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A French invasion

'I often wonder how the French, in particular the Parisians, manage to thrive in the fashion pool while others can only flounder. Are they born with the gift or is it just because they have easy access to fabulous French brands?'

To deny that Paris is the epicentre of fashion would seem absurd to many a fashion devotee. Besides holding the celebrated haute couture fashion week and boasting some of the world’s most famous designer showrooms and boutiques, there are the jaw-droppingly fashionable people. Those not infrequent instances where the Parisians succeed in pulling off a look that is casual yet highly chic seem only to be achievable if you are indeed lucky enough to be Parisian. But I often wonder how the French, in particular the Parisians, manage to thrive in the fashion pool while others can only flounder. Is it perhaps because they are born with the gift or simply because they have easy access to fabulous French brands?

If the answer is the latter, then there is now no excuse for those living in and around London who want to transform themselves into a vision of Parisian style. When nobody was looking there was something of an invasion of upmarket French brands on our soil. The exciting developments to London’s shopping scene fully allow fashionistas to perfect that quintessential Parisian look which seems to be of utmost desire nowadays. The French brands such as Zadig and Voltaire, Maje, Sandro, Paul & Joe and APC which are stamping their mark on London ooze every aspect of what it takes to achieve the Parisian allure. The secret about true Parisian dressing is that you must appear as if you have not made any effort. The entire look is about detail, rather than excess flash, and revolves around a classic but casual elegance. Remembering to stay loyal to black, grey and beige naturally goes without saying. What these brands do is offer up timeless staples that transcend seasons. What they don’t do is make the clothes look like they are wearing the people – rather the other (correct) way around.

My favourite of the French brands to hit London is the newest of all and in my opinion the most original. The Kooples – a Parisian label – was founded only two years ago by brothers Alexander, Laurent and Raphael. The brand – already boasting a triumphant 73 outlets across France – has recently opened three London stores and has also made itself comfortable in Selfridges. There are plans for a further three outlets in London and 20 more around Britain. Some may be quick to blame their success on the fact that they are the sons of those behind a thriving womenswear chain called Comptoir des Cotonniers. But judging by the rave reviews the brand is getting in London, and also by just looking at the clothing, I know the warm welcome is down to the brand’s sharp, slick, rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. The spot-on advertising crusade featuring super-stylish couples wearing The Kooples has also played its part in their success.

With edgy tailored jackets, skinny jeans and trendy coats, The Kooples truly encapsulates what it is to be young and cool with a dose of Parisian finesse. Each of the items have great detailing and quality, and are extremely wearable at the same time. Agathe Vernazobres of The Kooples hailed it as “the archetypal trans-Channel brand, as it takes influences from the cutting technique and sharp suiting of Saville Row, but with a Parisian twist in terms of detailing and fabrics”. Fashion columnist, Gareth Wyn Davies, wrote: “If I was 10 years younger and a good stone and a half lighter there’s one place I’d be shopping quite a lot right now: The Kooples.

“I am loving it all,” he went on to say, “and, as I say, just wishing I was 28 (years and waist size)”.

Fortunately for me, I am young and I do have a 28 inch waist; it would clearly have been rude had I not purchased a few items from somewhere that caters so well for the younger, leaner customer. When I first discovered The Kooples on my year abroad in France I was thrilled to find a label which offered small sizes actually suitable for small people (I get so frustrated when an ‘S’ item could easily house an ‘XL’ person).

The French label, Sandro, is soon to be opening a flagship boutique in London, with other stores dotted around in various well-to-do locations such as Sloane Street and Harrods. Along with APC, Sandro is the leader of the blasé-chic look. You can better understand its escalating popularity from Harriet Quick, Vogue’s features director, saying that employees at the Vogue office frequently clad themselves in Sandro clothing. However, like all of these types of French brands, one of the best selling points is the pricing. The prices perfectly bridge the gap between the high street and high-end fashion. This means that a still upmarket brand is much more accessible but without giving the clothes away; you truly feel like you are buying into something worthy with no feeling of bankruptcy at the end. Could your Parisian phase be just around the corner?

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