By Bénédicte Mahé

(French) I will start this article by saying that I am no fashion journalist and that my sense of style is often less than approximate (I am blaming it on my no-work, no-money situation, but who am I kidding?), except this does not prevent me from having an opinion about French fashion.

For decades now, Paris has been on the front row when it comes to fashion. However, I feel these last years it has lost the legitimacy it once had. Fashion weeks in New York and Milan or even minor fashion weeks in London and Berlin sometimes show more originality and creativity than well-established French fashion houses. Maybe it’s because they feel they have more to prove or do not have a “fashion collar shackle,” while France (well, Paris that is) is living on its fame and does not let up-and-coming designers free themselves from years of convention.

Nevertheless, the first semester of 2013 is witnessing an interesting trend in Paris: mixing culture and fashion. Three major exhibitions are showing an evident turn towards the past, from ancient garments to the diffusion of fashion. Is this the sign of a necessary reflection in order to go forwards? Is looking into the past the solution to finding answers for future collections and a legitimacy for the French haute couture? What do these exhibitions really hope to create? Will they even have an effect on the fashion world? I do not have any answer to these questions, but I think this process happening in Paris right now can help us define and reflect on our own attitudes towards fashion. So if you are in Paris or planning a trip soon, do not forget to check out these exhibitions!

Fashioning fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915.
From December 13th 2012 to April 14th 2013
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
10, rue de Rivoli – 75001 Paris
(this exhibition was presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from October 2010 to March 2011)

Mannequin – le corps et la mode
From February 16th to May 19th 2013
Les Docks – Cité de la mode et du design
34 quai d’Austerlitz – 75013 Paris
(this exhibition is curated by the Musée Galliera, which is currently closed for remodeling and is reopening the fall of 2013)

Paris Haute Couture
From March 2nd to July 6th 2013
Hôtel de Ville
Salle Saint-Jean. 5 rue de Lobau – 75004 Paris
(the entrée to this exhibition is free for everybody, like every exhibition by the Paris City Hall)

Share with us your thoughts on French fashion (or fashion in general) in the comments below!

Bénédicte Mahé photo - cropped DuplicateBénédicte Mahé has studied abroad many times, speaks four languages (French, English, German and Italian), and earned a Master of Management of cultural goods and activities, as well as a Master’s degree in intercultural communications and cooperation. She wishes to work in philanthropy for cultural institutions or non-profit organizations. Among her interests are drinking tea, cooking (with or without success), reading, watching TV shows, and—of course—shopping. She started her blog Tribulations Bretonnes in 2010 and has been updating it (more or less regularly) since then.

French Impressions: Anne Fontaine’s white shirts and the color of happiness. Anne Fontaine, a Franco-Brazilian fashion designer, entrepreneur, businesswoman and philanthropist, known as the “queen of the white shirt,” brought new faces and unforeseen levels of diversity to the fashion industry. Thanks to her, the white shirt is now definitely a staple on women’s wardrobes as a key piece. Anne shares her rise in the industry and 2011 launch of The Anne Fontaine Foundation, which is committed to the reforestation of the Brazilian rain forest. (French)

Beauty Confessions from a Globe-trotting Parisienne. Parisienne Bénédicte Mahé shares a French woman’s approach to beauty and makeup; and how the relationship Americans have with beauty is very different from that of the French. Including her list of Beauty Resources in Paris and a vocabulary of French to English translations. (French)

Sequins, Lamé, and Alien Hair: Inside Ylan Anoufa’s Paris Couture Show, by Abby Rodgers who, since moving to Paris, wanted to attend a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week. When her friend Marina, who did the makeup for the Gustavo Lins couture show, received an invitation to the Ylan Anoufa show she asked Abby to come along.

How to spend your money even if you do not need to: the French biannual sales, by French woman Bénédicte Mahé who writes about the exquisite uniqueness of French sales that last for weeks each year and offer incredible sales. These sales take place over five weeks during the late summer and for two weeks during the winter, and thus demands from shoppers: when to buy and what to wait for during sale season?

Scarves à la Françoise: The lingua Franca for stylish women, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience trying on scarves and tying them at the home of her French friend in Lyon. Arriving at the famous silk manufacture in Lyon, André Claude Canova, Barbara and her friend gently tapped on the window even though the shop was closed. The shop girl let them and they all enjoyed hours of playfully draping, twisting and knotting scarves and shawls. An experience spurred by the ubiquitous nature of women and scarves: our common language. 

French Lingerie: Mysterious and flirty, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience searching for the perfect lingerie in Paris boutiques and her “fitting” with the shop keeper, Madame, in a curtained room stripped to bare at Sabbia Rosa. Including a French to English vocabulary lesson for buying lingerie and a directory of Barbara’s favorite lingerie shops in Paris. (French)

Text copyright ©2013 Bénédicte Mahé. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2013 Kayla McMullen. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.