Garance Doré on Frenchwoman Clichés, Breaking Up With the Sartorialist, and Her New Book

Garance Doré.
Garance Doré. Photo: Neil

Given all the fashion-blog-to-book deals we’ve seen in the past few years, it’s a little surprising that Garance Doré is only just publishing her first book, though she’s been blogging for almost a decade. But looking through Love Style Life, out Tuesday from Spiegel & Grau, it’s clear that she took a bit more care before jumping into the world of print publishing. The substantial salmon paperback contains Doré’s musings on careers, weight, and relationships as well as fashion and beauty — the same relatable mix she’s pioneered on her site. Doré spoke to the Cut about how Fashion Week magnifies everyone’s insecurities, ending her relationship with fellow blogger Scott Schuman, and the importance of writing something longer than an Instagram caption. 

Like the blog, the book features a variety of women, from jewelry designer Lara Melchior to Teen Vogue fashion director Marina Larroude. Why did you decide to structure it in that way, rather than having it be about your style?
I’ve  tried to be more of a discreet presence on the blog. It’s about me, but more on what inspires me and stories of my life. I don’t often turn the camera to myself; it’s not something that I do very naturally. I just went about picking people who inspire me, who would bring great vibes to the book. If I were to do a book just about me, it would be so tight and specific.

The book also has a series of Q&A’s with prominent women in the industry: Jenna Lyons, Diane von Furstenberg, Emmanuelle Alt.
I liked including these interviews where I am more like the kid, asking questions: “How did you do that?” Because that is what I spent my life doing, thinking, How did you do that? I think that was an important thing, to say that you’re never finished asking questions. [Interview outtakes will appear on Doré’s website.]

I thought it was interesting that you didn’t really want to pursue the Frenchwoman cliché. Were you ever encouraged to go in that direction either with the book or with the blog, talking about demystifying the Frenchwoman’s style? Why was that something you weren’t as interested in doing?
I didn’t want it to become a cliché or to make it something that was frozen into one thing. I wanted to approach the book as something that was more about evolution than about giving guidelines about life, which I think is a big mistake. I don’t think that that’s the goal. A lot of people say to me, “Oh you’re Parisian and I’m always like, ‘I’m not really a Parisian.’” [Doré is originally from Corsica.] Which I totally understand because if you don’t live in France, how would you know? I could have said, oh, I’m going to write the ultimate book about French style, and it’s so easy to market and everything. But for me that book was something so much more profound; I really wanted to talk about much more than that. And I would have lied if I had gone in that direction.

You adapted a 2011 post about gaining weight for the book. What kind of reactions did you get when it initially came out?
Oh my god, it was so interesting. People felt so moved. I think when you’re vulnerable people are so open and so kind. I got such amazing responses, and still today I think people remember it. And it’s funny because, in the big picture, it’s not like I say anything revolutionary, I just talk very honestly about feeling crappy about myself. I talk about that thing where you want to accept your weight, but it’s not that easy.

You’re pretty honest about your insecurities, which is refreshing. Is it hard to be that way in the world of fashion bloggers, where everything tends to be very airbrushed? 
Yes, every [fashion] season we remind ourselves of how bad we are. How terrible our style is, and how we didn’t exercise enough. Fashion Week is so hard on everyone’s morale. Because it’s such a gathering of insecurities that people have a hard time being nice to each other, just because they feel so self-conscious all the time, because you’re so under the scrutiny of your whole industry. Now that I’ve realized that it’s not my fault, it’s not about me, it’s just everybody’s lost in their own little insecurity problem. And I think it’s very hard not to respond to that. I’ve had so many times where I thought, Oh my god, it would be so much easier if I was playing the game. And I’ve tried, because you’re weak sometimes. “Okay, I’m going to lose some weight, okay, I’m going to dress every day in a different crazy outfit that I borrow.” These things are so much work.

It’s like a full-time job.
Which is something that takes me away from my other job — having a blog and reporting and meeting people and all that. I really admire people that are able to do all of that and be effortless. But you asked me about how I stay honest. That’s one thing that I’ve never questioned. I know how far being perfect can take you because we see it all over. There’s something very exciting and appealing about the perfect image and the perfect person. And that’s why people follow that, and I totally understand — I also follow people who only show their perfect side. But that’s never been me and that’s not what I want to put out in the world. And whatever it does to my career, I think my responsibility has always been to stay real. As a writer, I have that mission of saying things as they are and how I feel them and of course I can make them funny and I can make them emotional. I cannot be otherwise. Each time I’ve tried to show something else, I’ve felt terrible and I think it’s a failure in the end.

You’re pretty open in the book about your relationship and subsequent breakup with Scott Schuman. What was it like to have that relationship in the public eye?
I don’t look at myself in the third person. I just live things and then people make their own ideas. I have never ever questioned that relationship or what we are doing or how much we show. It was very natural on each side. It was never, not one second, any question of What is it doing to us? What is it doing that’s wrong? What is it doing that’s good? It’s never been a question. And still to this day, it’s never been a question — breaking up was not something where I was like, “Ugh, what are people going to think?” I’ve always been very honest about the way I live my life.

Why was it important for you to talk about relationships and dating in the book? You’re very upfront about it.
Well, because that’s the No. 1 thing I talk about with my friends — it’s the one thing I’m always wondering about people, I always want to ask them, so what’s your love life like, you know? Like, are they happy? Anything that I feel curious about I want to share. I want to say, This is my story, what’s your story? I’ve never felt like there was anything I needed to hide, ever. Because I feel like everybody’s going through the same shit, you know? Everybody’s going through insecurities, good relationships, bad relationships, great moments, bad moments. And so my only limit is always, with the people around me, to protect them and that they feel like they, you know, that they can live around me and not have all their secrets revealed or something like that.

Love is such an important part of who we are, and I really wanted the book to be about being a beautiful, stylish, wholesome person. We start with the outside and how we dress. And then we move to the career, which is, you know, what we project, you know, to the world. And then beauty, which is something that’s much more intimate a relationship with our body and our face and, you know, the others. And then elegance. And then I wanted to do something that was about love because the way we love people — be it our family or the man or, you know, women around us — is to me what shows us elegance. The people I chose to shoot are the people who showed me, through the years, how elegant they are, in the way they respect you, in the way they love you. To me it, it all shines through, so that’s why I wanted to finish the book on that.

What do you think is the future of your blog? I know you have a small staff, and it’s become a media property in its own right. There’s been such a shift to social media, where so much of the action is taking place on Instagram, but you still focus a lot on writing. I’m wondering what you think the importance of writing still is as a way to connect with people in a way that maybe you can’t via Instagram.
I don’t necessarily want my blog to become a huge media [property], you know with the fashion news and all that. It’s always been more about connecting in a deeper way. I think at a point, it was like, should I grow it more? And I was like, No, I don’t think that’s the spirit of the story. It’s, to me, about keeping that writing [focus], trying to make it more meaningful in a world where it’s not all about likes and small things, which I actually also love!

You write about all the different fashion phases that you went through, like wanting Rei Kawakubo to adopt you — and then shaving your head so you could be more like Björk. What stage are you in now? What kind of things are you drawn to? 
I think right now I’m really feeling being myself. It sounds so cheesy! It’s also why I included Emmanuelle Alt in the book because she inspires me. Like she says in the interview, confidence is everything and finding moments where you’re confident, finding clothes that you’re confident in, I think that is what the most important is for me. That’s kind of what I wanted to say in the book: Clothes are there to help, not to make you like a different person.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Garance Doré on the Sartorialist & Her New Book