For the past few years, the emerging BRIC markets—i.e., Brazil, Russia, India, and China—have been grabbing all the attention. But suddenly the pendulum has swung back to France, by which, of course, we mostly mean Paris. Right now the denizens of the City of Light are producing the most exciting collections, throwing the coolest parties, and generally having the most fun. And yes, last we checked, they still have a lock on the je ne sais quoi thing.
Paris designers have drawn inspiration from the four corners of the globe and even outer space. But for Fall, many of them stayed closer to home, mining that ineffable chic that can only be described as Parisian. Or to put it another way, Lacroix wasn't the only designer doing Lacroix on the runways. At Louis Vuitton—all ruffles, ruches, and poufs—Marc Jacobs name-checked Marie Seznec, a longtime muse of Christian's (left, circa 1986). Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière, meanwhile, traded in his femme-bots for femmes fatales (with a little Alexis Carrington in the shoulders). And then there's Esteban Cortazar, who, in his third season at Emanuel Ungaro, nailed the playful, girls-just-want-to-have-fun, bubble-skirted vibe of the house's heyday.
Amazingly, the Coco Chanel biopic trend has managed to outlive last year's Lifetime movie starring Shirley MacLaine. Anne Fontaine's Coco Avant Chanel recently opened in Paris amid a burst of controversy—authorities banned a poster in which Audrey Tautou, playing the legendary designer, is smoking. Now along comes Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. Starring Karl Lagerfeld favorite Anna Mouglalis, Jan Kounen's film will premiere on the last day of Cannes. It turns out designers and musicians were cozying up long before Madonna squeezed herself into a Gaultier cone bra.
King of Pop
Perhaps only the French could make Michael Jackson fashionable again. Christophe Decarnin's formula for success at Balmain—take the sort of bandleader jackets favored by the Gloved One, combine with ripped jeans and spangled minidresses that scream Trash & Vaudeville, and charge five figures a pop—is not an obvious one. But imbue those items with Gallic flair and watch them catch on not only with irony-fluent fashion editors but also with the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, and, yes, even Jackson himself.
My Big Fat French Shedding
A movie about a diet book sounds about as appetizing as popcorn without butter. But the slender volume in question here is Mireille Guiliano's best-selling French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. So rest assured you won't have to watch Hilary Swank, whose production company purchased the film rights, dine on grapefruit three times a day. The actress is reportedly packing on the pounds to play a fictionalized version of Guiliano. Expect to see her swill Champagne and chow down on pain au chocolat while the weight magically comes off and the men, no doubt, come running.
French Men Do Get Fêtes
Apparently, the French didn't get the memo about fun being banned post-crash. New York fashion week would have had no joie in its vivre without Olivier Zahm's Purple dinner, Le Baron's late-night shenanigans at the Bowery, and, most of all, Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld's raucous, so-packed-you-couldn't-swing-a-spring-roll bash at Indochine. Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton was happy to underwrite Marc Jacobs' Stephen Sprouse tribute back in January, and last month a Balenciaga-clad Salma Hayek and her Gallic beau, PPR chief François-Henri Pinault, retied the knot at Venice's La Fenice theater and Punta della Dogana in front of the likes of Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Stefano Pilati. Charlize Theron had so much fun her floor-scraping Dior gown became a mini.
Effortless Is More
Joana Preiss and Cécile Cassel are fixtures in Chanel's front row, Clémence Poésy has been tapped for Chloé's fragrance campaign, and Paris Vogue editors can't cross the Tuileries without being accosted by Japanese paparazzi. And all of these girls have dirty hair and don't wear makeup. So what is it about French chicks? Allow Jane Birkin's offspring Lou Doillon, left, to explain: "I'd go to castings and people used to think I was the delivery boy with someone else's portfolio.…The whole thing was basically one big misunderstanding, but one misunderstanding led to another and another, and suddenly I was doing campaigns."
Songs for Swingin' Lovers
Long before Sofia Coppola moved to Paris and fell for Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars, les filles were fou for the diminutive, sad-eyed crooner Charles Aznavour. The 84-year-old pop sensation, who's known as the "Frank Sinatra of France," has still got it—he had them swooning in the aisles at New York's City Center last month. As for Mars and co., May 25 marks the world release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the album they recently promoted on SNL. Listen to a remix of the first single, "1901," here: Phoenix Diary » 1901 Remixes.
French standbys Zadig & Voltaire and Comptoir des Cotonniers have both just opened in New York, but the Paris export everyone's waiting for is Isabel Marant. Nobody does French girl cool—that boho mix of slouchy T-shirts, tossed-on furs, and super-skinny pants—quite like she does. Earlier this year we heard the designer was thinking about summer openings in L.A. and New York, but now the label's targeting "sometime before the end of the year"—how laissez-faire.
It's a Thin Line
Better get a copy of that French diet book now. We can almost guarantee that the long, sinuous line synonymous with Madeleine Vionnet, a.k.a. "the queen of bias cut," will soon be back in fashion. A major retrospective of the designer's work opens at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris next month, and come October the house itself will rise from the ashes. That's when new owner Matteo Marzotto and his handpicked design head, Rodolfo Paglialunga, will debut their first efforts for the storied label. As Karl Lagerfeld once said, "Everybody, whether he likes it or not, is under the influence of Vionnet."
Second to None
Until Michelle Obama landed in the White House, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was fashion's favorite First Lady. And while MObama may have wrested the title away (with some bold wardrobe choices that include that most Parisian of designers, the Tunisian-born Azzedine Alaïa), Bruni-Sarkozy's hardly out for the count. Witness this snapshot of the perfectly coiffed model/singer/presidential partner at Madrid's Royal Palace.
Don't forget Cannes. The ne plus ultra of film festivals opened yesterday, which means there are exactly 11 more days and nights of red-carpet gazing to go. Penélope Cruz and Angelina Jolie are expected, but we'll be on the lookout for Charlotte Gainsbourg, who'll be there promoting Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière often custom-makes pieces for Gainsbourg, but we like look 24—the blazer, lace bandeau top, and trousers—from the Fall collection for the actress. You?
Why Everything French Is Hot Again