Garance Doré on what makes the French so chic: 'Elegance is refusal'

Fretting about how to dress when interviewing someone is usually the least of my worries, but today my task is to get fashion legend Garance Doré to talk. And as a fellow French woman, I feel like I have to look my best.

Doré was described by the New York Times as the “guardian of all style”. She rose to fame thanks to her street style photography and candid blog musings and is now gearing up for the release of her first book, Love Style Life.

I meet her in a fancy lunch spot in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood, minutes away from her work studio – and as it turns out, I needn’t have worried about my outfit.

Early in our interview, Doré – who is wearing frayed jeans, Stella McCartney floral boots, a striped top and Eva Fehren rose gold jewellery – tells me that she’s “not that sophisticated”. Looking at her radiant skin, her sharp trademark haircut and her perfectly shaped eyebrows, it’s hard to take her remark seriously.

But she’s right, in some sense. By fashion world standards, Doré started out as a complete outsider with roots in rural France, hundreds of miles from any catwalk. She was not destined to grace the first row of fashion shows the world over, sitting next to the celebrité du jour.

In many ways, her story closely resembles the American myth of the self-made woman.

Doré grew up in Corsica, a small island in the south of France. “There was no roads, no cars – I grew up half naked on the beach,” she recalls. She was raised by immigrants parents – her father came from Italy, and her mother is Algerian.

Growing up so isolated from the mainland shaped her trajectory. She was insatiably curious and as a result, her childhood and teenage years were “a giant ball of frustration”, she says. “I was reading all those magazines, and nothing was available to me! Not even a pair of Converse.”

So when she finally made it out to the big city, her life exploded with opportunities.

After a few years of literature studies and a few odd jobs in Marseille, she decided to become an illustrator and taught herself the craft, adopting “Garance Doré” as her pen name (it stuck ever since – even her friends call her Garance).

It was a long road ahead: Doré had no network, no teacher and no money: “I was totally broke.” Soon, she decided to jump into the unknown and move to Paris. She wasn’t part of the fashion influencers crowd and says she “didn’t have the codes” to crack the closed circle, but that her upbringing allowed her to befriend people from all walks of life....more