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Porter
Art of Style

An insider’s guide to Parisian style

Paris-based designer and fashion journalist ALEXANDRA GOLOVANOFF on the basics of nailing French chic. By DIVYA BALA

Photography Asia TypekStyling Sabina Khan
Fashion

The elusive art of French style lies in its balance. It requires a delicate dance of opposites – masculine and feminine, sophisticated and dishevelled – which combine to create ‘chic’ in the purest form. Indeed, while Parisian women have become slightly more at ease with a décontracté aesthetic (track pants, sneakers and athleisure in all its guises were once considered poor taste), there is a certain unstudied polish that ensures effortless elegance – at any time of day.

Journalist and fashion TV presenter Alexandra Golovanoff grew up in the world’s fashion capital and has spent a great deal of time around its most iconic members – her interview hours clocked up the most time with the late Karl Lagerfeld – perhaps explaining the innate sense of style she possesses.

This impeccable insouciance has been immortalized in Golovanoff’s eponymous cashmere-sweater line, which has already made fast fans of Sofia Coppola, Eva Chen, Nicole Kidman and Catherine Deneuve (who even has a style named after her, following her request for a specific silhouette).

At home, in the sprawling Paris apartment she has recently moved into – among two larger-than-life portraits of herself taken by Karl Lagerfeld, and a scattering of front-row souvenirs – Golovanoff teaches us the (almost) unteachable: a certain je ne sais quoi à la Parisienne.

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Master the art of imperfection

“What we Parisians seek is to be yourself over being perfect – say, if you like having messy hair, don’t feel you have to get a blow-dry to be chic. The other thing is to wear beautiful pieces that are slightly dishevelled, slightly worn. For me, Parisians are not very rock ’n’ roll; they’re more bourgeois-chic.”

Strike the perfect balance

It’s important to get accessorizing right. You could wear a beautiful, iconic, luxury bag, but no nail polish. Equally, if I want to wear high heels, I would never do so with a mini skirt. It’s all about balance.”

Comfort is key

“I don’t like to be constricted or wear anything too tight – it’s always about comfort and wearing a mix of feminine and masculine. I like to have something kind of boyish, so my jeans are often men’s that are a little bit too big and too long. I like them that way.”

Elevate but don’t overdress

“I like to have very simple, very ‘raw’ pieces, mixed with something more sophisticated. I always balance opposites – such as casual looks with diamonds. Or a very simple outfit with vintage pieces, but a very beautiful bag. I like the idea of positive and negative, sophisticated and casual. I do it very instinctively; I don’t like to overthink it.”

Find your closet fundamentals

“Once, when I was on the front row at a show, I realized I was possibly dressed a little bit too blasé, so I challenged myself to try to express my creative side. For me, knitwear was the only way to do it. I love the idea of making clothes with just a single thread of yarn. You don’t need anything else, it’s like magic. It’s cosy, its warm – a sweater is almost a friend – it’s intimate. Our pieces are made with the best-quality cashmere in Mauritius and are hand-knit by loom. The way we do it is exactly what I wanted: a small, family owned factory. The cashmere itself is totally natural. When we do cotton in summer, it’s organic. This is so important.”

I like to have very simple, very ‘raw’ pieces, mixed with something more sophisticated. I always balance opposites – such as casual looks with diamonds. Or a very simple outfit with vintage pieces, but a very beautiful bag

Enhance your natural beauty

“I like being very, very natural. I’m much more into taking care of my skin than putting on makeup. The colors of the sweaters are very important, as they are designed to make you look beautiful – colors work just like makeup and depend on a woman’s skin tone. For me, having good hair and skin with a simple sweater can be enough.”

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown