Even Jeanne Damas overcame the French girl style – WWD

PARIS Jeanne Damas She’s no stranger to brands – the “It” girl, influencers and entrepreneurs are just a few – but there’s one thing she’s willing to let go of: the poster child for French Girl Style .

As she celebrates the fifth year of her clothing brand Rouje with a new book, Damas has set her sights beyond the borders of her home country, with plans to open new stores, including a regular location. first residency in the United States, and rebranded and expanded its beauty services.

And while she embodies the image of Parisienne, with her luscious red lips and vintage-inspired style, that image started to fade a bit as Damas, who gave birth to her first child late last year, is about to turn 30 in March.

She told WWD: “The French girl’s style is annoying and this is a bit of a delicate position for me, because the press has always labeled me that way, so I’m seen as representing that here. to some extent.

A social media savvy with 1.5 million Instagram followers, she’s well aware of the recent online backlash to the French Girl Style legend from critics for that it does not reflect the diversity of the country’s population.

When she was approached to write her first book, Damas refused to pen another guide to Parisian luxury. Instead, her 2017 book “In Paris,” co-authored by Lauren Bastide, introduces a range of women living in the French capital.

“I often travel for inspiration, because I don’t necessarily find it in Paris, so I think the image of Parisienne is a bit cliché, and it’s good to challenge it. At Rouje, we do not consider ourselves a French or Parisian brand. We consider ourselves an international brand that caters to all stylish girls,” she added.

A look from Rouje's fall 2021 collection.

A look from Rouje’s fall 2021 collection.
Ryan Brabazon / Courtesy of Rouje

Damas was speaking at the brand’s headquarters in the Sentier district of Paris, the apparel manufacturing hub that gave birth to contemporary French brands including the powerhouses Sandro and Maje. She is expanding into the third floor of the building, after her team size tripled to 60 employees in the past two years.

“It’s not bad to celebrate the brand’s fifth anniversary by finally having my own office,” said Damas, who has been sitting at the open-plan desk since she launched her online, online brand. to consumers. Working from home is clearly not for her. “I need to see people every day, talk to each department and do that brainstorming, that perpetual ping pong.”

The building on Rue Bachaumont is also home to Rouje’s only store, and until recently there was a restaurant called Chez Jeanne, which opened in 2019 but was forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I really wanted to reopen it, because I think it gave the place soul,” said Damas, who grew up on her parents’ Le Square Trousseau brasserie. Although they’ve since sold it, she returned there for an anniversary dinner on Tuesday with friends, including designers Guillaume Henry and Simon Porte Jacquemus, who participated in the edition. Live cover of “La Vie en Rose” by French band Mauvais Oeil.

Jacquemus said he’s known Damas since they were both teen bloggers. “The first time I went to Paris, I was 14 or 15 years old and I was at her house,” he said, gesturing toward the apartment upstairs.

“We are both doing what we do today, creating images and depicting a lifestyle. We connected and spent some time chatting online, and one day I went to Paris and she showed me around, and we never lost touch,” he said, recalling that he later included Damas in his early campaign images. “We have a beautiful relationship, and I think we always will.”

A look from Rouje's fall 2021 collection.

A look from Rouje’s fall 2021 collection.
Courtesy of Rouje

Both have closed their eyes in search of great images into brands that embody the distinctive French sensibility. Damas expands into the beauty industry in 2018 with the launch of a lipstick line, and has since added other color cosmetics.

“I wanted it to be part of the brand with ready-to-wear – not just a lipstick to go with a dress,” she said, adding that the new name of the line will be revealed in the spring. “I wanted to have another store just for beauty, offering a different experience, because the two could co-exist, but also be able to talk to two different customers.”

Damas thinks there’s room for a more natural makeup look. “I wanted to do a new look that doesn’t have to exist in France, a new approach that is less hidden, like the US contouring trend, and more about being yourself,” she says. explain. “Fun and easy to play with.”

In addition, Rouje is strengthening its handbag assortment around three pillars: sac J, Bobo and Baguette, with retail prices ranging from 260 euros to 345 euros. The brand has also expanded its outerwear range, demonstrating their growing focus on physical retail.

“Because it was only available online at first, people thought we were more of a summer brand, because we were known for our Gabin dress. But I’ve always loved the winter collections,” says Damas.

While declining to disclose figures, she said Rouje’s small retail footprint has been a boon during the lockdown and that the brand has seen a spike in online sales. With the retail reopening, Rouje unveiled a corner at the Le Bon Marché department store in Paris in September and a pop-up store at Fred Segal in Los Angeles next month.

Damas, who flew to New York City last week to probe: “With the success we’re seeing in stores right now and life slowly getting back to normal, we’ve decided to open some stores. this year, including a store in the United States. locations. “We are also looking at one or two in Europe, but that remains to be determined.”

"La Vie en Rouje" by Jeanne Damas.

“La Vie en Rouje” by Jeanne Damas.
Courtesy of Rouje

The book “La Vie en Rouje”, to be published by Editions de la Martinière on 25 November, honors the brand and the women who represent it with a mixed scrapbook-style image collection. mixes its archives with more personal documents, including childhood photos of Damas – though don’t expect a confessional.

“I thought that if I showed my family every day like on a reality TV show, I would have 20 million followers, but that’s not my thing. But I think people love to see someone evolve, and that’s part of the story,” said Damas.

“It was a really beautiful book, and it was quite emotional because when we saw it, we realized we had created a Rouje interface,” she continued. “I think that is the key to a successful brand. A brand that implements too many different styles and wants to dress everyone, without a clear identity, can very quickly disappear. ”

While the side-buttoned Gabin dress is a perennial favorite, oversized blazers, high-waisted jeans and tight trousers are all part of Rouje’s glamor. Damas works with creative director Nathalie Dumeix, a family friend she’s known since she was a teenager.

“We are proud and we realize how far we have come. Originally, it was a family-style establishment. There are very few of us and over the years, especially in the last 18 months, since the beginning of COVID-19, things have accelerated,” said Damas.

The main challenge she presented was converting followers into leads. Among the lessons she’s learned is being more open-minded about how the company operates.

“At first, I never talked about CSR, and that was a mistake. We have used eco-certified fabrics from the very beginning. Originally, it was 50 percent, and now we are close to 80 percent,” she said, noting that Rouje’s website now has a page about sourcing. “People need to know, and you just have to learn to be fair and transparent.”

Produced in drops to minimize excess, around 90% of Rouje’s products are made in Europe, while jeans are made in Tunisia and woven bags are produced by a women’s workshop in Madagascar.

Damas also supports La Maison des Femmes, an organization that provides shelter to victims of domestic violence, with initiatives including a capsule collection launched last year.

This conscious approach partly explains her frustration at being reduced to an archetype. She recalls a particular magazine article last year. “The subject line is ‘Occupation: Parisienne.’ With hindsight, I realized that ‘Job: Parisienne’ is really like saying “Job: nothing,” she said.

“Would they do the same to a man, to a designer? I’m not sure. It goes back to the whole thing of a ‘beautiful girl on the Internet.’ Some people can’t see that past,” she added. “So there’s that, plus my impostor syndrome or my lack of confidence, which I hope to be able to overcome one day.”

Moving to a new office at the end of the year will help her feel more legitimate as an entrepreneur, even though she doesn’t have any business training. “Five years on, I finally started to feel like the boss of my own company,” she said.


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