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One of the things that irks me about living in Paris is that anyone can take one look at me and instantly know that I’m not French. Tall with blonde hair, blue eyes, and Dutch features, it’s fair to say that I stick out like a sore thumb.
Parisians assume that I’m American or British and speak English to me accordingly. When I tell them that actually “je suis australienne,” they “ahhh” knowingly and suddenly I’m the archetypal Aussie. The follow up question is usually “do you surf?”
Like many before me, I often observe Parisienne women on the street and wonder how it is they can look so effortlessly chic. And is there a way that I can imitate it? If I can’t look French, at least I can dress French, right? And dressing in French brands is a good start. So if you’re also a foreigner wanting to look the part, here are some of my favorite French brands to help you look more Parisian:
When I first arrived in Paris, I noticed there was a “v” on everyone’s sneakers. What was this brand that was so popular with Parisians? I soon discovered it was Veja. Their sneakers are made with certified organic cotton and other socially and environmentally responsible materials.
They aim to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from their production processes too. Veja also applies fair trade principles, purchasing their cotton and rubber directly from their producers in Brazil. All Veja sneakers are handled by Atelier Sans Frontières employees, an organisation which helps vulnerable individuals find jobs and regain social stability.
Veja also upcycles materials such as recycled cotton and polyester, plastic bottles (the first sneaker brand to use fabric entirely made from recycled plastic bottles), and corn waste to create a vegan leather that is biodegradable. Trendy, socially and environmentally conscious sneakers—what more could you want?
Even when I lived in Australia, I had heard of Sézane. At that time, it was still an online-only brand, which to my dismay did not deliver down-under.
Now that I live in Paris, it is hard to resist the lure of Sézane, with their “Appartement” in the 2nd arrondissement and an outpost in Le Bon Marché. The brand is so popular there are now also Appartements in New York and London. And it’s not hard to see why Sézane has such worldwide appeal—if you’re looking to achieve that seemingly unattainable Parisian chic, Sézane checks all the boxes.
Sézane also has an environmental sustainability and philanthropic program, DEMAIN. Each month, you can purchase a “Solidarity Creation” and 100% of the profits go directly to DEMAIN partner charities. There is also a “Boutique Solidaire” where you can donate your old Sézane pieces, which are then recycled and resold, with all profits going to DEMAIN.
If you follow fashion influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably heard of Polène. The French handbag brand is very popular with the Insta-famous. And rightly so. Polène makes beautiful, high-quality, minimal handbags in a range of lovely hues.
A family business founded by a sister and two brothers, the trio is reflected in their “trio of the month” design, a new tri-material, tri-color model. The bags are made with leather from renowned French, Italian, and Spanish tanneries. They are hand made in Ubrique, Spain, a city known for the production of high-end leather goods.
There’s a new concept store in town by the name of Make My Lemonade, a Parisian brand and blog founded by designer Lisa Gachet. Make My Lemonade prides itself on being the first brand to offer DIY fashion. Each month, a sewing pattern from the current collection is released so you can make the piece yourself.
There are only four ready-to-wear collections every year, to avoid becoming fast fashion and provide sustainable, long-lasting designs instead. At the store you will find not only clothing and accessories but stationary, homeware, and even yoga mats. There’s a Lemonade Café by OPOA Paris serving healthy, vegan, and gluten-free fare. And, a space for workshops and master classes on a variety of topics such as sewing, embroidery, jewelry, and terrarium-making.
I discovered Pairs in Paris – another brand serving the sneaker-loving Parisians – thanks to my favorite Montmartre boutique, Magasin. Paris in Paris sneakers are well made and minimal in design, and come in a range of on-trend colors. They offer styles that deviate from your standard sneaker, with velcro and zippers available in addition to laces.
Made from premium leathers from Italy, Spain, and Portugal, the eyelets are galvanized with a thin layer of 14k gold, 14k rose gold, or white bronze. The sense of style and touch of glam makes sense considering founder Caroline Robert worked for Hermès before creating Pairs in Paris. The success of the brand is evident, with stores now in America, Asia, and Europe.
- We round up our favorite concept stores in Paris.
- Or, check out the vegan concept store Aujourd’hui Demain.
- For more of the best French fashion brands, head to Glamour.