Starting this week and continuing through the summer, editor-at-large of Stylist France, Audrey Diwan, will be sharing the secrets of becoming (un petit peu) more French. In this week's issue, she reflects on the appeal of Parisian style.
When someone asks you to write a column, the first question that springs to mind is: why? What have I got to say that’s worth you losing the next five minutes of your day? To make sure that we meet here each week there must be a good reason, don’t you think? A subject that truly interests both you and me.
Our differences are a potential place to start. I am French – Parisian to be precise. For the past three years, I have written a column for the French edition of Stylist, sketching a portrait of 30-somethings who live in the capital. An increasingly precise archetype has appeared: a Parisian woman in all her effortless splendour – black jacket, dishevelled hair, the way she runs across the street without a care for other pedestrians, as if she were invincible.
Vive la différence
Over time, I’ve come to understand that girl, to learn her secrets, her flaws, her charm. How To Be Parisian is even the title of the book I wrote with three friends – Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest and Sophie Mas. It has been translated into 33 different languages, proving the level of interest this woman provokes in the world. Whether we admire her or criticise her, whether she pleases us or annoys us. Whether we want to love her or mock her strange manners, her unforgivable arrogance, or the melancholic poses she strikes alone in bars in the evening, leafing through a book she’s not really reading. Over the next couple of months I will tell you a bit more about her each week in this column. I will teach you how to be just un petit peu more French, or perhaps how not to be, if that’s what you prefer.
Me, I was born in Paris, so I have an excellent understanding of Parisian women. I think of the first words of Diana Vreeland in The Eye Has To Travel – when asked how one could become a woman like her, she responded: “You arrange to be born in Paris and after that, everything follows quite naturally.” It’s at once true and perfectly false. And this is my first lesson to you: it’s not enough to just be born in the right location. There are then lots of complicated – often tiresome – codes that you must become fluent in if you want to integrate effectively with the locals. The one I prefer is the concept of ‘effortless chic’ – how we maintain that a pretty girl is naturally elegant without ever having to try too hard. In reality, I can tell you that the same woman has spent hours perfecting her ‘just out of bed’ style.
So, let’s meet here next week and engage in a debate about our different cultures. I will take the role of the French woman, the post-Brexit Parisian (I’m devastated to see you leave, I must say). And you can take the role of the Brit who is both amused and annoyed as you discover more about our habits. We’ll spend a few minutes together, putting the world to rights and bottling the essence of what it means to be French.