Garance Doré's #1 Tip for Dealing With the Pressure to Be Perfect


Erik Melvin

After years of courting fans online (ourselves included!) with her killer photography and illustrations, Parisian transplant Garance Doré is celebrating her career thus far with a compilation of all new work and a candid retelling of how she ended up where she is today. Spanning matters of style, career, beauty and love, Doré leaves no stone unturned in Love Style Life, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s included interviews with famous friends like Emmanuelle Alt and Jenna Lyons on all the same topics. We caught up with Doré  this week just as her book launched to find out why she decided to write it in the first place, how her style has changed since living in NYC and the killer advice she has for avoiding perfectionism.

Scroll down to see what she had to say, and shop some of her favorite items!

Who What Wear: You’re already very successful in many ways, so what made you decide to add on to that with this book?

Garance Doré: It’s a very interesting experience and the more I do the promotion, like the book signings, and now that it’s been out for a week and people are giving me feedback—you start realizing why you did it. When you have an online publication, it’s really like a daily craft and, at the end there’s a bit of a lack of of perspective. Even though you deliver your message a little bit every day, you don’t have that sense of a container and I think that’s why subconsciously I probably wanted to do a book, because it’s an entity and you can actually give it to people and they can dive into it. And I mean people have been diving into blogs for a long time, and even people who discover the blog now usually will go back and read all of the older entries and stuff, but I think this is a different way. Also, I think after almost ten years of doing the blog I wanted to say things in a different way and I had things that I wanted to talk about that I couldn’t really talk about on the blog.

WWW: You partnered with Club Monaco for the launch of the book—why’d you choose to work with them in particular?

GD: Well it’s a very natural fit for me—I wear and buy a lot of their clothes and I have a history with them from shooting for them. Their team is such a friendly face. But their flagship store in New York is also just amazing—it’s one of my favorite stores in the city, with the [attached] bookstore and café. You can spend a lot of time in there and there’s a real sense of culture. So when I thought about a book tour, they very naturally came up. It’s such a wonderful thing when people understand fashion and style but also understand book culture and how people relate to that. They’ve been doing book signings for a while and they’re always so nice—decorated with lots of pretty flowers and everything. I wanted to give something more to the people who came and with Club Monaco we’ve been able to do that.

WWW: That store is one of my favorites in New York, too! What are some of your other favorite stores in the city?

GD: I love The Line—it’s so cool and there are so many pieces that I want. I love Steven Alan, they carry so many brands that are just very natural and the price point is good. I’ll go to Barneys when I know I want to spend a little extra. I also love shopping for objects so I go to this place called Matter that’s very cool, and I could spend forever in Dipytique or CO Bigelow just bathing in all of the scents. For online shopping I always go to Net-a-Porter, Matches and Topshop, and I just started visiting [resale] sites like The Real Real.

WWW: You’ve lived in New York City now for almost 6 years—have you noticed any changes in your style from living here?

GD: It has changed a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s specifically from living in New York—I think it’s more from me knowing more about myself from all of the work that I’ve done with the blog. It actually kind of started as a way for me to find my own style, and so I’ve realized what I can wear, what doesn’t look good on me, what I feel comfortable in, what’s the message that I want to give, etc. My style has become a lot more easy and functional, but at the same time sophisticated, in the sense that I know exactly what I want, I have a lot less clothes, I edit often, I know that my color palette is very restrained, I don’t have a ton of prints. I think for a while I felt like Oh, I need to be a fashion blogger, or I need to be this or that, but I realized, you know, I actually just need to be the most myself and the most at ease with my clothes.

WWW: Was there a defining moment that made that happen for you?

GD: It’s really an evolution—a series of small moments. It can be from a great photo where you think Oh, I actually looked great that evening, so you ask: Okay, what did I do that worked that evening? Maybe I did my own make-up or chose a dress that was less spectacular but fit me better. Then there are also the bad photos or the bad evenings where you feel you’re out of place or you didn’t dress the way you should have—you tried to be someone else. Or there are the edits I do in my wardrobe, where [I realize] that maybe I only wore something once. So it’s these moments that really shape my style—it’s about taking notes each time instead of beating myself up or being overly proud and saying to myself Yes, I’ve arrived. I’m more like Okay, this is a lesson and each lesson brings me closer to a good sense of style. The thing is, your style changes and evolves with time, so you’re never quite there and I think that’s what’s interesting—discovering yourself.

WWW: Do you ever feel pressure to live up to a certain French woman ideal since American women are so obsessed with their style?

GD: No, I don’t. I think the perception is that French style is easy and effortless so it’s not a very difficult ideal to represent—in that sense, my style is [really French], I don’t overdo it. I believe that our culture in France is very different from America’s, even though I find American style to be amazing and fascinating. Both countries have much to learn from each other. So [French style] is not hard to achieve, but I also don’t see myself as a poster girl for it. Obviously I talk about French style in my book because I really think there is something to it, but it’s not the whole book, because I think we have a lot to learn from women in every country.

WWW: And what do French women really think of Americans idolizing their style—do they ever find it surprising or silly?

