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Paris Fashion Has Je Ne Sais Quoi

vday-paris-fashionStory and Interview by Linda Donahue

Mireille Nagourney believes that every woman should have five of each season’s essential pieces in her wardrobe. She calls them the “five must-haves.” The founder of Je Ne Sais Quoi (JNSQ), a unique, multi-brand e-boutique, further offers that it’s the combination of edgy-yet-elegant accessories that adds that certain, well, je ne sais quoi to anyone’s personal style. And this is the key to Paris style.

Nagourney should know. Raised in Paris by her American parents, she naturally gravitated to fashion, a passion she shares with Parisien Salon.

Where did the idea for JNSQ come from?

Ive always wanted to open a boutique, either in Paris or the U.S., but I realized how challenging and costly this would be in Paris. My mother and I started talking about my starting a business online in 2005, and as soon as the opportunity came along, I decided, why not? Even in late 2007 and early 2008, e-commerce in France was still somewhat of a novelty. I realized that no one was offering products from niche brands online, yet there was an existing demand for fashion forward quality goods.

When did you realize that you had a passion for fashion?

I was born and raised in Paris, so that alone contributed enormously to my love for fashion. My early fashion education came from simply walking down the Parisian streets, sitting on a café terrace and just people watching. I also loved going through my mother’s closet. I felt as though I had discovered the treasures in Ali Babas cave.

But my first real fashion experience happened in the early 90ʼs. My mother was the head of Parsons School of Design in Paris and, as such, brought me to the student year-end fashion shows. That did it for me, I was hooked. All the excitement, the lights, the materials, the models. My internships in the Paris press office of Chanel really sealed the deal as an adult. As glamorous as the fashion world looks from the outside, there is an enormous amount of work and commitment that goes on backstage, and I got to experience the realities of this industry firsthand.

How did Paris influence your style?

I dont think I dress in a Parisian or American way. I love to mix it up. Im influenced by what I see on the street. I love mixing designer pieces with mass-market brands. For instance, today Im wearing a Heimstone silk shirt with Etam jeans and Jonak boots. Topping it off is a necklace designed by one of my friends, an up and coming designer named Lamia Benalysherif.

What do you think it is about Paris style that makes it so distinctive?

I think it’s simplicity. Its never overdone, usually minimal accessories, but if you look closely, every piece is well thought out, from the nail polish color to the print on the scarf.

The women of Paris make it look so effortless. Is it?

I wouldnt say it’s effortless. Its not complicated to emulate Parisian style, but there is a thought process into how Parisian women (and men) create their looks. Anyone that says otherwise is lying!

How can the rest of us incorporate Parisian style into our lives?

It doesnt take much. Im very much in favor of accessories. I usually dress in a rather classic style but jazz it up with accessories, like shoes, jewelry and bags. If you have a silk scarf, a pair of ballerina flats and a pretty tote, youre good to go. But my favorite is the scarf. I wear them all year. Silk, cashmere, cotton, linen…you name it. What’s so great about scarves is that you can wear them as a headscarf, around your neck, attached to your tote, as a bracelet or as a belt. Theyre so versatile.

How do you stay on top of all the fashion trends?

Like most buyers, I go to the trade shows in New York and Paris. I only buy if I have a coup de Coeur, or a love-at-first-sight if you will, for the style, the design and the quality of the piece. I also love to spend hours looking at blogs. Its become the 21st century reference library for fashion and lifestyle, becoming just as influential as magazines.

But at the end of the day, as simple as it might be, I usually choose pieces that I like, regardless of whether its trendy or not. Im more about buying pieces that can be worn throughout the seasons, pieces that are timeless but that still retain an edge.

shopping-online-parisWhat are some of the big trends for spring?

There are so many designers with so many styles that there really isnt a specific trend anymore. I would say the trend is to personalize your look. Take one dress, give it to five different people and I can guarantee theyll all come up with a different style.

