Fashion With Heart
In the space of just a couple of years French fashion blogging icon Garance Doré has built a lifestyle empire off the back of her own earthy and care free personality.
Doré attracts millions of readers across the world with her beauty tips, lifestyle insights and interviews with the fashion elite. In a world where images can make us feel less like ourselves and more like a carbon copy, Garance’s message is clear. She wants you to know that being yourself is okay.
She has little time for putting on airs and graces. Instead her brand is built on authenticity and the very personal relationship she has cultivated with her dedicated audience. The Guardian says she is ‘the best thing to happen to style since Grace Coddington.’ We couldn’t agree more.
As I understand it, you started out as an illustrator and you wanted feedback from people so you started a blog and that’s how this whole thing began. Of course you now have a huge following with your Twitter at almost 500k and your Facebook at 200k. What does your success say about women today and the age we live in?
Well I think what the women who follow me are looking for is something that feels honest and real. Somebody that can talk about fashion without being too overwhelmed by it. A lot of people tell me that they come to me for things other than the fashion. That’s something that I really like because fashion is a part of life but it shouldn’t be the only filter. And now that I have the book there is also that inspirational story. I mean many designers have the same type of story, they come from a small city and make it. But at the same time becoming a designer is sometimes seen as an unattainable dream, whereas a blog is available to anyone. I did it and I got to where I am now and I think this is something that resonates with people. I meet a lot of people at my book signings who say to me, ‘I want to change my life.’
That must be wonderful.
It’s amazing. It took me a long time to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do and I could have done with a bit of inspiration at that time. So if I can help anyone I’m so happy about it.
You invest a lot of time in different areas, you’ve made videos about relationship advice for example. I feel like the Garance blog is more of a lifestyle blog. Would you agree with that?
It’s funny because I never called it a fashion blog but other people did and I just totally went with it. It was an interesting time. I think for me, the blog is an adventure. I explore a lot of style and that’s kind of why the book came out because as I was exploring I was thinking, fashion and style is now really not just clothes, style is a way we live our lives. And so I started turning the blog into something that was more like everything that we touch and as you say it kind of became a lifestyle blog. I think what people are looking for is a less classic way to go about things and that’s one thing that I really want for myself, to feel free to look at things the way that I want to look at them. I’ve always loved luxury fashion but I’ve never thought it was reserved for any type of people. Also my idea of luxury is not necessarily about money. So I think it’s all these concepts that I’ve refined over the years that come through in the blog. The idea that you don’t need a lot of money to be stylish is something that I’ve always promoted. You don’t need to come from a very cultural background to make your way to culture. My work authorizes you to dream and I think that’s what people are looking for.
I think what you do is very down to earth and playful but more than anything there’s a sense of compassion. One thing that’s been very present in fashion is the idea that there’s a distance between luxury fashion and the fashion of the average person in the street. But you’re kind of saying ‘hey, come and join me in this thing.’
Yeah exactly and I think that’s because the blog was made from a place of myself discovering things. It wasn’t me saying this is how things should be, it was me saying, ‘this happened and I’m inspired by it.’ So my blog is like an adventure that’s unrolling and that’s also why I’ve never stopped myself from sharing what I feel is important and have never cornered myself by labelling it a fashion blog.
Do you think fashion has lost part of its soul? You read a lot about it being over materialistic, there’s an emphasis on the corporate side of it, but here you are, a blogger, who started on your own from your house and now you have this huge following.
I would be the first one to say I’ve met the most amazing people in fashion but I think fashion has had to take a look at itself lately. When I started out the internet was barely a thing and now that’s where the power is and so fashion has had to adapt. The core of it right now is about making money so it’s very tricky. It’s very hard to stay real and to love fashion one-hundred percent. To me the way I try to go about it is connect to my emotions. That’s the best way to connect with people.
You’ve said, “Blogs have become integral to how people think and dress. Even new commercial business opportunities.” I think blogs, particularly fashion blogs are part of a discourse where people want to take back ownership of a certain voice. They want to say how they feel and personalise things.
Probably. But ten years have passed now since I started and what began as exactly what you’re saying, taking back that voice, talking about real fashion and what people enjoy, has turned around completely. Now I’ve never seen something more unrealistic than what I see on Instagram and on blogs. It’s all about showing your outfit and changing every day. As much as I appreciate a great image and I love outfits and want to see fashion photos, I think so much has been lost. It’s about more, more, more all the time and it’s not real. People who live in real life will wear the same shoes or the same jeans two days in a row, so it’s absolutely not realistic. It’s fun and it’s what magazines used to be – a beautiful dream. But when I started I was thinking, the beautiful dream is great but there’s something else to show. Now I feel like once again we’ve lost that, so I try to stay a little bit in that space.
In this journey of yours, creating this adventure as you call it, what have you learned about yourself?
So much I cannot even tell you. I was such a baby when I started, even though I was thirty-one. I mean I was probably the same person but I didn’t know how to express myself. I think what I’ve learned most is just that it’s possible. I don’t know how I made it happen because there was no formula but that’s the thing, the world really is our oyster. I think if nobody tells you that when you’re young then you don’t realise it. I never had that feeling. I felt like I had to fit in and find my spot. But if you believe in it and if you have a bigger vision, then you can make things happen.
" I meet a lot of people at my book signings who say to me, ‘I want to change my life."