GD: I think it’s very flattering—I’ve never heard anybody complain about it. I think if we talk about anything it’s American fashion and beauty and the crazy standards of perfection that women put on themselves [here]. That’s something that we just can’t do, so we talk about it a lot. When you read American magazines or blogs, everything looks SO perfect, the nails are done and all of that, and I think French women see more of the big picture [laughs] where it’s about looking at someone from a distance—like how is their walk, etc. and it’s not [about being] so precise. I think we feel that it’s too much but at the same time we think I hope one day I can be that perfect but I probably won’t.

The pressure that we put on ourselves—especially now with Instagram—is to such a high level that I don’t think we can really measure the damage it’s having on us and our psyches. My point of view is that women have to relax, and it’s okay to not put so much pressure on ourselves. According to Instagram, you have to be skinny, have your nails done all the time, have a big white apartment and be having coffee in an amazing place, and then if you look anywhere else you think you have to be a power woman, because we see all these women running amazing businesses, which is great, but there are also SO many other ways to be happy—there are so many other ways to be yourself.

WWW: Do you have any advice for not letting that pressure get to you?

GD: The thing I do is try to surround myself with people whose vision of life I love and can relate to, but I also just ask myself: Okay, what race am I trying to run right now? Is it your race or somebody else’s? And thank god I have people around me that I can talk to about it, because often when I’m in crazy mode or I lose my sense of humor, it’s because I’m running someone else’s race, so I try to get back to a basic sense of what’s important in my life. That’s one of the biggest messages of my book—you have to define what’s important to you and your happiness and then that’s the thing you fight for. It’s not about being like some other girl in a magazine or on Instagram, because that’s the road to frustration.

WWW: Totally, and there’s been lots of talk lately about that perfectionism, as well as the pace of fashion being too intense. What do you make of this idea?

GD: I think for a while fashion was so in fashion—everybody cared so much about what was going on at the shows, you know, the scene, the street style, the editors, who’s sitting in the front row, etc. It was the big entertainment of the time but I think it’s been so overdone and there is that sense of pushing the envelope way too far, that I think people are losing their interest in fashion. That’s why [I like having the] freedom on my blog to say: I’m not going to cover fashion week like I used to, because I’m a bit tired of it and I want to talk about designers in a different way. I don’t want to dive into that hysteria six times a year, which is the rhythm right now. Of course it’s not going to stop tomorrow, but hopefully with the audience changing the way they look at things the system will change a little bit, too.

WWW: Is there anyone in the industry that you look up to or particularly admire?

GD: Yes, there are many people. Somebody that really inspires me is Dries Van Noten because he really walks to the beat of his own drum. He’s probably been approached a million times to design for a big house, but he’s never done it. He doesn’t advertise, he lives his life in Belgium, he comes [to Paris] and does three new shows—I don’t even think he does resort, and it’s amazing. He doesn’t have a store in every city but his stores are some of the nicest stores I’ve ever been in.

He’s the kindest person you’ll ever meet, too. As someone who’s not caught up in the fashion craziness, he was one of the first people to understand what I was doing and to open his doors to me. He invited me to the shows and it’s a relationship that kept growing because we’re like-minded in some ways, so I interviewed him a few times and he invited me to his exhibition in Paris and walked me through it very naturally, with all of this passion, not like Oh, I’m doing you this huge favor. He’s also extremely talented and [his designs] speak to many different women.

And then obviously someone like Stella McCartney for her strong position as a vegan and for how she’s disrupted the fashion industry in that sense—she’s done it in such a smart way that I can only admire.

WWW: Are there any newer designers you’re loving a lot these days?

GD: I love J.W. Anderson, both his own line and for Loewe. He has this sense of humility and just focusing on his work—he’s part of this new generation of designers where, you go to their stores and they’re so interesting, it’s more about a lifestyle than just buying a new bag.

WWW: What fashion items are you currently obsessed with?

GD: This is the time where I buy coats and I’m a bit of a coat freak. Obviously spending so much time in the Club Monaco store I ended up with one of their pink coats that I’m probably going to wear all winter. I also got a white duffle coat from Coach that I’m dying for and a Miu Miu peacoat that’s pretty cool. So those are the three that will hopefully get me through winter. I love them—they’re such a standout piece and for New York winters you really live in your coats, until the Canada Goose [comes out], and you never take it off and want to kill yourself [laughs]. That and your L.L. Bean duck boots, which I just saw a really cool black version of on Steven Alan that I want for the really bad winter moments. You just give up after a while [laughs]—you can’t be sexy, you just put on a mountain of clothes and that’s it.

WWW: So you’ve really forged your own path in the fashion industry, and I’m curious what you would tell someone else who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

GD: It’s very interesting because in July the blog will be ten years old, and when I started I didn’t see myself like this, but it was kind of a rebellious thing—a different way to talk about fashion, on a new medium—and I kind of miss that. Obviously blogs became really big, Instagram topped it off and I think today what we need is a fresh voice and a new way of looking at things again. I don’t exactly know how you would do that today, but I think something that’s big right now is messaging—so maybe a kind of newsletter that you can send out but it isn’t tied to a number of followers or the race for popularity and success, something that breaks the legs of that system and gives it a breath of fresh air. All of the people I talk to are like Oh, the system we’re in right now is exhausting so I think anything new would be very welcome.

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Do you have any tips for avoiding perfectionism? Let us know in the comments!