In 2013 I packed up my London life and moved to the French capital for an old relationship. In the eight and a half years since moving to Paris, I’ve learned a lot about life, which I reveal in my new book, but most notably I’ve learned about style and how to dress. In particular, I want to share my French sustainable fashion tips.
by Marissa Cox, author of Practising Parisienne: Lifestyle Secrets from the City of Lights, out now £14.99 (Headline)
The way I put outfits together and shop for clothes has changed dramatically. Long gone are the try-hard outfits, fashion fads, items like blue fishnets (yes I wore these a few times back in university) and clothes so bright and full of pattern that you needed a pair of sunglasses just to look at me. Thankfully too, panic buying and binge shopping are also a thing of my past, as is a closet full of items that I’ve only worn once. Instead I have pared back my wardrobe, created a capsule closet and choose to invest in items that I wear again and again. In the process, thanks to the Parisians, my wardrobe has also become more sustainable. I have less, but its quality over quantity.
Parisian style is simple
In giving my dress sense a new lease of life, I have come to learn that Parisian style is in fact very simple. As Chanel herself once said: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” It is in its simplicity and effortlessness that makes it tasteful, timeless and most importantly in today’s climate, sustainable – more on this in a bit. I believe the main reason French fashion is so famous and replicated around the world is because it is easy to copy.
Parisian style can be edited down to a few pieces that as time has told, never go out of fashion. These are items such as the white shirt, trench, Breton top, a great pair of high-waisted, straight-legged jeans and a slightly oversized black blazer. They remain timeless because they are simple and can be easily mixed and matched. This also means that if you have these core pieces in your closet, you only need invest in one or two items a season, rather than refreshing your whole wardrobe. The ability to transcend trends is a philosophy that many contemporary Parisian-born brands have been built on. Take for example, A.P.C, which was originally created as a reaction to the “over-designed and over-hyped seasonal fashion trends” and lives up to its objective today. I for one have had my demi-lune bag for years and cite it in my book as a closet essential.
The Parisians’ penchant for vintage
It’s also not unusual for Parisians to inherit clothing from family members. In a city so steeped in history that champions it too, it’s quite common that mothers will pass down items that they too invested in when they were younger. When interviewing journalist and co-founder of the Fashion No Filter podcast, Monica de La Villardière for my book, she admitted to owning and wearing many of the items that her grandmother wore during her time in Paris during the 40s because they are still stylish and relevant today. It’s no surprise perhaps that Vestiaire Collective (launched in 2009), one of the first fashion sites to enable customers to buy and sell second hand clothes and accessories was born in Paris. It has undoubtedly paved the way for future businesses and apps of the same ilk, such as Depop that followed in 2011 and in the process promotes recycling and rewearing of clothing.
Simplicity, recycling and vintage shopping seem to be ingrained in the minds of Parisians. Vintage clothing even inspired one of Paris’s most renowned modern-day high-street brands, Sézane. Its founder, Morgane Sezalory used to sell vintage clothing on eBay, when she launched Sézane in 2013, she sought to mimic the enduring quality of the vintage clothing that she loved. Rouje too, founded by Jeanne Damas in 2016 boasts timeless designs that are not dissimilar to what Jane Birkin was wearing in the 60s.
Less is more and better for the environment
Investing in less and in items that last longer can seem like a no brainer, but the holy grail of French sustainable fashion tips. It’s something easily forgotten when we see the trends coming out of fashion weeks and clad on our favourite fashion icons. Luckily in Paris, the sentiment is that less is more – in most areas of their lives, from make-up to alcohol and food. Everything is to be enjoyed in moderation. So whilst Parisians are of course fervent followers of fashion, they don’t wear all of the new looks. Instead they prefer to cherry-pick one newer piece to update their look each season that can be worn with the other items they already own. As Monica also told me during my interview with her: “to be selective is to be chic”. Plus it is very un-Parisian to try too hard or to overdress.
Simple style is more sustainable
Because Parisian style is simple, I believe French sustainable fashion is more advanced than any of the world’s fashions. If an item never goes out of fashion, there’s no need to throw it away. It’s the ethos behind Balzac Paris; its founder, Chrysoline de Gastines wanted to launch a brand that designs a limited series of timeless and classic collections to help women create a more responsible wardrobe. When I asked her for her three favourite wardrobe items for my book, she told me they were jeans, a shirt and sneakers. You’ll notice there’s a reoccurring theme. And when stylist Deborah Reyner Sebag and Founder of Musier, Anne-Laure Mais contributed their closet essentials, they both mentioned the same style of jeans: vintage Levi’s 501s.
We all know by now that fashion is the second largest polluter on the planet. Whilst things are changing, fashion still promotes a throwaway culture, but if you practise a little Parisienne you’ll have a carefully curated wardrobe of pieces you love to re-wear; pieces that have longevity and that will last season after season, long after the trends have changed.