Meet Fanny Bourdette Donon, BFF Of Bella Hadid & Dior Darling

On Instagram, it looks like Fanny Bourdette Donon has it all: an armoire of expensive clothes, luxurious vacations, an endless amount of parties to arrive fashionably late to. She even calls a Hadid sister her best friend. But in real life, the France-born-Africa-raised international PR girl can be seen not with a Dior handbag in her arm, but a clipboard. (And maybe a headset.) Because, as she’ll tell you, everything she has she’s worked for — and there’s more to her charmed life than meets Instagram.
The idea that social media is an edited, souped up version of daily life is not a new concept, but it’s a point Donon, who’s approaching 70k followers, harped on when we flew across the pond to shoot the 33-year old in her Paris apartment. According to her, work begins at 8 a.m. and goes well into the night (past midnight, usually), and when she’s not working, she’s probably thinking about work.
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While Donon may be Bella Hadid’s right-hand girl, she’s also an example of what it looks like to discover one’s passion later in life, and how having famous friends may be cool and all, but when it comes down to it, it's hard work that gets you where you want to be. Throw all of your preconceived French Girl notions out of the window and get to know the real Fanny.
Photographed by Hugues Laurent.
Dior dress, underwear, hat.
It's funny that you say that you like to change up your look when it comes to beauty and fashion, because I feel like when it comes to French women and their style, it's all about being timeless and classic. What are your thoughts on that?
"Absolutely. It's funny because I'm French, but I’ve lived most of my life abroad. My dad is French and my mom is from Rwanda. My dad used to work in Africa and specialized in countries with conflict, so for 17 years (basically all of my youth), I grew up moving from one African country to another. I went to a French high school (in Africa) and when I graduated, I moved to France. I went to law school in the South of France for four years, and then I realized that I had never completely lived in France before that.
"After four years, I didn't think staying there was for me. I missed traveling and I missed being in touch with other cultures, so I decided to move to the states. I moved to L.A. first, where I lived for four years. Then I moved to New York.
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"I think that there's something really French in me in the sense that I love to be versatile but I always want to keep it chic. Like, even if I have almost nothing on, I always think about how I can be sexy but not vulgar. In that sense, I would say that I'm French."
Photographed by Hugues Laurent.
Dior dress; GCDS Crystal Sandals, $313.51, available at GCDS; Dior earrings; L'Afshar Marble Clutch, $845, available at L'Afshar.
Talk to me about the decision to pursue law and then changing to fashion later on.
"Well, we have to put it into perspective. I'm 33. Back then — literally when I was 17 in Africa — cell phones had just arrived and I didn't even own a computer. Life was completely different. To me, fashion was what I was looking at through magazines and no one around me was really knowledgeable and could tell me that this was an entire industry or how it works. I was so disconnected from that.
"When I graduated, I didn't really know what wanted to do. Since my dad was a diplomat, it was like, “if you don't know what you want to do, I'm gonna give you two options: You either go to law school or med school.” I was really bad at math (I hated it), but I'd always loved to write. I was considering becoming a journalist at first, actually. So, I said Why not. I went to [law school].
"When I finished, finally being in France, I understood that fashion is a real industry and that it’s what I wanted to do. I moved to L.A. and went to FIDM. I didn't just want to go and intern for someone — I wanted to know about the history of fashion, marketing, merchandising, etc. I got my B.A. in marketing and merchandising and then I started interning, and that's how I got where I am today."
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What do you do at Dior? And how did you get the job?
"I landed my job really randomly. At the time, I had a clothing line called Guilty Brother, with a partner. Unfortunately, our investor suddenly passed away and we couldn't find any funding to continue. It's tough when you start like that because you have to control your distribution, fabric is so expensive because you don't have quantities to produce, and so much more.
"I was so devastated. I don't have kids, but when you spend so much time building something and it has to stop, it felt like they were taking away my child somehow. I was completely traumatized and depressed. I didn't want to start something new. So, I felt like I needed to go and work for someone else because I never had, really. Eventually, I ended up at a dinner sitting next to the person who is my boss today.
"What gave me this passion about fashion was really the Galliano era at Dior. I remember when I saw the Maasai collection, it had such resonance with me. Coming from Africa and seeing how you could transform and reintegrate all those references...it was magical."
Photographed by Hugues Laurent.
