Claire Thomson-Jonville is nothing short of a modern polymath. Not only is the Scottish-born, Paris-based fashion insider at the helm of her own creative agency, she is also a brand consultant, designer, editor and model. It might come as a surprise, then, that a career in fashion wasn’t the obvious choice for her. Growing up in the British countryside, her exposure to the industry was limited to whatever magazines her mother could procure from their local supermarket. It was in these glossy pages that Thomson-Jonville encountered the work of stylists and photographers like Jane How, Melanie Ward, Corinne Day and Juergen Teller, all of whom she credits with having a lasting impact on her aesthetic. It wasn’t until her college years (she studied Law at The University of Edinburgh), when she took part in an exchange program to Paris, that she began to look at fashion as a career path. Following a chance encounter with Ezra Petronio and Suzanne Koller (the founders of cult magazine Self Service), Thomson-Jonville took a job at the publication, and quickly rose up the ranks to editor-in-chief. It was in 2018, after almost a decade in the role, that she decided it was time for a new chapter. These days the multi-hyphenate creative juggles her various roles with aplomb. Here, she shares her career and styling secrets…
Feel the fear, do it anyway
“I am so grateful I crossed paths with Ezra Petronio and Suzanne Koller: they were my mentors during such a formative period of my life, and my time at Self Service really informed my creative DNA. Leaving the magazine was less a leap of faith and more an organic process. After having kids, my personal circumstances changed, but the industry also entered an Instagram age, and suddenly branching out on my own felt like less of a risk. There’s nothing comfortable about being an editor-in-chief, but there is something comfortable about staying somewhere for a long time, and I believe in challenging yourself. Feel the fear, do it anyway.
“As a business founder, especially a female founder, there’s a real exhilaration and urgency that comes from being your own boss. There’s no such thing as a nine-to-five routine for me – it all depends on what project I’m working on. I feel fortunate to be living through this moment in the industry, because it’s possible to do so many things – you don’t have to neatly slot into just one category.
“I actually think being a working mother has made me a better parent and businesswoman. I’m super-efficient and also more compassionate with my team. It’s important to be human. Just because I have to leave the office early to pick up my child or get upset because they’re ill, it doesn’t make me a lesser businesswoman. I don’t feel intimidated when I find myself in a room full of men in suits.”
There’s no real differentiation between my working wardrobe and my everyday look. I need clothes that work for everything”
Dress to get things done
“My style was definitely more eclectic when I was growing up. I think most women find their style by trial and error – and I definitely made some errors. My look, as it is now, has been informed by living in Paris. There’s no real difference between my working wardrobe and my everyday look. I need clothes that work for everything: dropping my kids off at school, hopping on the Eurostar, meeting clients and then, at the end of the day, attending a work dinner. I dress to make myself feel confident, beautiful and ready for anything.”
Find your uniform
“Suiting is my signature look. The key to making it contemporary is the fit; I wear mine a little oversized, with a T-shirt and sneakers or men’s shoes – I like to throw an element into every look that feels a little off-kilter. As a working mom, I usually carry two bags: a cross-body one by Prada or Miu Miu with all the essentials – my phone, money and so on – and a big top-handle tote by Bottega Veneta or Saint Laurent, where I keep the kids’ stuff, my laptop and water bottle; I’m all about practicality. Another super-Parisian way to look more relaxed is by going for a pared-back beauty look and bedhead hair. Having a full face of makeup just feels way too ‘done’ for me.”
To build the perfect closet, you have to begin by getting good advice about what shapes work for your body – and stick to them”
Pay attention to the details
“If I wear jeans to work, I go for a slightly oversized pair and elevate them with a cashmere sweater, a nice watch and a blazer – perfect for a client meeting. I never knowingly think about adding feminine elements to my outfits. Being a stylist, you just know how to balance it, but I think the fact that I always wear jewelry and keep my hair long and loose helps. I also roll up the jeans a little and finish my look with great shoes. I’m kind of synonymous with sneakers, but I’m also a huge fan of chunky combat boots and brogues, and there’s something really modern and cool about a kitten heel.”
I am really considered with jewelry and attach a lot of emotion to all my pieces. I have some that mark the births of my children”
Add touches of luxury
“Classic, perfectly cut pieces in beautiful fabrics are integral to my look. I believe keeping it simple is the key to everything. To build the perfect closet, you have to begin by getting good advice about what shapes work for your body – and stick to them. I recommend investing in key pieces, like an oversized blazer, jeans and the perfect white tee – Saint Laurent is my go-to. It’s also worth spending money on luxe knitwear; a great turtleneck can go a long way. You don’t have to splash out on trendy brands to look chic. I have pieces I bought when I was 18 years old that I still love, like Joseph pants and Helmut Lang jeans. Birthdays and Christmas are when I add to my jewelry collection. Gold is my color and I love contemporary designers like Charlotte Chesnais and Repossi. I am really considered with jewelry and attach a lot of emotion to all my pieces – I have some that mark the births of my children.”