Style is as unique as it is a total sham. We copy, we remix, and we take from those in the spotlight, people otherwise known as style icons.
There are the staples, women that all women love and want to be like: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Rihanna, Beyoncé, or whatever supermodel of the year is being indulged by Vogue Magazine…Karlie Kloss for some time, now one or both of the Hadids and so on.
If you speak with those entrenched in style you might find some cult favorites: Carine Roitfeld or Leandra Medine, for example. And as for men, I’m afraid I’ve not heard many of them claim to be inspired by anyone (dirty liars, they’ve got to have eyes on someone.)
Personally, I’ve got more than a few and I’m certain some of them are obvious, but today I want to tell a story about one of my icons. She keeps coming up in my mind and I suppose these days she’s emerging as my inspiration more than others.
Caroline de Maigret, Wanda Nylon, and my first Fashion Week
It was the year 2016. The month of March, early March. Still chilly in Paris, but with some bright sunshine attempting to filter through the city’s characteristic gray, especially beautiful during what the English call “the gloaming” and what the french refer to as “le crépescule.”
My first fashion show ever. I had popped into a presentation for a brand called Sixth June, but it was hardly fashion week caliber—this was the real deal. My friend Hannah and I, invitations late to our mailboxes, shouted our names and our publication at the bouncer amidst the beautiful people.
Inside the drafty and unfinished building I wondered how this was a venue just as much as Grand Palais, but I liked the grittiness.
The show was Wanda Nylon. I had done very cursory preliminary research on her. Apparently she made some very interesting outerwear.
When we climbed the dark stairs we stumbled upon a makeshift runway, the lights necessary for good photos were all that seemed important. There was hardly anything else save for two or three rows of white benches for guests. I would be standing room, of course.
I huddled close to my friend, my only comfort. There might have been champagne, seemed to always be free champagne at these things. And then I gasped quietly and jabbed Hannah in the side. There she was.
Caroline de Maigret right here at the same show I was at. In the flesh. Wearing her typical look: the leather jacket, messy hair, and excellent jeans. She looked so casual, like she had just come in off of the streets to grace us at this show, hardly Chanel or Dries Van Noten. (That’s a thing to like at Paris Fashion Week, it’s not all about status.)
In my fervent excitement, I wondered if I should get a photo or video for our publication, but I thought no, that’d be exploiting this moment. And I couldn’t annoy her in this way, film her like a wild animal. I was jiggling with joy, my legs jittering and I think maybe she noticed because she looked up and smiled at me.
Looked straight at me and smiled. I’ll never forget it. That’s a kindness many who’ve made it in the industry wouldn’t bestow on a nobody.
Eye-skimming bangs, unbrushed hair, and je ne sais quoi
Caroline de Maigret is not your typical fashionista, nor your typical model. She’s not full glam and she has plenty of physical flaws on view. She does not work out, in fact she quite detests it. And, as a New York Times interview so aptly puts it:
“Ms. de Maigret…is a count’s daughter who left the Sorbonne to model, left modeling to produce rock music, and left music to return to modeling.”
Not your run-of-the-mill indeed.
More and more, I find I am reaching for the kind of style she represents, a look that says I don’t have to wash my hair or perfectly blend an eyeshadow. I’ve always loved the unstructured look of loose menswear—clothes that allow you to eat while you’re out.
I should mention too, that’s she’s written a book with her parisian friends, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas, titled How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits.
And of course it’s one of my bibles, since my day to day lifestyle is attempting to be as parisian as possible.
To me Caroline de Maigret represents not only a style, but a lifestyle and her decision to write a book about being parisian shows me she understands this concept and is consciously considering her style as more than outward appearance.
There is a sort of preoccupation with the “je ne sais quoi” (the “I don’t know what”) of French women by American women. We’re obsessed with trying to find ways to be them, even if our lives and our culture make that almost impossible. This was made more obvious when I couldn’t even find a copy of the book in France, in french bookstores, that were written in french.
Caroline de Maigret wryly understands this and finds ways to pinpoint the paradoxical, complex, and hypocritical nature of French, specifically parisian women. I especially like her features in YouTube videos on the subject.
Light reading au café
It only makes sense that when I mentally return to de Maigret that I return to the book in question.
A lot of the blathering fashion and life advice I often give (unsolicited most likely…I send warm gratitude to friends who have amused me) is along the same vein of this book. The truth is out. I had to let you think it was all me for as long as possible.
The kind of particular advice in here is enough to make you consider your every move and I’d be confident in claiming that every style icon you follow or genuflect to follows the same kind of meticulous consideration, even if that attitude is to be seemingly carefree. After all, appearing to be careless takes a lot of work.
Parisian women, and I would venture to say this book as well, give us the sort of insight that can lessen the insecurities we may have about our lack of “Riri-ness” or “Chung-ness”, that all of us have a practiced look and attitude. After all, an entire city has a famous practiced attitude, why shouldn’t everyone else?
The above quote caught my eye and its ironic appearance in a book telling me exactly how to be something I may not actually be is the essence of the parisian. She’s just grasping at her passions and trying to pretend she’s doing so casually. It’s exactly why I subscribe to my own blend of stolen icons. The reason we all pretend what we’re doing is natural.
And I think, much with any sort of art, that the art of being a person is rooted in this balancing act. It will be paradoxical, hypocritical, and fickle. It will change from full-glam to au naturel in mere months, days, or seconds.
Much like the constant minute changes in our personalities and philosophies, we have icons to look to, to find inspiration in and to formulate, at the very least, our outward appearance, our armor.
Because you can go to battle with the best ideology, but you’re nothing without some really excellent armor.
Who is your current style icon? Or icon in general?