I was drawn to Parisian Chic A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange (in collaboration with Elle fashion journalist Sophie Gachet) by its gorgeous red cover. Easy to read and in a casual sketchbook format, the book has a nice, personal feel. There are fashion photographs of Ines’ daughter (as gorgeous as her mother) alongside Ines’ own snapshots and drawings.
Parisian Chic contains Ines’ favourite Parisian haunts for a variety of things, including food, beauty and home. Naturally as an former Chanel model and muse, most of the book is about fashion and beauty. I can imagine some of her advice can seem old-fashioned to a young, trendy crowd. For example, she advises against getting tattoos but insists everyone must have a good trench coat. I expect that sort of advice would go over some fashion-concsious 20-something’s head.
Everything I know about fashion can be written on a postage stamp. So I shall focus on the home section which is quite interesting.
Ines describes her own Parisian flat which is a small 750 s.f. as minimalist chic. She recommends white for small flats even if hers is a bright rose-pink. She also advocates neutrals such as gray, browns and blacks. It’s clearly a case of do as I say, not as I do.
Similar to her fashion style, she encourages the use of an offbeat approach. She encourages accesorizing for maximum effect and keeping basics neutral. I agree with her that your home’s decor should reflect your personality.
Ines seems to have an obsession with hiding unsightly objects. For example, printers should be put in cupboards, clutter stored in boxes and plastic bottles decanted into pretty containers. Although she agrees eliminating clutter in family homes is difficult, she suggest you try and create a small corner of cheerful clutter. I’m pretty sure this tableau involves beautifully crafted wooden French toys and not bright, plastic Fisher Price toys.
I agree with Ines that artwork on the walls add personality to your home and doesn’t have to be expensive. She suggests using children’s art for decor, but specifically from children under the age of 10. This dictum leaves me wondering if she thinks that teenager’s artwork contains too much angst to be considered chic.
She also has set opinions with respect to flowers. Yes, you can have ugly bouquets. Among other things, ugly bouquets have (i) more than 3 colours, (ii) no white flowers and/or (iii) chrysanthemums. According to her, an all-white bouquet is a fail-safe option.
So, what about these places that she recommends in her book? I’ve been to several and I can share with you a very unscientific appraisal. For the most part, they are as good as she says. For example, she recommends Merci on the Boulevard Beaumarchais as an amazing concept shop which, of course, it is. For children, I agree Chantelivre and Serendipity for books and furnishings, respectively, are great.
Other listings, I’m not so sure about. She raves about Heteroclite at rue de Vaugiard which is described as an authentic Parisian antique shop. Pretty and small, I’m not sure what’s so super special about it.
I think Mamie Gateaux on the rue de Cherche-Midi (pretty much right across the street from Serendipity) has superb food but the shopping itself is more like a random jumble sale.
I can see why she likes Ralph’s on the Boulevard Saint Germain for lunch. Ralph Lauren’s All-American style sets it apart from the usual French fare. I, personally, thought it was overpriced and pretentious.
Overall, I liked Ines’ book which was fun, informative and unpretentious. She is strongly opinionated which is refreshing in a world of wishy-washy political correctness. I only wish I had a tenth of her self-assured je ne sais quois attitude towards style.