Paris is the most diverse fashion city in terms of where the designers and buyers come from, and yet its fashion remains distinctly tribal.
Seasonal trends mean increasingly little and Paris designers prefer sticking with a fashion identity rather than following diktats. Several designers gather under each identity and work their distinct style within it, but they only fit passing trends into that context. This is perhaps the secret of stylish dressing à la Française. Decide which fashion tribe you belong to, and the designers who create for it can help you become effortlessly Parisian.
The tailoring tribe love the perfect black jacket, freshest over delicate, decorative and nostalgic white, like Dior’s handkerchief-lawn scalloped edges, Veronique Branquinho’s silk-fringed crochet lace, Lanvin’s white stitching, or white chiffon shirts at Chanel (where the black is tweed). Sometimes the jacket is imperfectly perfect - a beaten-up, oversize tux or leather jacket, worn over a tiny, glittery slip dress at Saint Laurent, or in denim or leather jeans-style at Sonia Rykiel where there are also glittery, long slip dresses. Both brands originated at the heart of Left Bank culture and are now a hit with Paris’s grungily chic, messy-haired, night owl tribe.
That lingerie-style slip dress, lush with lace, gets a modern twist even in leather at Céline, where the current mood for nostalgic femininity including puffy sleeves and gently full, longer skirts becomes cool and contemporary. Lingerie style, again, at Chloé but for the beautiful boho tribe that every Parisienne joins when it’s time for St.Tropez in the summer. Breezily floating cheesecloth, tipped with colour and worn with sporty track pants, are echoed by Asian-influenced shapes and decoration balanced with combat trousers at Isabel Marant, crochet embroidery and earthy shades at Vanessa Bruno, 1960s heiress style at Giambattista Valli and gorgeous African prints and beading at Valentino, whose close cousins are the tribe of incurable romantics, in high waists, long skirts, chiffon ruffles and flaring coats there, at Branquinho, at Alexander McQueen and geisha-style at Maison Margiela.
A different sort inhabits the tough it up tribe, addicted to modernised 1980s shapes and hard-edged shine in the form of plexiglass, cellophane and mirror shards at Loewe and Margiela and highly-crafted technical fabrics at Louis Vuitton and Akris. Conversely, the modern fun tribe embrace bright colours, stripes, checks and bouncing, techno pleating at Kenzo, Stella McCartney and Issey Miyake, more calmly at Hermès and Chanel. Lots to choose from - just work out who you are first.
Collections that count:
Dior - best tailoring
Céline - most directional yet desirable
McQueen - most beautiful
Louis Vuitton - biggest influence on designers
Saint Laurent - biggest influence on the high street
Valentino - best boho deluxe