A French affair

By Penny Hunt

It is not an exaggeration to say Parisians are naturally stylish, but how do they do it?

A week before Paris Fashion Week opened, I was walking the streets of the city, shopping, drinking wine with girlfriends, and people-watching. Sadly, I departed for Sydney and the daily grind, before I had a chance to take in the fashion week frivolity. But I am still daydreaming about all the beautiful people, clothes, food and champagne. Let me share a few fond memories of Paris, before we revisit the runway shows.

I am sitting in a very chic bar/restaurant called L’Avenue on the Avenue Montaigne (which runs between the Champs Élysées and the Seine) sipping champagne contemplating the shopping extravaganza my girlfriends and I are about to embark on. Credit cards are slowly drawn from our purses and we buoy each other with comments like, “If you don’t get it now you will regret it” or the other classic, “It costs at least double back at home.” I fall for the latter every time.

Looking around, I start to notice that on the streets of Paris, fashion week exists year round. During the week, when everyone in the fashion industry is expected to pull out their best, the ante goes up and the city is full of strutting peacocks. It is not an exaggeration to say Parisians are naturally stylish. Perhaps it is an innate French thing or perhaps it is a result of the fact their local designers happen to be Chanel and Louis Vuitton. While every city has its own style, when a Paris woman puts on denim cut-offs (paired with ballet flats and a well-cut blazer), they will always look chic.

Our shopping trip starts at Dior so I could see the over-the-knee boots and corset dresses in real life. On the way in, I am reminded of the Sex and the City episode when Carrie is out shopping in Paris and trips as she enters Christian Dior. Fortunately, I avoided a similar fate, but I could have fainted in there. The store is like a magical palace with room after room of glittering jewels, shoes, bags, make-up and outfits fit for a princess. And that’s just the women’s section.


As we make our way down the avenue to the boutiques of the most exquisite designers – Chloé, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Céline – I start to notice the winter-season pieces I have been admiring since the last fashion week. In Chanel, I gravitate towards the shaggy snow boots and silver quilted CC Classic bag. In Céline, it’s the leather pencil skirts, and at Chloé I covet the beige wide-leg trousers.

Done with shopping, my mind drifts to the Paris Fashion Week spring/summer collections – a great source of inspiration as I head home to a sunny Sydney summer. Here are a couple of highlights from my favourite French designers:

Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld’s collection had a new rock ’n’ roll edge with lots of denim, tulle and a hint of pastel and floral patterning. Moving from one animal reference to another, he replaced last season’s winter wonderland of fur with feathers. The classic Chanel jacket took on a new ’60s swing shape, and for those of us tired of skyscraper heels, the new flat boot and flat wedge were a welcome sight.

Yves Saint Laurent: Designed by the handsome Stefano Pilati, the collection revisited old classics such as the trench coat in all white and in double-breasted blue. The black jumpsuit in all shapes – backless, bloused sleeves and belted – was on show. Then there were bright orange bow blouses, billowing with volume. But it was the dresses and skirts with high splits that grabbed my attention. Just when you thought your legs could remain hidden, they find another way.


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