I’ve been sharing my thoughts on life, love, and style for almost ten years now, which makes me:
1. A complete over-sharer.
2. A pretty seasoned opinion-giver.
3. Well, it should have made me super stylish.
So why did I pick this stupid pair of shoes this morning?
On my blog I’ve talked about matters so light (do I really need a pair of kitten heels?) that they evaporated an hour after being published, and subjects so deep (burying my grandmother in Morocco) that I still receive incredibly heartfelt letters about them to this day. I’ve written about things so embarrassing they made me want to melt into the floor, and I’ve also written of my proudest moments.
Sharing my stories came to me pretty late in life, but the day I got the hang of it, I began to understand the incredible power of letting your guard down, even with people you barely know.
Because when you open yourself, people will magically open up to you.
My blog began quite practically, as a way to share my illustrations. But I soon realized that what I really wanted was to start a conversation, just to see if there were other crazies like me out there. As it turns out, there were.
I embarked on a quest to capture the true essence of style. My journey took me from Corsica to the South of France to Paris to New York, and many places in between. And as I’ve come to learn, “style” is about so much more than the clothes we wear. It’s the way we walk, the way we smile, the sparkle in our eyes, the way we live our lives. Style is a universal language, and it has the power to connect us.
I grew up in a tiny beach town in Ajaccio, Corsica, but my heart belongs to Paris and New York, my two adopted home cities. Two cities that are both so fascinating and inspiring, so similar and yet so different. I could devote an entire book to comparing their quirks and assets. and how I’ve tried to take the best of each for myself. Trying to hold onto my French-ness by celebrating my imperfections and savoring my daily glass of red wine, while embracing that wonderful, empowering New York swagger. Being a French woman with an incorrigible sense of irony—but also letting myself get taken by the American dream. And realizing along the way that no matter what city we’re in, we all want the same thing.
We want love. We want to feel beautiful. We want to be good friends, good partners, good sisters, good daughters. We want to know how to never buy the wrong pair of shoes again. (Sorry to inform you, but you will keep making shoe mistakes until the day you die. So celebrate being alive right now!) We want to feel fulfilled by the work that we do, whatever that work may be.
Most of all, we want to find our place in this world.
And to be very stylish along the way, of course.
I found my place in this world almost by accident—more on that later—and it took me where I’d never dared to dream. How on earth do you provoke this sort of beautiful accident?
That’s what I want to share with you in this book. And I hope that my story inspires you to create your own series of beautiful little accidents—and to enjoy the ride, that’s what life is all about.
I’M 4 AND MY STYLE BELONGS TO MAMAN.
My mother, Kheira, has the most unexpected sense of style.
I don’t know where she got it—maybe from my grandma Tahmanent, who was a Berber from the Moroccan mountains. My grandmother always dressed in bold colors and prints, bright frocks that complemented her long red henna-tinted hair. She loved dressing up, but she had to work within the strict codes that were imposed on her. Don’t show a lot of skin; play humble.
My mother is the opposite. She’s a free, modern woman and she wants the world to know. She wears tight jeans and irons her hair, and every outfit is perfectly thought out. When she has money, she buys the best pieces from Alaïa, Montana, and Thierry Mugler (hello, ’80s!), and when she doesn’t, she plays around with what she already has, goes thrift shopping, recuts her clothes, and gets super creative.
She wraps my head in leopard-print scarves and mismatches her stripes with my polka dots. I have to wear special shoes to reeducate my feet and save them from being flat. Instead of hiding the shoes, she puts me in light dresses to balance the heaviness with softness.
And just like that, I’m the most stylish kid in town.
But I really don’t care, because before long…
I AM 8 YEARS OLD AND IN LOVE WITH PAPA.
I’m a daddy’s girl. I love him like there is no tomorrow, and even if it will cost me a lot of money in therapy later on, for the moment all I want is the privilege of spending as much time with him as possible. So I become interested in everything he is into: cars, bikes, kitchen equipment (my dad is a chef).
He’s a handsome Corsican Italian man with a very precise sense of style. We talk; he tells me about his tastes. I totally get it!
