By Wendy Donahue
One of the original street-style bloggers, Garance Dore is also one of the most successful. With unwavering warmth, she has parlayed the appetite for her perspective into a Vogue Paris column, collaborations with Dior, J.Crew and Tiffany & Co., and front-row seats at New York Fashion Week. She has more than 280,000 Twitter followers, a staff of six and a book deal.
A native of Corsica, Dore began her blog in 2006 in Marseille as an outlet for her illustrations. Moving north to Paris, she added photos of fashionistas out and about, then decamped to New York, where she and fellow blogger Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist became one of fashion’s most beloved power couples. They announced they were separating in August.
Dore’s style sensibilities are evolving, too, as she approaches her 40th birthday. She reflected on the changes during her first trip to Chicago, where she was accepting the Museum of Science and Industry’s first ever Fashion Inspiration Award. This is an edited version of our conversation.
Q: Did you intend for your blog to focus on fashion?
A: I was a really broke student, I was a little bit stylish, and then I opened my blog. I didn’t set it up to be a fashion blog; that would be pretentious because I was not even living in Paris. No one in France would take you seriously if you weren’t in Paris. As soon as the blog started I realized fashion, and I did it unconsciously, is a wonderful way to communicate. Through clothing you can tell so many stories. You can talk about acceptance, differences.
Q: Do you have any fashion rules?
A: No; they are all open. That’s the only way you can find yourself, which is the goal in life, to know yourself. Fashion is a wonderful way to understand your own taste and communicate. The only rules should be your personal boundaries and what you want to be. I’m a pretty simple, classic person. I’m getting more refined about what I like for sure.
Q: What do you like?
A: I have a deep love for clothes that last. It can go from an amazing pair of jeans to shoes. If I find a good pair of shoes I will wear them for years. My clothes become my vocabulary, and I add a bit every year. I’m not too shy to invest in things. I bought a Saint Laurent bag, a Lulu, black, with gold finishes, last year. I’m a fashion girl; I love accessories. I believe what you carry with you says a lot about you.
Q: What are your favorite classic shoes?
A: Manolo Blahnik pumps. I think one day I will have 20 pairs in different colors. I have a pair of white ones; they’re such a great investment, they will make an outfit. You can wear all black and they catch the eye and make a beautiful foot.
And my ballerinas. I have some from Milan called Porselli. They are kind of the equivalent of Repetto, but Repetto don’t work with my feet. Porselli look better on me, and also they feel special because you don’t find them everywhere. I have 10 pairs in many colors.
Q: What are some other favorite classics?
A: I like wool sweaters from Equipment. Simple colors and cuts; the V’s are pretty deep, you can wear them in a more sensual way.
I’m a big fan of coats. One of my favorites this year I bought at Cos (cosstores.com) and it cost me only like 300 euros. Now that I have more experience, I’m able to touch a fabric (and judge it). And things don’t need to be super expensive. If you get to know fabrics and cuts you can buy so many things at pretty cheap prices.
And I like jackets. I buy tuxedo-type jackets at Stella McCartney, because they’re very well cut.
And slim crop jeans. I don’t have a specific brand because with jeans, they do a style and then discontinue it. But I have the new Ayr one (ayr.com). It’s amazing. White jeans for me are something that are pretty important. I wear them year round. Some of the rules, like no white after Labor Day, you can break it.
Q: Do you spend less on trend pieces?
A: I think it’s worth investing. Most of the classics, those are not so expensive, but I think if you are going to go for a piece that people are actually going to notice, either go vintage or save up and buy designer. The problem with very showy pieces from (fast-fashion stores) is they could be an imitation, a copy, and that I think is not sending the right message to people. If it’s only one designer piece, it’s worth it. Even there, I’m careful I’m not going to buy something that I will wear once. But it happens. When you learn more about yourself, you’re going to be saving money and saving mistakes!
Q: What was your most recent mistake?