Garance Doré on inspiring others
You seem like a very positive person. Do you practice yoga or meditation or anything?
No I wish I would. I’m not as zen as that. But it’s funny, now that I live in America I think about the tale for kids, the ugly duckling. When I was in France I was always wishing to see things or people in the most positive way, and when I came to America and found people so positive here I suddenly felt like I was not out of place anymore.
What kind of positivity do you think Americans have?
It’s a feeling of making life what you want it to be. My feeling has always been that it’s better to feel positive even if that could be a mistake, whereas in France people would be like – we think of the worst that can happen and then if it turns out good you’re going to be surprised. I was always thinking, ‘no, what’s the best that can happen? And let’s really make it happen.’ That’s how I see it.
I’m sure you’re aware of the view in Europe of American positivity as being fake and insincere.
Yeah it’s funny, we could talk about it forever but I don’t think it’s fake as long as people really believe it. And they do. It doesn’t make them stupid at all, it actually gives them a lot of power to make things happen. I remember when I arrived in New York people really believed in what I was doing suddenly.
American men or European men?
[Laughing] Well I’m with an American man . . . but I love French guys. I’ve never been with someone who wasn’t French or American, but you can find great guys in every culture. Although right now I’m with an American.
Is this the guy from The Sartorialist?
No, we actually broke up a year and a half ago. This is a new guy.
And does he come from the fashion world as well?
Not at all. He’s a Jazz musician. He plays the trumpet and is amazingly talented. His name is Chris Norton.
How do you maintain such a level head in an industry which is so concerned with self-obsession at times in a very ludicrous environment?
I’m very imperfect and so I’m never ever going to believe that I do anything better than anyone else. I’m very messy, I’m never prepared, I really am a wandering mind so any moment I start believing in my shit, that’s when something will happen to make me realise how wrong I am.
I catch myself very fast where I’m like, ‘oh you started to get too comfortable there.’ When I feel like I got it and I know how it works, that’s when you start becoming an annoying person.
Right, you’re talking about when you start to develop too much of an ego.
Yes, it’s awful! You don’t want to be that person and you don’t want anyone around you to be like that but we all have moments when we’re shitty. It happens. So each time I have a moment like that, something happens and it’s great because it keeps me humble. It’s normal sometimes to get caught up in stuff, your brain will train you to get comfortable at a certain level. It creates a habit where it’s like, for example, yeah I’m used to doing interviews.
But has the fashion industry necessitated that relationship for you? What I’m trying to say is, I think about fashion as being like, they love you and will give you what you need for as long as they want something from you.
With the fashion industry it’s a feedback thing. If you give them love they will give you love. I feel like as long as you know this is a work relationship, you will never have a problem. Some people you can be friends with but most people, they are not your friends, it is work. That’s the thing that you learn very fast. You get disappointed or mistreated and you realise, oh it’s just because I was delusional. I’m not anymore.
"I’m an illustrator and a writer. I don’t really give a shit about the rest."
Garance Doré on selling out
Has that success gone to your head at times? With the amount of power and influence you have you must sometimes be very confident that you can make a new line or a new collection a huge success?
Still to this day I don’t think I could be able to push a brand so much, which is sometimes why I need people around me to say, ‘you just sold this many bags for this brand’ or things like that. I’m really a creative. I’m an illustrator and a writer. I don’t really give a shit about the rest. I have a lot of fun doing business but at the end of the day when I’m having the most fun is when I’m writing. It took a while for me to be able to say that and once I get to a place where I know the drill then I don’t have much to write about, and that’s a big problem for me. So I am thinking always of changing, like maybe I will move to a new city. I want to write and express myself and all the other stuff is not very important to me. For me everything is a journey. I’m travelling through things, not sitting down, enjoying everything and thinking, ‘okay lets discover it a little more, let’s discover the people who are living in that world.’ But I never really feel like a part of that world.
You seem quite philosophical.
[laughing] I know, it’s terrible!
No it’s good.
Well you know this is wonderful for me to talk about more than just my advice on style.
But I have to ask you a fashion question now. Can you take us quickly through the procession leading up to a fashion show? What are you thinking about? Who do you talk to? Is there a certain set of steps that you take or is it always very different?
Mostly different and mostly very stressful. Mostly I’m just waiting for the moment the show will start so that I can focus on looking at it. Fashion shows are such a social event. You have to say hello to everybody and look nice and be nice. As we were just talking about, although it’s social it’s still work, so you’re giving a presentation of yourself. I’m not self-centered but it’s like everyone is looking at everyone. I have to behave.
Is that really what’s happening?
Of course. That’s the one thing that’s happening. Everyone asking themselves, ‘What’s that person wearing?’, ‘Who’s she hanging out with?’ The show is always late so for half an hour you have time to look at people and see what’s happening in the industry right now, who’s important, and that’s the stressful part. That’s why people get crazy and have a bad reputation.
So I wanted to end with a bit of word play. I’ll give you a word and you respond with the first word that comes into your head.
Hmmm . . . It’s so hard! I want to find a good way to say this. . . Grace.
Love-x-Style-x-Life | Garance Doré is out now.
All images courtesy of Garance Doré Studio.
Still as good now as it was when I came out. It’s amazing and I could listen to it forever.
It’s amazing. There’s a lot of recordings and even the mistake recordings. You can hear her talk to her band. I love it.
More for emotional reasons. It always reminds me of being on a road trip with my dad.