• “If anyone started the HANDS-FREE trend, it was the French. Hands are for FRONT-ROW INVITES and smokes”

    course, there’s Emmanuelle Alt. The way she stalks around the shows with her trusty army of French Vogue-sters, all identically turned out with their seemingly unbrushed hair, single-sole stilettos (these women have never done the platform) and cropped skinny pants. It’s like Reservoir Dogs, Parisian style.

    If only we could bottle that languid national confidence of theirs, that essence of ‘Je m’en fous’. Well, perhaps all we need to do is observe a few cardinal rules.
    Rule number one: Nail a distinctive style and have the confidence to stick to it. Rule number two: Don’t get too, er… experimental, which can be tricky for the trend-led amongst us. Rule number three: Look sexy. I hope that’s OK to say. But that’s the point, as I’m sure most French women would agree.

    Consider Madame Alt’s signature style and how long it’s worked for her: skinny, cropped pants, almost guaranteed to be Isabel Marant; an exquisitely tailored blazer by Balmain or Saint Laurent; and

    pointy-toed heels, favoring either Manolo Blahnik or Guiseppe Zanotti. It helps that Alt is so svelte, of course, but is that basic silhouette so unforgiving? I think not. Under the jacket there’ll be the perfect ‘nothing’ tee, the kind that can be rolled up at the sleeves and feels like it has been washed a thousand times. Or an oversized men’s shirt, tucked in at the front, which has proved so popular on Alt and co. that designers are now making shirts with slits up the sides for that very purpose. All in all, that’s your scaffolding, and from that you can build and tweak.

    Play with fabrics, rather than the silhouette: a blazer in black or even white leather, for example. Try a slightly more outlandish stiletto sandal, ideally by Alaïa,

    that you can walk in, unaided, on downhill cobblestones. French girls don’t do uncomfortable and they definitely don’t do ‘victim’.

    As for color? Keep it neutral. Black, white or gray, with maybe just a dash of leopard – because in a French woman’s book, leopard, like any animal print, is neutral.

    But it’s the extra add-ons where you’ll hit a wall. If anyone started the hands-free trend, it was the French. Hands are for holding front-row invites and a pack of smokes, and although that’s hard for all you accessory junkies out there, sometimes all you need is a pair of aviators and a Cartier Tank watch. The same goes for hair and makeup. If you’ve got the smoky eyes down like Roitfeld, great; if not, barefaced, with a few lines to show you’ve lived, is even better.

    Balmain, Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant: I’m ready. I’ve got my hands in my pockets, one toe slyly inclined towards the other for the camera, head faintly tilted to one side. If only I’d tried harder at school and actually spoke the language…”


    Heels and aviators are all you need.


    Wear these low on
    the hips in white or
    classic black.


    SHIRT Tucked in at the front and loose at the back for insouciant chic.

    how to do




    Photographs: Mario Villanueva
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