Having worked in fashion for eight years, I’ve come across my fair share of gorgeous, stylish women. But sometimes, more rarely, I get to meet those women so effortlessly chic and charming who truly embody the laid-back elegance that many of us try to achieve. The trouble with words like “effortless”, "insouciant” and “undone”, which are frequently used to refer to our favourite dressers – particularly the imperfect perfect of French girl style – is that these qualities are virtually impossible to fake. The whole value of casual sophistication is in the authenticity and ease with which women like Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Caroline de Maigret, Léa Seydoux and Anne-Laure Mais put together a simple T-shirt and jeans.
Another one of these women is 25-year-old French model, actress, photographer and It Girl Jeanne Damas. And almost 630,000 others who loyally follow her on Instagram agree.
Thankfully, Jeanne, who has garnered such a following due to her impeccable wardrobe, Jane Birkin-esque looks, red-wine lipstick pout and picturesque Parisian posts, launched her own fashion brand, Rouje, less than two years ago, meaning it’s a little bit easier to tap into that French girl pared-back chic. Made up of pretty print blouses, feminine dresses, simple tailoring, sweaters and flattering jeans, Rouje offers the everyday staples any girl needs for a versatile, classic wardrobe.
So how did Jeanne transition seamlessly from being a social media style pin-up to the designer of a cult Instagram brand? "First of all it was my best friend, Nathalie Dumeix," Jeanne explains as she talks me through the AW17 Rouje collection. "We’ve known each other for 12 years, she’s a stylist and I was acting and modelling. My Instagram blew up and both of us always wanted to do something together and, one day, I had this opportunity because I met Jérôme [Gautier] who wanted to create another brand and I wanted to create my own thing. That’s why it was so quick, because Jérôme was on the production and I was with Natalie for the styling and we had Instagram, so it was maybe easier than another person without these followers, because the followers become the consumers."
Damas is of course very beautiful and the perfect model for her own collections but her creations also have mass appeal in their simplicity and accessibility. These are not statement pieces that only a fashion peacock would wear, and the fact that they're mostly under £200 makes them all the more covetable. "I love people who are really eccentric, but I’m not. I prefer to see the woman before the clothes, it’s more about an allure or an attitude. We have just a white T-shirt and jeans that we wear every day. I think it’s more about an attitude and maybe it’s not so easy to be simple, I think it’s all about the detail, the way you wear clothes. Rouje is really feminine and I like that it can fit any woman. Me, I’m 25, Nathalie is twice my age, so it can fit everybody and it’s easy and timeless. It’s funny because now all my friends, my sister and my mother all wear it so we have to call each other to make sure we’re not wearing the same thing!"
If you haven't yet paused to scroll through Damas' Instagram, it offers the perfect mix of fashion, friends, France and her cat, Charlie. "I love routine with my boyfriend and my friends. I was born in Paris, and I have the same crew of friends since I was 3 years old. My parents aren't into fashion at all, my dad is a chef. I love fashion but for me it’s not my world every day," Jeanne explains. "I think that’s why people like me and my Instagram because it’s authentic, I have my cat and my apartment, I have a dreamy life because I’m travelling all the time, but it’s quite simple. But I have time for Rouje, I have a big team too, and I go to Rouje every day, it’s just next to my apartment so when I am on vacation or travelling it’s ok, because it’s not a big, big collection. It’s 40 pieces but I don’t want it to be bigger because I want to be able to wear everything, and love everything. I want to have just a few strong, iconic pieces that I can love and wear it every day."
Though Rouje might be a smaller, more affordable brand, Damas is well versed in luxury fashion and is a front row regular at Paris Fashion Week. "I love vintage Yves Saint Laurent, anything vintage, Courrèges, vintage Lanvin... But now I love Jacquemus, he’s my best friend, the new collection is amazing. We've been friends since we were 12 years old; we’re really, really close like family, so I love what he does ." And just as best friend Simon Jacquemus will continue to capture our attention on the catwalk, Rouje is set to continue reigning supreme as the must-have Insta fashion brand.