My ability to speak the language leaves much to be desired but, if there's one thing I'm fluent in, it's French style—namely, the women who exude it so effortlessly. Perhaps there's something in the (bottled Evian) water, but there's no denying that our French-born counterparts are always at the forefront of fashion—and it seems they always have been.
Through the ages, French women have proven themselves to be sartorially blessed, as pioneers when it comes to the creative industries, be it fashion, beauty, photography, film, music, writing or design. If you're in need of a little inspiration—be it wardrobe, work, or otherwise—or, like me, you consider yourself a Gaillac girl at heart, acquaint yourself with the French women the Who What Wear UK team can't help but admire.
Anne-Laure Mais Moreau
A bona fide social media sensation, AnneLaure Mais Moreau—or Adenorah, as you may know her—is the influencer influencers look to, well, to be influenced. She was blogging before it was even a thing and has since launched her own clothing and accessories brand, Musier, consisting of 20 or so pieces, all made in France. With Anne-Laure's help, we can all be a little bit French.
To us, screen siren Brigitte Bardot will always be a key source of style inspiration. Bardot's carer was unstoppable across the '60s and '70s, during which time she earned herself the moniker of "sex kitten," a term that was created to sum up her sultry persona. Regularly found in the South of France sporting printed bikinis, floppy hats and minidresses, she's the carefree girl we all want to be.
After working in law and finance, Camille Charrière quit her job in 2010 to focus on her blog, Camille over the Rainbow. Soon, her writing would earn her roles at both Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion while, in the background, her blog continued to gain momentum. Today, she's one of the fashion industry's most revered influencers. Sharp, witty and incredibly stylish, it's easy to see why brands like Mango, H&M and Chloé love to work with her.
Considering she sits at the helm of Vogue Paris, how could we not include Emmanuelle Alt on our list? Effortlessly stylish, the former fashion director always wins us with her simple but effective ensembles: Think tailored separates, relaxed sweaters and an indisputable air of confidence. We'll have what she's having.
Before Alt sat in the Vogue Paris hot seat, Carine Roitfeld held the reins for 10 years. A former model and writer, Roitfeld remains the archetype for a raunchier kind of French style. With a penchant for black leather, simple silhouettes and sexy accessories, she personifies the attitude associated with her work. She's currently the editor of CR Fashion Book.
Deneuve was known as the ice queen of French cinema until her role in 1967's Belle de Jour won her laud from fans. A high-end prostitute by day and a frustrated housewife by night, the role turned her into a style icon. Unexpected, perhaps, given the subject matter, but considering the costumes were designed by Yves Saint Laurent, it all starts to make sense. Out of character, she was just as chic. Leopard-print coats, frothy marabou feathers and sophisticated twin sets are just some of her fashion highlights.
It's impossible to be the daughter of Jane Birkin and Jacques Doillon and not wind up the coolest chick on the block. A singer-songwriter, artist, model and actress all rolled into one, she's known for her bohemian style and choppy hair, which, no matter how many times we show a picture of it to our hairdressers, we still can't seem to emulate.
With a career spanning film, television, and the stage, Clémence Poésy rose to international fame when she won the role of Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter film series. Since, she has become a become French fashion darling, starring in countless Chloé campaigns, and to this day, she's always granted a covetable front-row seat at any show she desires during Paris Fashion Week.
Caroline de Maigret
This stylish French model was walked for the likes of Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Chanel, the latter of which she remains a muse for to this day. Close to Karl Lagerfeld, she may be, but she's certainly not riding any coattails—having penned the best-selling book How to Be Parisian, she's undoubtedly one of the most revered French fashion icons of our time. What's more, she also runs a record label called Bonus Tracks. How she finds the time, we'll never know.
In the '60s, Françoise dominated the French music scene for the best part of the decade and became one of the most influential women in the industry. However, her influence also spread to fashion—she served as the muse of Rei Kawakubo, who would name brand Comme des Garçons after a lyric in her 1962 hit song, "Tour Le Garçons et Les Filles." She's also androgynous to the bone—what we'd give to borrow one of her iconic suits for a day…
Actress, singer-songwriter, musician, environmentalist, Greenpeace spokesperson and the winner of a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in La Vie en Rose—we often find ourselves wondering what life would be like if we had half of Marion Cotillard's talent.
Ines de la Fressange
Starting her career in the '80s as a fashion model, Inès de la Fressange would go on to prove herself as a fashion force to be reckoned with. A muse to countless global fashion brands, she's also a journalist and a businesswoman in her own right, having started her own namesake label in 2013. Dubbed the embodiment of modern Parisian chic, de la Fressange has also designed a collection of clothing for Uniqlo—one of the retailer's most popular collaborations to date.
Jeanne Damas is the epitome of an It girl. A part-time model, photographer, founder of fashion brand Rouje and a shining Instagram star (at last count, she had over 980k followers), she seems to have no cap on talent. Throw in the fact she has the fiercest cat in the world, and yep—we officially want to be her.
Léa Seydoux has won praise for countless of her acting endeavors, but you'll likely know her best for her role as Madeleine Swann in the James Bond film Spectre. That, or as young artist Emma in the sensual love story Blue Is the Warmest Colour. Formally the face of Prada's Candy fragrance and Miu Miu, Seydoux progressed to become the face of Louis Vuitton, which, at the time, was under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière.
Another member of the Birkin lineage, Gainsbourg is Jane's eldest daughter and Lou's half-sister, and it seems formidable style really does run in the family. An actress, singer and former Balenciaga muse, Gainsbourg has become an It girl in her own right. She forgoes heavy makeup, sports bed hair like no other and wears a whole lotta black—a woman after our own hearts.
A woman who needs no introduction. To say fashion wouldn't be what it is today without Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel is a drastic understatement. Redefining the modern woman with her directional designs—namely the bouclé two-piece skirt suit—Coco Chanel's influence can still be seen today in the latest trends. As for her own personal style, with her signature string of pearls and short black bob, she's as iconic as they come.