I can understand why these women are irritated by shows like Emily in Paris, which blunder in and show a false version of their city, and by a fashion industry that creates a brand-heavy gloss that locals are not particularly enamoured by. But ironically, everything they have said fits neatly into all the stereotypes I had about Parisians before I started writing this article.
Which is why Alice Pfeiffer – a Paris-born journalist whose book, Je ne suis pas une Parisienne, tackles the myth around her country women – thinks we need to be equally careful of celebrating this pared-back form of French fashion as it focuses on too narrow a slice of the city’s inhabitants.
“We need to find a much wider definition of Parisian style,” she says. “Think about it: boyfriend jeans suggest heterosexuality, grandmothers’ pearls and vintage Chanel necessitate a wealthy family, messy hair only works on straight hair, the red lipstick only works on certain skin tones. In other words, it celebrates white, skinny, youthful, straight, heteronormative, bourgeois women, which is very far from the multicultural, diverse reality of French women in this post-colonial country.”
She describes Emily in Paris and shows like it as “lethal, and destructive to any form of evolution in this country” because they represent such a static, singular version of French womanhood.