The “Je Ne Sais Quoi” of 4 Iconic French Pieces

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That French women are effortlessly stylish isn’t a new idea to anyone, but as our Paris-born model Rebecca Dayan (that’s her, above) told us, it’s not entirely true. That lived-in dishabille is no accident—it’s basically heirloom style that’s passed down from grandmothers to moms to daughters. And our latest collaboration with Sézane wouldn’t be complete without four of those timeless styles that each generation’s lived in. But how’d these pieces reach icon status? And how are we wearing them now? To learn about their origins, we stopped by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collection (a massive archive of clothes from throughout history) and then strolled over to our photo shoot in Central Park to find out more.

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Pardon Their French: Our #MadewellxSezane Models Rebecca and Louise Interview Each Other

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We recently reunited with cult-favorite label Sézane on a new capsule collection of quintessentially Parisian pieces (with New York twists). To bring it to life with a photo shoot in Central Park, we looked for a woman who truly embodies the best of both worlds. And we found deux: Meet Rebecca Dayan (left) and Louise Follain. They’re two French-born models-slash-creatives who know a thing or 10 about what it means to live in and love both cities. We got out of the way and let the two of them get to talking while we eavesdropped. (And no, not just for the accents.)

Style icons, housewarming gifts, childhood pursuits and guilty pleasures—Lou and Rebecca break down the differences between Paris and New York.

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A TRIP FOR TWO TO PARIS? MAIS OUI.

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While a cozy sweater or a monogrammed bag are both excellent gift options, this year we’re also giving add-ons that can’t be wrapped, i.e., a day trip out of town, a handwritten note or even a heartfelt hug. The crème de la crème? We’re also giving away a trip for two to Paris, with a stay at our favorite boutique hotel, Mama Shelter.

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Our Fall Catalog Shoot in Paris, By The Numbers

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Just like the croissants we enjoyed in Paris, the city itself is lovely and layered from the outskirts all the way to the center—and it’s the little intricacies throughout that make it so delicious. In between shots for our fall catalog with our muse Malgosia Bela, we explored the city that has stolen our hearts, inspired some of our favorite pieces and taught us a thing or two about style.

Here, a look at the numbers that went into our three-day shoot, from the number of sunny days we saw to the number of missed flights. (We’d say it all worked out just fine.)

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Fill In The Blanks with Malgosia Bela

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Our fall muse, Malgosia Bela, while insouciantly sexy, possesses a personal style ethos not unlike our own. She’s happiest in a loose-fitting button-down and a great pair of jeans—and has recently developed a thing for overalls. Aside from her style, she’s just as likely to sing along to Fleetwood Mac with our crew as she is to stay in and clean the house. We played a little fill in the blanks to learn about her style of relaxing, her favorite music and where she goes to decompress.

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SINGER CONSTANCE VERLUCA’S FRENCH TOMBOY STYLE

We instantly fell for singer Constance Verluca. Why? For starters, she embodies two of our great loves: tomboy style and that je ne sais quoi of French-girl chic. And then there’s the fact that this Paris native borrows from the boys when it comes to both music (Buddy Holly) and fashion (Bob Dylan). It’s no surprise that during our My Madewell shoot she picked some classic pieces with a hint of rock ’n’ roll edge. Find out more about what she calls her “casual garçon” look (which translates to “low-key tomboy” in Madewell-ese), her music school for kids and her go-to concert look.

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Where are you from and how has that influenced your style?

I’m from Paris, born and raised. Since I was about 15, my style has been mostly tomboy. I live in Vans, oversized sweatshirts and T-shirts, jeans, well-worn boots—nothing too tight or itchy. I really love beautiful, quality fabrics, especially cashmere.

How would you describe your style?

Casual garçon.

Who do you think is the most stylish musician?

There are so many. Strangely the two that come immediately to mind are so different: Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson. Bob Dylan because his style corresponds so directly with his music—simple, honest and timeless. And Michael Jackson for his sophistication and imagination. I love people who have a unique, even iconic, element to how they dress.

