No one does effortless, chic nonchalance quite like the French. Opting for classic styles – Breton stripes and black, black and more black – the French seem to transcend trends, choosing timeless elegance over fashion fads. Think a slightly oversized navy cashmere jumper worn with cuffed jeans, flats and a swipe of red lipstick, or a slim fitting blazer worn with jeans, a shirt and double monk strap shoes. At the heart of this is those French brands creating the luxury pieces that build up the most impeccable of wardrobes; take a look at our 10 French brands you need to know below.
Established in 1987, A.P.C. is French style at its best. Inspired by workwear, designer and founder Jean Touitou creates simple, well-cut basics that epitomise Parisian cool; think classic trench coats, striped knits and slim-fit jeans.
At only five years old, menswear brand AMI is already a modern classic. Founder Alexandre Mattiussi cut his teeth at the likes of Dior, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs before starting AMI in 2011, offering a contemporary take on French prep. Printed t-shirts and sweatshirts, retro-inspired jackets and statement trainers make up the best of AMI’s collections.
Despite what the name suggests, American Vintage is French through and through. The brand, founded by Mickael Azoulay in 2005, is characterised by its simple but extremely well-cut basics that ooze effortlessness. Looking for the ultimate white t-shirt or jumper in the perfect shade of pale blue? American Vintage is the go-to.
Armor Lux goes back to 1938, and is one of the only Breton manufacturers still based in Brittany. Armor Lux is all about that French nautical style, from long and short sleeved stripe tops to vintage-inspired smocks, fisherman jackets and classic knits.
Carven represents the more eclectic side of Parisian style; the side that takes a few more risks with colour and print to create clothing that is youthful yet remains chic. Often referencing designs from its 1960s heyday, Carven blends retro-inspired style with playful details.
Inspired by French work clothing in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, Lyon-based Arpenteur takes classic, simple pieces and updates them for the modern man with slim and tailored fits. With collections that span smocks, gilets, knits and jackets, Arpenteur is a menswear brand with a difference.
Dating back to 1970, KENZO is the perfect mix of Parisian chic and Japanese style. With east-meets-west designs and a vibrant use of colour and print, KENZO is renowned for its creative and unique approach to fashion. Today, the brand is headed up by Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, with its collections spanning everything from signature KENZO tiger print sweatshirts to chic and sophisticated co-ords.
The brand instantly recognised by that small green alligator, Lacoste was the brainchild of French tennis player René Lacoste, who wanted to create sports-inspired clothing that had that distinctive sophisticated French edge. Today, that aesthetic continues with sharp shirts, sleek trainers, simple t-shirts and more.
Sonia by Sonia Rykiel
Another brand renowned for its creative Left Bank style, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel is graphic, playful and has a shot of cheekiness. Think classic striped tops featuring an embroidered motif of the iconic designer herself, printed trench coats and bags covered in contemporary embellishments.
What started as a record label in 2002, Maison Kitsuné soon branched into sleek clothing that took a fresh approach to the classic French prepster aesthetic. From graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts, to printed shirts and clean accessories, Maison Kitsuné represents the cool and contemporary Parisian.
Words by Angharad Jones