A: I always make terrible mistakes before Fashion Week. I decide it’s time for a change and I want to look cool and different. I bought a Marc Jacobs skirt with huge polka dots a couple seasons ago; it’s beautiful, but I wore it once. And when you’re in the spotlight and people take your photograph, it’s a little more difficult, even a beautiful dress you can’t wear again. Last Fashion Week I was pretty good. I didn’t buy any crazy (stuff).
Q: Do you wear much jewelry?
A: For me, more simple style. I wear a lot but today I didn’t because I was traveling. With my (short) hair, I wear earrings to make it a little more feminine so people don’t call me Monsieur.
Q: Do you identify more with the American or the Parisian approach to fashion?
A: I guess the wonderful thing is to be a French person living in America. I don’t want to live in Paris; I did and I don’t want to go back. I’m very happy in New York City, but my style is staying very French.
Q: What don’t you like about Paris?
A: It’s not what I don’t like about Paris, it’s what I love about America. For me it has been the most welcoming, positive, life-changing place; I took my dreams and I was able to make them, and the door is open. There is a curiosity and, even in New York where they are known for being tough, there is a kindness and a looking after each other. For you it probably doesn’t ring, but … living in Paris was hard. A French spirit is very fascinating but there’s that sense that, “Oh, life is dreadful, you’re never going to make it.” And then you come to America and they say, “No, you can do it, you just work your (tail) off!” That’s something that is making me very happy.
Q: Do you wear makeup?
A: Very lightly, because I think the more mature you get the less makeup you should wear. I’m 39 now, and you have to change the way you do your makeup. I used to do mascara and heavier on skin and my mouth very red. My eyes look better now without it. I also have realized that taking care of the eyebrows is becoming more important, to give more definition. I don’t know if it’s personal taste or my face that’s changing, but it’s in a good way; I’m not saying you have to hide anything. You have to show more of your skin texture. I think the face you get when you are closer to 40 and 50 is probably the most interesting, beautiful face.
Q: I always think of how much New Yorkers walk and wonder why they go to a gym.
A: I put on a kilo this morning, and thought, what! I realized I’ve been a bit tired and I haven’t walked that much. I usually walk around 1 hour or 1 1/2 hours every day, and it really keeps you in shape, and I really think it’s the best way to keep a lean body. I don’t believe in going to the gym every day, it’s definitely not a French thing to do. If I keep walking like that, and I’d like to add Pilates maybe two times a week, then I will feel like I’m a superhero.
Changing your diet, I don’t think so much you need to do. Of course if you eat a pint of ice cream every night, maybe that’s why you’re gaining pounds. But walking, it also makes you quieter, so you don’t need to eat so much. I always have some music while I walk. I listen to Pandora; for walking I have a station that’s a lot about R&B, Kanye West, Beyonce, or a little more pop radio.
And when I’m in an introspective mood, I have The Cure station; with Smashing Pumpkins. All this music from the ’90s reminds me of being a teenager and wanting to be different. I’ve always been more rebellious, so as soon as I was around 14 or 15, I started turning to London and reading The Face and i-D magazines and looking at what was happening on the music scene. I come from Corsica, and living on an island makes you very curious about what else is happening in the world.
Q: What is your favorite city for fashion?
A: Oh, it’s New York.
Q: Over Paris?
A: Oh, yeah. It’s the mix of people, the mix of influences, the freedom. In New York you can be whoever you want to be and no one will say anything. It’s very different in Paris. It’s a very elegant city, but it’s one style, and if you’re not that style …
Q: What do you want to buy next?
A: An apartment! And a house upstate. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but … I really believe that fashion is not just clothes. We’re becoming such creatures of inspiration. What makes us is not just what we wear, it’s our Pinterest, our Instagram, our interiors, our vacations.
Fashion is crafting this interesting-looking life. Before, to say who you were, the only thing you had were clothes. Now you have all your social media, and that really is how people see you the most. So fashion is actually expanding in a way that’s very interesting.