The little black dress. Le smoking. Haute couture. The New Look. Prêt-à-porter. Schiaparelli’s “lobster” dress. Without a doubt, France and Paris, widely considered the “fashion capital of the world,” have been at the forefront of the global fashion scene since Madeleine Vionnet introduced the bias cut in the 1920s. While old-school staples such as the maisons of Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Balmain come to mind when you think of French fashion, today a bevy of savvy, accomplished designers are changing the face of French style. This talented crop of designers is helping foster a trend that’s been reinterpreting what it means to be stylish in Paris: Since the early 2000s, a more hipster, or bobo look (short for bourgeois bohème) has gained in popularity along with other fads. Once the domain of posh Left Bank neighborhoods or the glitzy Avenue Montaigne, fashion is increasingly becoming Right Bank, with its grittier, more industrial enclaves proving to be hotbeds of edgy street style inspiration. Modern-day fashionistas now congregate in the artsy Marais district and the 11th and 20th arrondissements, shying away from the established boutiques dotting Saint-Germain-des-Près. From little-known brands and household names, to former protégés of Nicolas Ghesquière and the instigator of the wedged sneaker craze, the following French fashion designers are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Ophélie Klère & François Alary of Dévastée
The emerging French label Dévastée has proved that black and white can be vibrant, especially in their Fall/Winter 2013 collection that debuted last week. The duo behind the brand, Ophélie Klère and François Alary (who are business partners and a couple in real life; she cuts and he sketches), add an energetic dimension to their black and white wares with clashing prints and fun motifs, such as cartoon-like characters and crossword designs. Many of their looks shown last week were rendered even more edgy through the use of gloves, provided by the esteemed house of Causse. With their urban and cool vibe, Dévastée’s quirky creations are bound to explode in popularity outside France.
With her funky patterns, diverse materials, and slouchy shapes, Isabel Marant is the epitome of Parisian nonchalance. The queen of France’s high-end boho-luxe look first came onto American fans’ radars when she introduced her acclaimed wedged sneakers, which are practically seen everywhere today. A native of Paris, Marant is known for effortlessly blending eclectic bohemia and tomboy chic into über-trendy designs—a far cry from traditional French fashion. Originally founded in 1994, her maison has seen an unprecedented boom in popularity in the last few years, especially with the opening of its U.S. flagship boutique in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Boasting celebrity aficionados including Sienna Miller, Rachel Weisz, and Beyoncé, Marant is on track to become a key player on the American fashion scene.
Elisha Brothers of The Kooples
Launched in 2008 by Alexandre, Laurent, and Raphael Elisha—the same brothers behind the extremely successful Comptoir des Cotonniers brand—The Kooples proposes classic, luxurious pieces marked by a hardcore vibe (for example, their signature skull detail). Especially known for their hot ads featuring super-beautiful real life couples, the brand has equally garnered attention for their practically interchangeable men’s and women’s garments, offered in the same colors, cuts, and shapes for each sex. The brothers have recently partnered with Norton & Sons, tailors from London’s Savile Row, to create a perfectly crafted neo-dandy look evoking a London rocker with a Parisian sense of je ne sais quoi. With a big expansion in Great Britain, we can only expect The Kooples to invade the United States.
Alice Lemoine of Le Moine Tricote
At a mere 28-years-old Alice Lemoine is quickly making a name for herself in France’s fashion world. Her eponymous knitwear brand, Le Moine Tricote, has been lauded for its highly coveted hand-made pieces that couple elegance and wearability. After studying fashion design at ESMOD (École Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode), Lemoine perfected her craft working under Rick Owens before launching her own line. Her wares’ sculpture-like qualities and their form-conscious shapes stem from her original background as an architect. After opening Paris fashion week to unanimous praise, Le Moine Tricote will surely attract a steady stream of followers because of its sophisticated feminine designs.
Vanessa Bruno’s namesake fashion house, founded in 1996, has proved that tousled French chic can be exported to the entire world. The former actress, model, and singer designs with cosmopolitan yet bohemian women in mind, crafting pieces that are at once suitable for the office and for late-night dinners. Casual yet sophisticated styles abound, from chunky shoes and boots to boyfriend blazers and slouchy trousers. Touting celebrity fans including Rachel Bilson, Julie Delpy, Vanessa Paradis, and Kirsten Dunst, Bruno creatively celebrates her seasons by collaborating with the filmmaker Stephanie di Gusto to produce short films. With one boutique located Stateside—in West Hollywood—Vanessa Bruno is gearing up to become the next big name for lovers of minimalist French style.
It was at a 2001 Madonna concert—with trademark corsets by Jean Paul Gaultier on display—that Maxime Simoëns decided to pursue a career in fashion. After finishing school, he apprenticed under some of the biggest names in the industry, from his idol John Paul Gaultier to John Galliano of Dior and Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. Today the young maestro is often compared to a young Yves Saint Laurent and is expected to become a renowned name in the world of fashion. His collections are often narrative in nature, each telling a story with compelling visual elements and icons; all of his garments are exquisitely constructed and marry structure, fluidity, and modern elegance. In February 2013 the French luxury conglomerate LVMH proudly announced that it would financially back Simoëns’s fashion house, practically guaranteeing the young designer’s ascent onto the global fashion market.
Born in Cannes, France, to Moroccan parents, Bouchra Jarrar has made a name for herself with her chic, sleek, and mature ready-to-wear. After assisting Nicolas Ghesquière and Christian Lacroix, the designer set out on her own to create practical yet elegant and edgy wares for both daytime and the evening. She is among a growing contingent of female designers who think about a modern woman’s comfort and often hectic schedules; Vogue’s Sarah Mower even deemed her the French version of Stella McCartney. With her impressive attention to cutting and tailoring and her minimalist palette of colors, including navy, beige, black, and hints of red, Bouchra Jarrar’s success has been growing at a steady rate since debuting her first collection in 2010.