Joie de Vivre, in 216 Pages
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only,” Coco Chanel once said. “Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” This is the concept Bérénice Vila Baudry is going for with her new book, French Style. Out this April, the 216 page tome examines its subject from all angles. “I love fashion,” Baudry, a professor at Columbia University, told Style.com. “But fashion is the obvious thing to talk about when you think of French style. I didn’t want the book to be just about that.”
French Style is a full-blown menagerie filled with a combination of 165 obscure, albeit entertaining, tidbits (did you know French inventor Roland Moreno patented the Smart Card—that is, the chip at the end of your credit card—in 1974?), culinary delights, cultural milestones, cinematic legends, scientists, historical characters, artists, fashion innovators (obviously; she couldn’t just leave them out altogether), and beyond. “The whole book is a big disorder,” laughed Baudry, noting that each event, person, or fact is listed randomly. “But I think every entry is linked.” Case in point? Romantic poet Victor Hugo has his page right before the French kiss. More ironic couplings include Versailles and flea markets, the Tour de France and cheese, and the magazine Paris Match and philosopher Voltaire. “We French people are a bit of a paradox,” explains Baudry. “We are always between tradition and modernity, the past and the present. There’s always a contrast,” she said.
Fashion fans will be happy to see that the likes of Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent made it in. (Baudry says they tie in with other historical figures and explorers, like Jacques Cousteau, because they were pioneers. “Chanel and YSL’s creations were like small revolutions,” she offered.) Naturally, Champagne gets a page, and the book wouldn’t be French without mention of Godard, Gainsbourg, and Goude, or Bardot, baguettes, and everyone’s favorite elephant, Babar. “I hope to show that French style is a way of thinking and a way of seeing things. It’s a whole perspective,” said Baudry. What’s her advice for Americans who covet a little je ne sais quoi? “I’m not sure…one of the big differences is légèreté.” Translation? Lighten up, comme le français.
French Style will be released by Assouline this April and is currently available for preorder from assouline.com.