That said, I still see certain elements emerging more than others like olive-toned parkas and coral pieces, dresses or jewelry (which look great with a tan) tribal patterns. We’ve picked up some of this with Moio scarves that well be introducing in the spring. Ive also seen a lot silk, cotton and linen carrot trousers. Add a simple cotton tee shirt, a pair of sandals, and you have yourself a great look for a night on the town or a meeting at 9am.

How can women incorporate this spring’s trends into wardrobe staples?

Buy a pair of carrot trousers and a coral-colored accessory, a necklace or a bracelet, and incorporate it into your regular wardrobe.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

In terms of luxury designers, I am biased toward Chanel, having interned in their Paris press office twice. Im still amazed at how modern and timeless Coco Chanels designs were fifty years ago. We’re still reinterpreting them today with big costume jewelry necklaces and jeweled cuffs. I love how Christophe Decarnin has revamped Balmain. I love structured dresses and I think its quite a feat to mix structure with sequins without it looking gaudy. I also love Heimstone, which is really a quintessential Parisian line of jackets and dresses, feminine with an edgy attitude. The brand has really been one of the staples of our e-boutique. I also love J Crew and miss it dearly in Paris! Topshop and Sandro are also some of my mainstream favorites.

Lindsey Tramuta is JNSQ’s marketing director. Born and raised in the U.S. and married to a Frenchman, Lindsey has adopted the Paris sense of style. She adds her advice to women looking to bring Paris style into their lives at home?

scarves-in-parisScarves, scarves, scarves! Parisian women wear scarves all year round; silk scarves, wool scarves, cashmere scarves or even just cotton scarves. Regardless of the material, it always fits with their look. And they know it, so part of the Parisian style (or “je ne sais quoi”) is exuding confidence!

In winter, the scarves get thicker, along with the outerwear and footwear, without ever compromising style. As a general rule, women in Paris wear clothes that are appropriate for their shape and are more discreet. So toss out that bright red sweater, bring home a more refined top and pair it with a blazer or cardigan, a pair of skinny jeans and some high boots. Speaking of footwear, women can swap their sneakers for ballet flats or boots (low or high). And if you really can’t live without tennis shoes, look for something a little trendier, like Converse or Superga.

Accessories are just as important to the total look when done correctly. As Mireille said, the use of accessories is usually minimal but used to enhance the look. Bracelets, belts and bags are a great way to achieve this.

You can get the Paris look by shopping Je Ne Sais Quoi online at www.shopjenesaisquoi.com.

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4 Responses to “Paris Fashion Has Je Ne Sais Quoi”

  1. Oh yes, accessories! I collect all kinds of fun jewelry: not expensive, but different pieces, large bracelets, take-a-second-look kind of necklaces. I remember being in Provence in 2002, in the summer, and seeing so many women wearing scarves; the long wrap around your neck kind that really had not taken hold in the states. They absolutely make the outfit. So, I bought a few and lo and behold the “trend” came to the States that fall and winter and has remained here. Even the street vendors in NYC and Wash.D.C. have a wonderful, really inexpensive selection. It takes an eye, not necessarily money, to be stylish!!

  2. Virginia says:

    Oh MERCI! I am on the eternal search for just the right accessory or SOMETHING that will help me “fit in” while in Paris. Coming from Alabama, this has been rather a challenge but I’m up for it. I’m all about a scarf and this last trip amazed myself by traveling with just a carryon bag. Two pairs of black slacks, one pair of jeans, a few black sweaters and as many scarves as I could roll and poke! I was asked directions in French twice. Not bad for a southern girl!

    Love your article and I’m going to read and reread and file it away for my next trip. I’ll be dropping by your site as well.
    V

  3. anonymous says:

    What’s great about the shop is it’s a way to bring Parisian style home with you, whether home is in Alabama, Milan or Tokyo! The customer service is amazing and they’re willing to answer any questions you might have about the products. Definitely try them out!

  4. Cynthia says:

    If reading VOGUE for over 30 years hasn’t helped to give me an iota of an idea how to incorporate some French fashion sense into my répertoire, your post sure has!

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