UK editor Claire Brayford recently attended the Bonpoint show in Paris to discover just why French children are so chic...
There is much of French parenting that I would wish to emulate – the discipline, the mealtimes (how do they get their children to not throw food?) – but most of all, their little ones’ style. Since having my two girls and trying to find a middle ground between mini-me dressing (me) and anything pink, with “Sparkle” spelt out in sequins (them) I have been noting the French way – and where better to find out more than the Bonpoint winter 2018 catwalk show during Paris couture week. It is, after all, the epitome of French children’s style, (although to be truthful, I would merrily shoehorn myself into pretty much all of it were it in my size). From the animal-print-collar coats and varsity jackets to the little ‘artist’ ensemble of the oversized scarf and wide-leg chinos – oh, and not forgetting the L’Uniform accessories – it’s effortless, perfectly styled and never overdone. You have probably read that the presentation runs without rehearsal so the mini-models feel more spontaneous and comfortable on the runway, although one little chap did take one look at the audience and bolt for backstage. So the first lesson in dressing your children the French way? Freedom and happiness come first. The show’s cast is made up of the offspring of the doting, style-conscious parents on the front row – among them this year, Charlotte Groeneveld of The Fashion Guitar and Mimi Thorisson of Manger. Yet creative director Christine Innamorato stresses that only those who want to take part are chosen. British style influencer Hannah Strafford-Taylor, whose daughter Soleil took part, says: “I am not one of those pushy mums, but if you have ever seen the show and love the brand you would know what a huge honour and delight it is to have your little one up there. Soleil, of course, doesn’t realise it’s such a big deal, she just thinks she gets to wear her favourite brand of clothes and go for a little walk with some other small children. I cannot tell you how proud I was, I literally felt like I could burst.” The second lesson is to always respect a child – especially when it comes to what they wear. A French parent would never dress their progeny in something that they themselves would not wish to be seen in. But what else is key? I asked the editors, designers and influencers on the front row to give their insight.
LESSON ONE: Keep an eye to tradition, Mimi Thorisson, author and blogger
“I think French style is all about classics, they have managed to keep traditions and manners an everyday thing. Generally, it’s all about not being too loud, too colourful or too bold. It’s toned-down, with hints of the past in the details, like the collars and cuffs. My main inspirations are my mother’s and grandmother’s old childhood photos, so it goes way back. I like anything that reminds me of the past or looks like it is out of a novel. They grow up so fast, I enjoy seeing them in my vision of ‘childhood’ style – it’s romantic and sweet. I love to see my girl in bows, little dresses and jackets with pretty skirts. And Mary Janes of course.” Go to www.mimithorisson.com
Backstage at the Bonpoint Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris
LESSON TWO: Be imaginative, Georgina Cohen, art dealer and contributing editor at Porter magazine
“It’s about being creative, encouraging their individuality and mixing and matching different styles to give a unique look. I think it’s cultural. It’s effortless. I find French women are always so chic and elegant and they have such an inimitable style and I guess it filters down to the kids too.” www.instagram.com/georginacarolinecohen
LESSON THREE: Take influences from around the world, Stefano Tonchi, editor-in-chief at W magazine
“They often say that you have to be from somewhere else to appreciate your country: so you have to be French to make the perfect Varsity jacket and the best looking California hippie dress! I loved the very French take on Americana.” www.wmagazine.com
LESSON FOUR: Add a nod to now, Hannah Strafford-Taylor, style influencer
“There is always a tiny modern twist to French style. At Bonpoint it is the little touches of neon embroidery, the styling and the collaborations with brands like Golden Goose that keeps it looking current but at the same time timeless. Winter is wearing Soleil’s old clothes and believe it or not, Soleil has a Bonpoint outfit that was mine when I was eight. I personally don’t want my girls in ultra-modern clothes with huge logos. I want them to dress like children not in mini-adult trends. They are so little for such a short time and I want to embrace that.” www.hannahstraffordtaylor.com
The Bonpoint Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris
LESSON FIVE: Embrace the individual, Jeanne Signoles, founder of L’Uniform
“Try to give them a little twist especially in their accessories. I like to mix-and-match different clothes/styles – so a classic Duffle coat, with green leather shoes, a little scarf in a unique print and a comfortable hoodie. Then finished off with a very basic L’Uniform backpack – in navy and yellow and the initials in red – to give a vibrant element. Take into account that children must be comfortable and it is very important to respect their attitude and requests.” www.luniform.com
LESSON SIX: Don’t go overboard, Carolyn Asome, fashion and interiors writer.
“I think (the French) not wearing a school uniform means that their style is consistent (also more consistently neutral and understated). There is no temptation to go to town in over-the-top clothes or fancy dress on the occasions when they can wear their own clothes like British children who wear a uniform. They have a sense of a restraint and love of classic, neutral colours, which is not always easy. I love how luxuriously understated Bonpoint is and its palette of neutrals. I also appreciate its fine attention to detail and that they make clothes you want to hand down between siblings and friends.” www.instagram.com/carolynasome Words: Claire Brayford