Fake it 'til you make it
Credit: Timur Emek/Getty Images

No other country has churned out quite as many renowned fashion icons as France. Legends, like Brigitte Bardot, Betty Catroux, and Francoise Hardy, all come to mind, and while they were all immensely different in their countenance and talents, they all shared a commonality of style so effortlessly chic, so intriguingly elusive, that it's become a subject of endless fascination for decades. We've dedicated stories on this pursuit of French Girl style, digging into the archives and unearthing looks, breaking them down, and attempting to emulate them, piece by piece.

So when we got to chat with Parisian stylist Camille Seydoux, aka a French Girl in the flesh (and who styles sister and modern-day fashion icon Lea Seydoux), the subject, naturally, came up. Though her reaction was quite unexpected—it was one of complete bewilderment.

"Americans are obsessed with French style—really?!" Seydoux asks, incredulously. "In Paris, they're obsessed with the New York look. They think the New York look, the Brooklyn look is so cool." Le Bon Marche (the Parisian department store equivalent to Macy's or Bloomingdale's), she recalls, once hosted a special two-week Brooklyn-themed event to the delight of Parisian locals (her son is one of them—he's a proud owner of a "Brooklyn in Paris" bag).

But back to the topic at hand. What does she think is the secret to that kind of effortless sophistication that's unique to the French set?

"I think French girls pretend to be lazy when it comes to style. She's not going to admit that she spends 50 minutes getting ready. She needs to look effortless, like 'oh, my hair is naturally like this,' when in fact, she uses hair product and styling tools. She'll look as though she just kissed her boyfriend, but really, she dabbed her lipstick on with a finger," Seydoux muses. "We love to look like everything is completely natural. We think that if we spend too much time on our looks, people won't think we're clever, so we say, 'I was at an exhibition featuring a new artist,' or 'I don't like shopping,' when we're completely obsessed with shopping."

This nonchalance toward primping and preening carries over to the red carpet as well. "In the U.S., it's acceptable to have a stylist and to spend hours thinking about your dress, but French actresses won't admit that they have a stylist," she laughs. "Their attitude is, 'I'm born with style; I don't need help.' That's the biggest difference between French and Americans—we don't admit it." Well, until now. The secret to French Girl style? Keeping it a secret.