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Jeanne Damas—the Ultimate French Girl—Thinks Brits Are More Stylish

Jeanne Damas is just so French. Understandable, considering she is a Parisian by birth, I know, but as we’re sat in Who What Wear’s new Russell Square townhouse for an exclusive shoot with the model turned street style star turned designer, there’s a palpable difference in l’attitude. I’m up and down from my laptop like a yo-yo, firing off emails, multitasking like a whirling dervish, regretting what I wore today for our shoot (seriously, this weather). Meanwhile, Damas—who arrived on time, without a scrap of makeup on, looking completely I-can’t-even-make-eye-contact levels of glorious in a recognisably “Jeanne” ensemble of checked blazer, jeans, navy top, gold Michael Vivien sandals and a little straw bag with a book poking out—is sipping a black coffee, reclining on a desk chair to the point where it’s most comfortable to just have her long legs up on the table as she casually takes her morning phone calls and messages.

In advance of the photo shoot, there were no demands or caveats to our time with her. No hairstyling today either, thanks—Jeanne just spritzes water on her ends, scrunches and goes. And absolutely zero fuss about what she will or won’t wear for the pictures. Damas is the laid-back style icon of any editor’s dreams, needing only 20 minutes of makeup (to put this into context, regular human beings require at least 45) before throwing on her first look and heading straight out onto the street to be photographed. She laughs. She chats with the entire team. She looks cooler than cool. We get the shots wrapped up an hour ahead of schedule.

Photo:

Phill Taylor

On Jeanne Damas: Rouje Johnny Jacket (£197) and Juliette Trousers (£134); Frame Victorian Ruffled Blouse (£250); Staud Grace Velvet Tote (£195); Laurence Dacade shoes; Stone Paris earrings; Lucy Williams x Missoma necklaces

This unpretentious, alluring effortlessness is precisely why the fashion world—and basically anyone with an Instagram account—has fallen for her and contributes greatly to the success of her fashion line, Rouje. While the purchase of one of her affordable printed dresses will definitely edge you closer to nonchalance, the truth is that effortlessness has to come from a genuinely relaxed, organic place.

“I’m lazy, you know,” says Damas of her method. The “French are not crazy about fashion. It’s true—we know we love fashion, and I have a fashion brand, but it’s not my life, and I don’t know, I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, I know what’s good on me. I know exactly what to wear every morning. I know that I love a big sweater or men's clothes with a mix of feminine clothes. It’s inné, do you know what I mean?”

Innate: a great example of which would be the 25-year-old’s approach to dressing for the wedding season: “So if I go to a wedding, I love to be the most simple,” she says, rejecting the preposterous idea of a fascinator or the usual trappings that come with formal attire. “Me? I love to wear big fluid pants, a shirt, have my hair looking normal, and a big red.” (That’s Jeanne’s delightful English expression for scarlet lips.) “When you come like that everybody looks at you because you are so simple.”

Photo:

Phill Taylor

On Jeanne Damas: Magda Butrym Forli Blouse (£714); Rouje Sabina Jeans (£117); Zara Cap (£16); Attico Tulip and Zebra Pouch (£240); Laurence Dacade Plume Boots (£771)

Photo:

Original Graphic by ChinChin Hao

“It’s funny because I have done this book about Parisians, and in the book, I wanted to break the cliché because for me, Parisian girls are not at all the most stylish,” Damas says, much to my surprise when I ask her why she thinks girls across the globe are so fascinated by French style. “When I go to New York or even London, I see way more stylish people than in my city. In general, French girls are not sophisticated.” Yet the minute a new Rouje drop lands online, the POA for chic women everywhere is get it or regret it.

Within two days of the first collection arriving in 2016, it was gone, only to be disseminated across the world via selfies and thanks to the hashtag #girlsinrouje. “We were surprised, and we were like ‘oops!’” says Damas of that first season’s runaway success, not expecting (even with her 633K-strong personal Instagram following) that they’d ever need to try to produce more stock. The team is now planning to make larger quantities for 2018: Don’t expect her pieces to become so available that you can buy them in bulk or that they’ll become ubiquitous, but from what she tells me, it’s looking likely that you’ll finally be able to pick up that ultimate summer frock.

Photo:

Phill Taylor

On Jeanne Damas: Isabel Marant Eley Coat (£795); Rouje Remi T-Shirt (£44); Topshop Check Miniskirt (£34)

For those who aren’t yet acquainted with the cult brand, the easy, chic designs come from real-life inspiration Jeanne picks up anywhere and everywhere, naming the pieces after her nearest and dearest (even her boyfriend, Pilou, has a mannish jacket dedicated to him), and creating the line with her good friend and an established name in Parisian fashion, designer Nathalie Dumeix. When Jeanne was younger, her father was a chef at the famous Parisian bistro Le Square Trousseau, which just so happened to have Nathalie’s boutique next door. After school, Jeanne would go to Nathalie’s atelier—not to talk about clothes, but about boys and life—and a friendship was born.

Photo:

Phill Taylor

On Jeanne Damas: Rouje Felix Faux Fur Coat (£170); Acne Studios Raine Sweater (£410); Ganni Leclair Dress (£260); Dior bag; Zara Velvet Boots (£80)

Photo:

Original Graphic by ChinChin Hao

Damas would occasionally be photographed for the brand and, a little later on, after she started to “become famous on the internet,” she knew that Nathalie’s involvement in her label would be essential. With the “same eye, the same sensibility, the same taste,” this dynamic duo basically concoct Jeanne’s perfect capsule wardrobe of 30 to 35 pieces every six months.

Despite Damas being “scared” of actually having too many clothes, she does reveal that her new, larger apartment in the Republique area of Paris features a walk-in wardrobe—“like Carrie Bradshaw, you know?”—and with Jacquemus as one of her good friends, plus fashion houses such as Miu Miu and Valentino keen to dress her, one could imagine even SJP feeling a pang of jealousy.

Photo:

Phill Taylor

On Jeanne Damas: Magda Butrym Forli Blouse (£714); Rouje Sabina Jeans (£117); Zara Cap (£16); Attico Tulip and Zebra Pouch (£240); Laurence Dacade Plume Boots (£771)

True to her pragmatic nature, however, Damas does adhere to biannual clear-outs, donating to a French charity, Emmaus, as well as redistributing wares to friends and family—her mother and sister being the ones who get first dibs. “Now that I have my brand, all my friends and my sister and my mum, we have all the same [items], so we have to call each other before to say, ‘Are you wearing the skirt?’”

Even with those measures in place, it’s not unheard of for Jeanne and her mother to be seen twinning on the outfit front. One particular Instagram image stays in my mind of the two wearing matching snug blue tops and high-waisted jeans—Damas tells me they really do share the very same look (often stealing each other’s clothes) and that her mother was her first major fashion memory.

“She was not working in fashion, but she was really stylish,” says Damas. “She doesn’t look like me—she’s blonde with curly hair—but I was so proud when she would get me from school when I was a kid because she was this strong woman always with a floral dress [on] with Sergio Rossi or Pierre Hardy shoes—heeled shoes—and she was really confident and smiley.” Funny, that does remind us of someone…

Next up: the autumn/winter fashion trends to know now.

Credits: Photographer: Phill Taylor; Stylist: Lily Russo; Creative Director: Hannah Almassi; Makeup Artist: Bianca Konig using BareMinerals