I throw all my dresses away. Dresses are for little girls, anyway.
And, I’m not a girly girl. I’m a big fan of George, the tomboy heroine from The Famous Five, a series of kids’ books I’m addicted to. George is that daring, andro-gynous, cool- before-cool-even-existed heroine. She’s smarter than all the boys and I totally identify with her—so I ask my mom to cut my hair exactly like hers.
My mom isn’t afraid of my creativity (yet). She goes ahead and cuts.
I’m the only girl at school with short hair.
The perfectly braided girls in my class look at me with a raised brow and a pinched mouth. I learn what it means to be different. I don’t hate it.
I AM 13 AND I’M IN LOVE WITH MARCEL.
Marcel is the most handsome skater in middle school, and I’m an extremely shy nerd hiding her newly acquired curves (read: boob explosion!!!) under huge sweaters. Of course, he has no idea I exist.
I want him to notice me. I guess I already believe in the higher powers of fashion, because I tell myself that the best thing to do is:
a. Copy his style. Skater boy. Baggy jeans. Baggy T-shirts. Chuck Taylors.
Result: nothing. He still has no clue I exist.
b. Refine my approach. I notice that all of Marcel’s skater friends have super-girly girlfriends.
Of course—guys prefer real girls!!! Shift in strategy. I become super girly. I put on jewelry for the first time (from my mom’s closet), I throw away my backpack and buy a very unpractical purse (I now have to carry my school books in my arms, like in the movies, which I feel is the epitome of chic), and I wear a fitted top, which I’m totally insecure about, but I’m ready to risk it all for Marcel.
Result: nothing. He still doesn’t know I exist.
Conclusion: you don’t attract guys with style. This is a very freeing insight.
Proof? The moment I figure it out, I meet my first love, a skateboarder. No, not Marcel. Marcel, to this day, still doesn’t know I exist.
I AM 15 AND IN LOVE WITH REI KAWAKUBO.
Whom I encountered through The Face, the wonderful ’90s British fashion magazine. To this day I still thank the fashion gods for the British tourists who left a copy in my dad’s restaurant.
I get a subscription and The Face becomes my bible. I want to be part of this world and, as you know by now, for me that translates into wanting to adopt its style.
But, my parents are not crazy about spending their money on anything that’s not directly related to my education. My wardrobe allowance is below sea level, so I go on secret missions into my mother’s closet.
With the help of a big pair of my dad’s kitchen scissors, I turn some of her most beautiful clothes into what, in my teenage mind, resembles Comme des Garçons.
In Ajaccio, no one understands my style. Les ignorants.
As for my mother, she discovers my closet-plundering when she reaches for her Montana coat and finds only a single sleeve I forgot to hide in its place.
She shouts. And then she faints. And when she wakes up she locks me out of her closet for the unforeseen future.
I run off in tears, proclaiming that one day Rei Kawakubo will adopt me and everyone will finally be happy, since no one in our family understands me.
In other words, I am a teenager.
I AM 18, A STUDENT, AND IN LOVE WITH MY BEST FRIEND.
I move to the South of France to study. I am supposed to live in a dorm, but my best friend’s apartment is so much nicer that we decide to live together. We study literature, but we’re mostly interested in experiencing life and discovering who we are.
And by that I mean partying, of course. What’s more important when you’re eighteen?
My friend Anne is the best thing that ever happened to me. We understand each other without talking, but we still talk 24/7.
Our style? Agnès B. tight jeans (skinny stretchy jeans hadn’t been born yet. I know, prehistoric), Agnès B. big sweaters, Doc Martens. Always the same, always matching, every day, all the time. Our dresser? Shared. Our friends? Shared. Our favorite movies? Shared. Our personality? Wait, what did you say? Our what?
Years later I discover that her feet were actually three sizes smaller than mine, but she never said anything about it, just because she was so happy to be able to share closets and Doc Martens. We had Doc Martens in every color of the rainbow, even the gold ones that are so difficult to find.
Ah, friendship rocks!!!
Copyright © 2015 by Garance DorÃ©. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.