All words which I had heard and had used myself to describe Parisian fashion before I arrived in the city of love. I expected to walk down the Champs-Élysées, witnessing an array of designer handbags hanging from the arms of Parisian women. I imagined myself strolling down the hidden side streets, hearing the click-clacks of heels hitting the pavements and viewing a sea of colours draped over women’s bodies. I imagined Chanel, Dior and Balmain, combinations of silk scarves and tailored suits catching my eyes.
Despite my initial assumptions, in my own personal experience, I have not found Parisian fashion to be all what it’s cracked up to be. For a city that is considered a fashion capital, an inspiration for designers, I can not help but ask what is so inspiring about this city fashion wise? Perhaps it is the areas I have visited? I do not live and work in the most central part of a Paris, so maybe that is why? Yes, I do agree that the ladies of this city dress in a more reserved and sophisticated manner, something which I do admire, but where are the eclectic fabrics? The piles of jewelry? The vibrant colours?
I feel that Parisians are yet to follow their friends across the channel in their bold statement outfits, their rebellious fashion sense and their individuality in their own style. When wearing my favourite orange jumper, I can not help but feel as if all eyes are on me….quite literally because they are. And not for the reasons I would like, but more for my distinct breaking of the rules of not conforming to an all black outfit.
Since the beginning of my stay in Paris, I feel like I have more of an obligation to make an effort and look the part in London than I do in Paris. My understanding is that it is not just London, but Britain as a whole is more accepting of one breaking the mold in the fashion world. France, much like it’s thinking behind immigration, is more about assimilation than appreciation.
I am thankful for the disappearance of certain trends, such as my personal pet peeve – leggings as a substitute for trousers or jeans. So far, I have not had to bear witness to an awful view of someone’s leopard print knickers through their ghastly thin tights, something which I have seen in the QM library. I did catch a glimpse of some eccentric looks during Paris Fashion Week as I lunched at the L’Avenue restaurant situated on the high fashion Avenue Montaigne, but since then, I have not been blessed with such a view again.
What I did notice though upon my arrival, particularly in the diverse and multicultural suburbs, were the west African women dressed in their traditional attire. From geles to kaftans, dashikis to ankara, it was refreshing watching these women lead their everyday lives, looking proud and graceful while continuing to embrace their culture and identity.
Originally published in Cub Magazine, a Queen Mary, University of London publication, November 2014