The Fashion Motto Only Stylish French People Get

It can certainly be argued that chic and je ne sais quoi are greatly overused when it comes to describing a French woman’s style (guilty!). Which is precisely why another French term gave us pause when we recently came across it: chien.

We came across the word chien in a recent New York Times profile on the Oscar-nominated French actress Isabelle Huppert. Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York, was quoted in the profile as saying Huppert “has what the French used to call chien.” Ruth La Ferla, the writer of the piece, explained, “He was alluding to the blend of tough chic and barely concealed sensuality that, Mr. Doonan maintains, defines Ms. Huppert’s allure."

Avoir du chien wasn’t a term that we were familiar with, but we were intrigued, so we decided to do a little investigating, tapping some of our favorite Parisian women to weigh in: Anne-Laure Mais of Adenorah, jeweler Adeline Rapon, L'Officiel social editor Sabina Socol, and Marta Cygan of Life of Boheme. These four women gave us a crystal-clear picture of exactly what chien refers to and convinced us that the motto needs to be revived. There’s room for another term over in the U.S. to describe French style, don’t you think?

Learn more about what chien means to the French, take in a few iconic women who embody it, and shop pieces by French brands (because why not?) below.