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Updated: Jun 27, 2022

"For me, music gives a voice to fashion." - Donatella Versace

When comparing the street style of London and Paris, anyone can notice that there are many notable and offbeat trends that have taken hold in both cities. But, what are the subtleties of these trends that make them so popular? Is there overlap? Are they distinctly geographical? Or can we look deeper into what makes each of these trends tick in different cities at the same time in slightly different ways?

Christian Dior's "New Look"

Between London and Paris, there is definitely a small modern cultural divide. Despite the two cities only being a two hour train ride apart, their development and cultures vary in vast ways: the spoken language, government structure, general courtesies, and overall mood are noticeably different

to the average visitor. One major difference I noticed right away are the discrepancies in cultural priorities. Paris, because of its exceedingly long history as the fashion capital of the world, leads Europe especially in the style of the day. Paris is about trend-making, and less so about culture-defining media. London, because of its later arrival to a palpable democracy, has many aspects of counter-culture media that inform its fashion. The biggest modern fashion movements from Britain have been Punk and Beatnik-esque-John-Lennon-inspired fashion, both of which stemmed from revolutionary music. This is definitely observable when walking around London; the spirit of anarchy and “sticking it to the man” is still in the air, and soaks into everyone’s style, whether they know it or not.

The first macro-trend I noticed in London is the female blazer, usually in black colors. This trend, often combined with some sort of grungy aspect, is reminiscent of 90’s punk that is still so integral to London’s culture. I would call this macro-trend the “anarchist businesswoman look”, one that I’ve started to notice even in the US (albeit much tamer). The blazer was a very big part of the punk movement at its conception, because of this sort of reclamation of the most poignant symbol of “the man.” Women like Margaret Thatcher made this her “power suit” look, using her image to silence many, and a lot of women wanted to take this piece back for that very reason. In both of my photos that showcase this trend it is paired with more tattered clothing in one case, and in the other with chunky Prada loafers and the deconstructed, lace-up dress under it. Both blazers I captured were black. The silhouette on both is more womanly than the traditional power-suit look, with the top being curve-hugging. You see much more of this in London than Paris, the put-together, body-conscious look versus the more Parisian, Marie Antoinette, carefree look so deeply ingrained in the culture. Even so, this punk-rock, Vivienne Westwood-inspired trend is going wild in London right now, and definitely defines the city. It is polished with elements of this aforementioned counterculture, dirty but clean, a total contradiction. Modern London culture is becoming more and more emblematic of this concept because of the shifting social and legislative aspects, and it's only right that the clothing reflects this.

A micro-trend that I noticed in London is grungy arts-and-crafts, such as fur and crochet. I would say that the specific micro-trend is crochet, as seen in her brown scarf, but the photo itself showcases the growing movement of arts and crafts. It is a hodgepodge of different styles, eras, and elements that come together to create this very eclectic look that embodies this trend. This concept is even trickling up to brands like Chloe right now, who under new creative direction have taken a lot of these elements and elevated them. The crochet, pin-striped denim, art-deco red leather bag, and leather vest with fur trim are all perfect examples of this arts-and-crafts look. But, I repeatedly saw crochet as a micro-trend specifically. This look makes sense with the overall feel of London, the relaxed, grungy, counter-culture look that says, “I wear what I want” but has elements of traditional English dress to twist the knife even harder in the heart of the generation on their way out.

As for Paris, however – this city makes its own rules about its clothing. The bridged culture between the customs and the people is cohesive enough that you don’t see much backlash fashion (punk, goth, etc.) that comes off as unharmonious with the overall mood of the city. In my opinion, Paris has an indescribable aura that not only embraces the more crazy looks, but serves to lift them up and give them their moment in the sun as inspiration for all. This is evident in the fact that I am able to sit at a cafe and see ten people walk by within ten minutes that all have such strikingly different styles, but all styles that I consider to be Parisian even so.

A macro-trend I noticed in Paris after coming back from London was the concept of deconstruction, and, in turn, asymmetry. I noticed one girl in Merci that really struck me as quintessential modern Parisian, meaning complete creative freedom and regard for her personal style only. It was her bob that caught my eye, but the more I looked, the more elements of style I saw. I’ve decided to focus on her sweater, however. It is made to look almost raggedy, and she has it tucked in under her belt to create triangles with the knit on one side of her body. It comes off as confident, comfortable, and chic even with the disparate and perhaps clunky elements. Her bag strap, belt, and hair all play further with this concept of deconstructed asymmetry. The other photo I took that showcases this really plays on the deconstruction trend we’re seeing, as the fabric is literally torn to shreds on one side. This was also noticeable in London with the black and white skirt; the fabric was treated and worn the same way, making it so that this light linen looks worn and lived in.

Finally, a micro-trend that I have seen in my time in Paris and have definitely adopted is the baby-doll nightgown. This look, having been shown in pointelle lace by brands such as Miu Miu, has really taken off not just for the sweet style of it, but for the functionality of a Paris summer. This type of dress, whether it’s frilly, lacy, plain, long, short, is most always seen in white, signaling to almost a return to a simpler time with its days-of-yore, countryside image references. It references mind images of Marie Antoinette lazing around in a field surrounded by the simple pleasures of the country while wearing this dress. And it is not a far cry; the portrait in which she is seen in what some at the time considered a nightgown truly informs the ideals of French fashion.

While in parsing through these trends we can find subtle differences, the truth still remains that London and Paris alike have a vibrant and admittedly very similar sense of street style on the whole. But, what makes each place separate from the other in their style is the history and culture that informs it. There were definitely repeats and overlaps between the two cities (fur, trend of white and black, kooky sunglasses, leather, so on,) but what makes each city unique is how they employ these trends. I got the impression that London is a much more fashion-trend oriented city, because of their cultural obsession with music and media that informs their style. They dabble in more concrete trends to keep their style cohesive. Further, the culture is much more polished and proper, leaving room for rebellion to creep up and seep into the mainstream.

But, in Paris, the concept of a trend is almost silly to discuss; people walk around wearing styles that would be considered almost absurd in the US, but for some magical reason, it works, and it works well. The concept of Parisian effortless beauty is such a true one, and one that is observable through almost every person I see. There is no trying here, there is just doing. People know who they are and how they want to present themselves, and take their favorite things from the newest collections, not the most popular things, to further show others this. The rest is left up to that indescribable aura, the one that only exists in Paris, no matter how and where you attempt to replicate it. As we can see, you can replicate the clothes, you can replicate the trends but the je nais se quoi is something that just can’t be copied.


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