My last days of my (heartachingly good) two-month stay in Paris could not have wrapped up more perfectly, for I had the genuine pleasure of interviewing Garance Doré. For many, the Paris-based blogger extraordinaire needs no introduction, and if you don't know the beloved photographer, illustrator and storyteller who can transform a monitor into a wonderful, fashion dreamworld that feels both fantastical and attainable all at once, today is your lucky day.
Garance is such a delight, she speaks so freely about her life and her work as you would expect from her diary-like blog posts. And she embodies exactly those qualities that compose the quintessential French woman whom I so adore: confident, clever, chic, gifted, gorgeous. (I could go on but it would cross over to sycophantic and embarrass everyone involved.)
Here is the story of how Garance turned a blog into a jetsetting career documenting fashion as it happens around the world:
How did this all start for you?
I never studied art, I studied communications. I started as a PR for cinema in the south of France. I liked it; I went to Cannes for the film festival. After a few years I felt the artistic part wasn't being used. But I was young and I knew it wouldn't be a risk to try. I trained myself and took my book to some art directors. But the job was different, I found myself at home so much, there were no people. I was frustrated having to stay home and the commissions were not that interesting. So this is why I opened my blog, to open a conversation about that. I realised I also liked to write. I was the first in France to talk about fashion and illustration this way. I did that for a while but fashion goes with photography, so I picked up my camera. I never thought years ago this would be big, it was just something I thought was different.
And now you're famous. How do you feel about that?
Yes, well because of my boyfriend, Scott, the press photographs me and sometimes I'm even recognised in the street in New York. I don't really show myself on my blog. (Ed. note: The photo above is Garance, as shot by Scott Schuman, 'The Sartorialist'. And yes, they are a couple. A fashion match made in heaven.)
Do you have a favourite city for capturing people?
I really love Paris and New York but no, each time I move somewhere it gives me inspiration. It's difficult the first day because you don't know the light. But then you see the romance of the city.
At a Paris fashion week show I witnessed a very well dressed
photographer endure a horribly rude dismissal when he asked a man, someone unknown, if he could
photograph him. Do you ever find yourself confronted with an unwilling subject?
It never happens. Usually I can feel when not to ask.
It's evolved a lot and evolving more every day, I try to get more simple, convey emotions. I like to evolve all the time, it's still me. I think it's good when illustrators keep their style but for me I like it to change.
Do you use a model or a photograph when you sketch?
I just draw instinctively, I don't rely on something. Maybe I should use something.
No! What I love about your illustrations or your 'girls' as I call them is they aren't recognisable, they are characters that you have created. Do you ever find yourself designing when you 'dress' your girls?
Yes, usually I like to dress them with clothes I like, usually they are things I want or admire. It's a way for me to show clothes, it's like an homage to those who make clothes. I've had proposals to design clothes, maybe one day I will if I find the right partner.
Wow, I hope you do. Your illustrations are the perfect companion to your photographs; you have the person in the flesh and also a bit of fantasy where you can convey whatever you wish.
It's like a movement between illustrations and photography, it creates a movement.
Where do you think your career would be without the internet?
I really don't know, it opened me to a lot of new medias. I never thought I could do a picture, it gives me the opportunity to do different things and meet new people. I think it's my destiny that I fell for the internet.
One of my fondest memories of my Paris adventure is a moment where I
looked out the window of the bus I was on, it was stopped at a light along the Seine, and I saw the most precious woman sitting on a bench, clutching her handbag on her lap with both hands together in the most ladylike way.
She was about 60 years old, with brown chin-length hair parted at the
side in two pretty barrettes, bright red lipstick and a matching coat over
a soft, floral dress. She was so chic and so sweet all at once, and I
couldn't help but smile and she smiled back. It sounds silly but the
way she smiled at me, I know she recognised what seeing her did for me
and that she appreciated it. I thought 'This is Paris.'
I think what you're capturing is a moment more than clothes, of course I feel that it's a great way to get in touch with people.
Further to my story, I had been taking photos out of the window and although I would have so cherished a photograph of this woman, I just couldn't ruin the moment by raising my camera and clicking away. Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you prefer to experience the moment away from your camera?
Yes, it happens sometimes. Once with a great fashion editor, I would have loved to take pictures, but she was opening to me and it's a question of feeling what's right or wrong.
Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?
I don't know, I like what I do but I'm not closesd, I like to be open minded. I have a lot of ideas about my future but I want to do what feels right at the moment.
And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Thanks for these moments, Garance.
We also spoke a little about Paris and its women - Garance was interested in what it is about Paris that means so much to me and how the women stand out. It was a lovely conversation and I'm happy knowing that although I'm not in Paris anymore, I can go to garancedore.com and feel the essence of the city. No matter where in the world Garance may be, her photos, illustrations and the little peeks she offers into her day bear that most irresistable je ne sais quoi that only French women have. J'adore.