Dior dress; vintage Céline handbag; Anita Ko ring.
As a Black woman, did you not think that that was appropriation in any way?
"I didn't think so at all. I've even seen those pieces again recently because we just had a big exhibition in Paris and I still didn’t think about it that way. To me, it was more appreciation [than appropriation]. You can compare it to when Kim Jones used the Maasai blankets in his collection a few seasons ago: everything comes from somewhere. I find it fascinating that we can be fascinated by a culture get so inspired by it. I felt like it recognized it. It's not like he claimed to have come up with it. He called it the Masai collection, so for me, it was about giving such a big platform to and showing how beautiful and refined those tribes are."
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A few people know you as being friends with Bella Hadid. How did you guys meet and what your friendship is like?
"I find it super-cute that people love our friendship. I was looking for an ambassador for the house; to me, she has the look of the Dior woman — and she was young, smart, and seemed so confident. Because I was living in L.A. and we had so many friends in common, I just brought it up. I was like, Do you guys know Bella? They were like, Oh my God, yes, you guys should meet — you will get along so well!
Photographed by Hugues Laurent.
Dior sweater; Zizi Donohoe sandals.
"We had an event in the South of France, so I reached out to Bella’s agent to invite her — no strings attached — and he replied that she would love to attend. That was literally the first time we met and we became best friends right away.
"It's natural with her. We get to spend so much time together now that she's the face of Dior, of course. It's one of those friendships, like, when you have this instant connection and you feel that you were friends in a past life, maybe? I know that might sound completely crazy, but I swear that's how our friendship feels. I'm very protective of her; she's kind of like my little sister, in a way. Because I know how pure she is and how she only has good intentions. It's really rare to meet those kinds of people."
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Especially in our world, too.
"Right? She doesn't care about who you are, where you're from. She's curious, also. She has this European background through her mom, and when you meet the entire family, you understand everything. Everything. They grew up away from the spotlight on a farm with animals. I love that she's so grounded and down to earth. All she wants to do is help people and use who she is as a platform. In that sense, that's how we are friends today."
I'd love to get your thoughts on a couple movements that are happening in the industry right now — the #MeToo and Time's Up movements — and Maria Grazia Chiuri being such a voice right now in fashion when it comes to bringing politics and feminism to the runway.
"It's such an exciting time to be a woman — not only in fashion, but the world. I'm so happy it's finally happening. I don't understand how it didn't happen before, but I'm thankful for the women who are leading this movement and using their voices.
"Honestly, I'm just supportive. I'm totally on the same page in the way that I work: Every chance I get I try to book female photographers, stylists, etc. And it was such a fight for me to make sure that we were bringing colors into beauty and into the house. In that sense, I wouldn't say that I'm a part of the movement — because I feel like we all are as women — but it’s so important to me to make sure I contribute every day in my own way."
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Photographed by Hugues Laurent.
Majorelle coat; Dior underwear; Roberi and Fraud Agnes Sunglasses, $175, available at Roberi and Fraud; Anita Ko ring; GCDS Ankle Bootie, $436.69, available at GCDS.
What do those movements look like in France?
"It's different in a way that I don't see happening so much here. We’re maybe not as vocal about it as people are in the States, but to me, that’s a cultural thing — we don't express our emotions the same way. The French are really private when it comes to political opinions; they don't like to share them because they don’t find it appropriate. But also, I would say women are more supportive of each other than they used to be. They're more collaborative."
Outside of Dior, or fashion, or the world of Instagram, what's something people might not know about you?
"A lot of people text and DM me saying, Oh Fanny, I want the good life that you're living. But they don't realize what my real life is like. I'm not really the type of person who likes to put what I do out there. My Instagram is more just pretty pictures of myself. I'm at my office from 8 a.m. to midnight every day. People don't see that part of what I do.
"That's is what I want to start expressing more, because I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to inspire younger girls who never thought they could be where I am today. It's really important for them to understand that you if you work hard you can get what you want. But don't think you’re ever entitled to anything. That's a problem I see in France sometimes. The younger kids feel like, Oh, I can have this amount of followers and look cute and get whatever I want.
"No. It doesn't work that way."
Hero image: Opening Ceremony top; Topshop Vinyl Leggings, $75 available at Topshop; Dior bag; Anita Ko ring; Gucci sunglasses.
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