NOT YOUR AVERAGE PARISIENNE
A busy Sunday afternoon in a trendy East Village café – as New Yorkers are swarming the sidewalks and crowding the tables, enjoying one of the rare warm days of the winter, one young woman stands out as soon as she pushes the door. There is something utterly cool and stylish about her demeanor, something that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Is it the mom jeans paired with the loose cashmere sweater, the white sneakers and the camel oversized coat? Is it the natural beauty, emphasized not by layers of makeup but by a genuine smile? Or is it just her Parisienne aura shining through? It might just be the explanation after all – that young woman is Marie-Laure Dumon, the French blogger behind From Paris To Milano, quickly accumulating almost 10,000 followers.
An old Parsons friend and fellow French expat, she came to meet me for an overdue catch-up, as well as a casual chat about Paris and New York fashion, bakeries (of course!) and which jeans give you the best butt!
FROM PARIS TO MILANO
SOPHIE (HIGHLARK): Bonjour Marie-Laure! Tell us how you started From Paris To Milano?
MARIE-LAURE: I first moved out of Paris for a year of Erasmus in Milan and wanted to share my experience with my friends and family. I was inspired by the likes of Garance Doré and Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad.
SOPHIE: How would you define your style and aesthetic?
MARIE-LAURE: I don’t really know… I think I can adopt several different styles, tomboy one day, and more feminine the next in a dress and heels – although I do like to pair my dresses with Dr Martens for a rock’n’roll twist. I’m versatile but I like what’s comfy and cute.
SOPHIE: So you don’t see yourself as the typical Parisienne?
MARIE-LAURE: I mean, it depends on what “ typical Parisienne means”. I almost never wear striped tees and never owned a béret. Though I was born and raised in Paris, I don’t have the typical Parisienne style as I’m influenced by New York now, as well as Scandinavian style. I don’t see myself as fitting into a case. I like to mix it up while keeping comfort and simplicity in mind. However I’m a Parisienne when it comes to food – really good cheese and bakeries are definitely missing in New York!
SOPHIE: They sure are! How about fashion? Did you notice any big difference between New York and Paris style?
MARIE-LAURE: In France, we have high-end luxury fashion, we have Zara and H&M, but we also have “affordable luxury” boutiques or brands in between, like Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot or Ba&Sh, with more unique designs and better quality. In the US, these in-between brands are harder to find, or when you do they’re more expensive than in France. As for the way people dress, in New York you see a lot of each extreme- either a super casual/going to yoga style or super put together. French women are more natural, or at least we look more natural, even if we’ve spent an hour getting ready at home.
SOPHIE: Can you think of anything the New-Yorkers should do like the French? Or the contrary?
MARIE-LAURE: New Yorkers could definitely learn from the Parisiennes’ effortless sense of style! On the other hand, I think people here take better care of themselves: yoga, pilates, manicure… The ‘manicure culture’ is definitely lacking in Paris. Even if you’re not wearing anything out of the ordinary, nice hands make you look put together right away, and manicure time is so relaxing! I love how it forces people not to look at their phone. It’s a good way to unplug for an hour.
SOPHIE: As a fashion school alum, how do you find it to influence your style?
MARIE-LAURE: I have a more critical look on fashion and trends. When I shop, I pay closer attention to details and fabrics and try to avoid fast-fashion retailers such as Forever 21 or H&M. The movie The True Cost about mass production in fashion made a great impression on me and I tried to shop more consciously after watching it. I stay away from fads and would rather invest in good quality basics I can wear over and over. If I want to stand out, I’ll just add a statement piece.
SOPHIE: So, you tend to not follow trends?
MARIE-LAURE: Not really. Good cuts and fabrics, and being comfortable in what I wear, are more important to me. I do like the 90’s trend this season though. I love the concept of Levi’s RE/DONE, a brand that repurposes vintage Levi’s jeans. If RE/DONE is too pricy, my favorite style available in stores is the Wedgie, it’s the one that is the closest to vintage jeans. Levi’s jeans give you the best butt!
SOPHIE: I think we can agree on that! You were mentioning using statement pieces to make your looks unique. Do you have one that you particularly like this season?
MARIE-LAURE: I like creoles and other sorts of big earrings that define your look. Jenny Bird is a great brand to shop for statement jewelry and more refined pieces alike.
SOPHIE: What are your favorite fashion brands and stores?
MARIE-LAURE: I like Topshop and even H&M, but as I said I try to buy less fast fashion, so Reformation and Everlane, became my go-to for sustainable, eco-conscious clothes. I also shop at COS and & Other Stories for their more elaborate cuts and better fabrics, and I shop at the boys’ section a lot.
SOPHIE: What about under-the-radar shops and brands our readers should know about?
- In G-d We Trust in Greenpoint for their Made In USA apparel and jewelry.
- The Academy is a great e-shop and Instagram shop that has limited collaborations with various designers. Their logo tees are great.
- The Frankie Shop have the best curation of independent designers and I love their Instagram curation as well!
- Simon Miller is an effortlessly stylish, chic and casual brand for men and women. I like the fact that it doesn’t have a logo.
- Rachel Comey in Soho (on Crosby street) is a womenswear store with a similarly simple aesthetic. Last summer, I carried their straw bags everywhere!
- Outdoor Voices is my athleisure brand of choice. It was created by a Parsons alum and also has no logo.
- Hebivore Botanicals is my favorite because of their packaging. Definitely elevates your bathroom’s shelf.
- Avene is a French skincare brand and I love that it is available even at Duane Reade. It’s the best to moisturize your skin and I love the smell and texture.
SOPHIE: Which style tips could you share with our readers?
MARIE-LAURE: My number one tip is, don’t do too much. If you are not comfortable with a certain look, or if you feel like you’re in a costume, don’t wear it. Second, a great way to look stylish is to play with the codes of masculine and feminine, so as to find a balance somewhere between boyish and sexy. For example, complement a tomboy look with heels, or a dress with sneakers.
SOPHIE: Any go-to look in which you always feel good and stylish?
MARIE-LAURE: For the day, my uniform would be a black slim with raw hems, white sneakers (rather than Stan Smiths I prefer French-made brand Zespa) with a black or gray cashmere sweater and my Chanel bag. For the night, it’s basically the same outfit, with maybe some mascara and red lipstick (I like the Nars Dragon Girl), and sometimes heels instead of sneakers, but not always. I like keeping it flat to boogie all night.
SOPHIE: Finally, you run a fashion blog AND work as a fashion merchandiser. Can you offer any advice for those of our readers who want to start a career in fashion?
MARIE-LAURE: Don’t go into fashion just for the glam stuff, like free swag and parties. You should go into it out of real passion, because it’s a lot of work and competition.