foremost IT girls, Caroline de Maigret, attributes it to the personality of the wearer, and the “effortless” air they possess.
Others suggest that the de ning feature of Parisian style is largely the cultivation of a personal image. Ines de la Fressange and Carine Roitield’s nurture of this plays a big role in their esteemed fashion credits and Vogue supports this notion: “No deliberate statement-making, no peacocking of designer freebies […] it’s not about fitting the clothes, see: it’s about the clothes fitting you.” The integrity of the cut, the strength of the silhouette and the shape of the fabric seem to be what is valued.
One of the many benefits of this is that by embracing the individuality of the wearer, many of the stigmas that plague the fashion industry have been ostensibly removed. For example, many of the movement’s IT girls are significantly older than is typical in the fashion industry: well respected figures like Caroline de Maigret, 42, de la Fressange, 59, and Roitfeld, 62, are all far older than the teens and twenties of the Kendall Jenners and Gigi Hadids of New York.
There do however remain certain gaping holes in the movement’s liberal inclusivity. After all, “the overall air of gamine insouciance” comes part and parcel with a certain waifish slender-ness. One would encounter some difficulty in attempting to identify any plus-size figures at the forefront, or indeed, even in the background of the movement.
Moreover, it ought to be noted that the scene remains disproportionately white for a city with a population that is 10-15 % Muslim and 18 % black. With a city with such a substantial non-white population, is it not somewhat suspect that this diversity finds no representation? Why is it the neat black garb of impressionists that finds itself highlighted, rather than the hijab?
Furthermore, this notion of an individual personal style only seems to go so far. It is perhaps somewhat melodramatic to describe Parisian fashion as a policy of ‘uniformization’, but De Maigret herself concedes in a Refinery 29 interview that she believes “sometimes French women are so scared of the faux pas that they’re not adventurous. I think sometimes maybe it’s a bit dull”. The Gucci Gang, a Parisian style collective who have turned the heads of fashion publications such as I-D and Vogue, make the claim that in France, “everything is taboo”.
Yet it must be said that minimalism and uniform dressing are not universal facets of the day-to-day Parisian dress. My grandmother is a born and bred Parisian and her approach to fashion is buying clothing with a price below double digits. While I’m certainly not naming my own ageing relatives as the epicentre of innovative fashion, this sort of the out-the-box thinking is beginning to proliferate. Take the Gucci Gang, for example, who have been making waves with their Parisian fashion is ‘mort’ attitude. Thaïs, one of their members, said in an interview that “there is a great energy in the new generation of Parisian designers”.
Moreover, Rihanna’s Fenty Puma line —which debuted at Paris Fashion Week last year—makes the case for both decadence and ‘trashy-dressing’, combining the indulgent ruffles and baby pinks of the classic ‘Marie Antoinette style’, with standard sportswear staples. There is still a long way to go, but Parisian fashion is proving itself to be a diverse medium, not limited to the stark standards set by its forebears.