How do you dress for a concert?  

I always wear the same thing: vintage white jeans, lived-in boots and a white button-down shirt. I always leave the top of the shirt unbuttoned and prefer the sleeves to be short.

What is your music about and what influences you?

I love the early rockers like Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. My music starts with a base of rock ’n’ roll with different styles, like electronic or something more audacious, mixed in. I want to do something more unique and singular.

Aside from music, do you have any other passions or hobbies?

Literature, cooking and children. I run a music school for kids in Paris called Le Club Pop, where we teach and create pop-rock music.

What is your most treasured piece of clothing?

My favorite item is this vintage blue T-shirt. It was my first skate shirt and I’ve been wearing it for ten years. I wear all of my clothes very well, until they are either threadbare or falling apart! I love things that last.

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From Paris With Love

Our affection for the City of Light is fervent and longstanding (as is evident from our flying-off-the-racks Linen Paris Tee, which has become a fast favorite with our stylish friends, including W magazine’s fashion director, Karla Martinez, who sported hers during New York Fashion Week).

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Photo by Bryan Derballa.

And there’s a lot to l’amour: that postcard-perfect skyline, the multitude of masterpieces for your viewing pleasure, the way every woman you see on the street is the picture of unfussy elegance and, of course, the shopping.

Our love runs so deep that we, ahem, want to display it proudly across a tee. But for our fellow Francophiles who can’t make the trip across the Atlantic—and those of you who are patiently awaiting your backordered Paris tee—we present a list (plus, fun facts) of six stops that bring “Paris” closer to home. (Translation: You won’t need a passport to get there.)

Paris, Virginia

In the midst of Virginia’s hunting country with the Appalachian Trail nearby, this town is beyond small—it’s miniscule. Population at last count? 51.

Paris, Missouri

This tiny farming town in central Missouri is the birthplace of Mary Margaret McBride, known as the “first lady of radio” for her pioneering efforts for women in journalism.

Paris, Kentucky

The city’s motto is “horses, history and hospitality,” but they can also add swimsuits to that—the one that Mark Spitz wore in the 1972 Summer Olympic Games was famously manufactured here.

Paris, Texas

Dubbed the “second largest Paris in the world,” this Texas city (which inspired the 1984 film Paris, Texas) boasts its own Eiffel Tower—with a cowboy hat perched at the top.

Paris, Tennessee

The Tennessee town is home to the world’s biggest fish fry, which happens every April and requires over five tons of catfish.

Paris, Arkansas

Known as the “gateway to Mount Magazine” (the highest peak in the state), this Paris also has some killer views.

Calling All LA Foodies: You Won’t Want To Miss This Bash

Two of LA’s best chefs (Nancy Silverton of Mozza and Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ) will team up with the big names behind Paris’ top-rated restaurants (Inaki Aizpitarte of Le Chateaubriand, Grégory Marchand of Frenchie) for the first ever Le Grand Fooding Crush Paris-LA 2013, a two-day food festival outside of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on April 26th and 27th.imageThe tasty spectacular is hosted by Le Fooding, an insider-y culture and culinary guide that chronicles the French foodie scene with a supremely cool, “what-to-know-now” point of view. (Think if Anthony Bourdain edited New York Magazine.) So it’s no wonder they planned this event with the same avant-garde approach they use in their essential restaurant guides.

With commemorative T-shirts designed by Shepard Fairey and French street artist André Saraiva and a portion of proceeds benefitting the LA Food Bank, it’s a soirée with so much more than cross-coastal food.

Tickets range from $50 to $125, and are available here. (A small price to pay for the closest you’ll get to visiting Paris for the night.)

Happy 66th birthday, bikinis!

Fun summer fact: The bikini turns 66 years old today!

The brainchild of French designer Louis Réard, this risqué two-piece was first unveiled in Paris at the Piscine Molitor, an Art Deco swimming pool complex that was modeled after—wait for it—a cruise ship. Not bad, right?


In light of the holiday, we highly, highly suggest popping over to our swim shop—then immediately heading to a body of water near you.