Rizzoli New York, conversation between Nathalie Peigney, Author of “Sophie the Parisian: Style Tips from a True Parisian Woman” and Jessica Matlin, Beauty Director Harper’s Bazaar. 20 questions to discover the secrets of Parisian charm…

1 JM: There have been other books about the secrets of French style. What inspired you to write this one ?

NP: In fact, many books already exist on this topic, but none of them discuss the many aspects of the “Parisianism”. Lots of them treat on “how to get dressed” or “how to be slim” like a Parisian. It was limited, being Parisian is much more, it is understanding the Parisian Culture with a 360 degrees’ view!  My book focus 103 topics about Parisian life: Attitude, Seduction, Education of children, Gastronomy AND other subjects like “How to make the right Wardrobe”, Luxury or diet, but only that. 


It is built as a dictionary, so you can read a chapter, that you are interested in, and close the book until the next occasion. And then It is full of addresses and tips about Paris and Parisian life…


2 JM: Sophie the Parisian is a character you created. Why did you want to create this character versus writing as Nathalie ?

NP: When I started writing the book, I did not want Sophie to be Nathalie, because Sophie in many occasion is very different than Nathalie… I am Parisian but I am leaving part of my time in Italy with my Italian husband, so I had the opportunity to get an objective analysis of the Parisian life from outdoor… 

For the book, I made hundreds of interviews to build it, I introduced many avatars names to respect the privacy of my contacts. Then I made an inquiry to look for the most popular Parisian name, “Brigitte” was also makeable but too much linked to “Brigitte Bardot” and the south of France, Sophie was perfect (Sophie Marceau, etc.). 


3 JM: Reading the book, one thing is clear: French women are a contradiction. It’s dizzying. Even if the style is meticulously planned, it looks natural. You’re in a constant hurry, but everything is under control. To me, this feels like you have to walk a tightrope. It seems exhausting. Be honest: Is it? And is this skill inherent in French women, or a virtue that French women strive for, and excel in varying degrees ?

NP:  It is natural and inherent. I think it is a question of EDUCATION, the Parisienne knows how to be charming without an ultra-bright smile and very chic in blue jeans. This is to be taken as a metaphor for everything she does. The “French paradox” is the art of masterfully juggling styles with natural. Remember that Honoré de Balzac sais “Parisian women are inexplicable.” 

The philosopher Giacomo Marramao told me that it is due to our 2 revolutions (1789 and 1968) that liberate the French mentality, so the Parisian’s is strong, open mind and curious maybe because of the story of her country but for sure because her education.

The starting point is Paris it-self, that has various architecture styles living together and making a charming atmosphere, just like the Parisian spirit. Modernity built on strong traditions, that’s the key point of everything in Paris. 


4 JM: Paris is the home of fashion, in your book, you make it clear that Parisian women aren’t about chasing trends. Tell us: What are the essentials in every Parisian woman’s wardrobe?

NP: Who of you never said, “I have nothing to wear when opening the closet”? The basic or “essentials” items of our wardrobe are the “pillars” of our dress code. Those “essentials” follow us everywhere, because they are timeless and easy to wear. 

SNOB-SNOB-SNOB  photo Malhorovitz pour iStock - copie

 In the black basics: evening trousers to wear with high heels, a shaped cashmere cardigan (ideal over any evening dress), a classic Lbd (little black dress), high heel decolleté shoes and bien sur ballerina shoes… In the blue items of our childhood: a striped marinière (sailor shirt), of course a well cute jeans and a blue jumper “petit pull marine” sang Isabelle Adjani. My “so French” basic items in light shades: a go-everywhere trench coat; an ultra-white t-shirt of high quality cotton 


5 JM: So much about the Parisian girl is about effortlessness, elegance, and discretion. I have to say, these qualities are admirable, it I couldn’t help but notice that they feel especially remarkable in a moment where being a woman today—at least in American culture—is about expressing yourself, standing out, and making a big statement (A lot of this is influenced by social media culture.) Do you feel any of that in France, even a little bit?

MAQUILLAGE-TRUCCO-MAKE UP  photo Frederic Poletti mannequin Rosa Belinda Sette Robe Anna Ruohonen La Petite Maison de Couture  maquilleuse Melissa Mattei. - copie

NP: Yes of course! Behind the Parisian’s effortless attitude there is a good dose of involvement and perfectionism and that goes for anything the Parisian woman does, starting with her ideas on everything. 

Of course the French woman fight to obtain equality and more rights in the society but as said Catherine Deneuve we must not forget our femininity and seduction role. 


6 JM: You also talk a lot about “femininity” in your book. The definitions of what it means to be a woman are changing so much right now in our culture. Are they rather rigid in France ?COVER INTERNO

NP: The starting point is the definition each of us gives to the word femininity. 

Jean Paul Gauthier said “It is a question of attitude more than the way we are dressed”. 

I have asked dozens of people, in France and abroad about the Parisian woman’s femininity, and the replies focused mostly on a combination of “elegance and sex appeal.” 

But I really think that it is also a matter of attitude? A mix of: a touch of emancipation associated with a cultured language and graceful gestures and perhaps a bit of lipstick or high heels… 




7 JM: You wrote that French women are often thought to be snobby, but it’s that they’re aloof. What does it take to break through the ice ?

NP: We are thought to be snobby, moody, bad tempered, never happy… But behind the cold appearance, we are sophisticated people with values and true human qualities, with a highly developed sense of friendship and an incredible spirit of solidarity, which was once again demonstrated at the historic march for freedom on January 2015. So? What could be taken for snobby is the Parisian attitude when meeting new entry people, we are very selected in fact because we are used to give deep and quality affects. 


Clara 28 JM: You say that French women have very high standards, and that it’s always important to be the best. (And maybe they could borrow a bit more of a relaxed attitude from their Italian neighbors) Do you think that younger generations are loosening up a bit ?

NP: I think the new Z and Y generations are more natural. They act faster because of her ultra- connected education, they are more sociable, less individualistic with a state of mind incredibly “open source”. The plans of that new Parisians weren’t made in the sand box but from present opportunities.


9 JM: When it comes to beauty, we’re seeing two different things happen in America: One, people are obsessed with cosmetic procedures like filler and Botox. In another vein, women are increasingly neurotic about “clean” beauty—they want natural products and really dig deep into the ingredient lists. What’s happening in France ?

NP: A tricky subject! There is true trend for clean beauty and natural care… Even brands like Clarins are now sold in drugstore, and there is a true success of brands like Caudalie and Nuxe. 

The problem is that women, but also men, are influenced by physical appearance to the point of basing their social relations and relationships on the visual message it delivers. In general, the Parisian hates ostentation and is afraid of being vulgare so this clean beauty attitude is perfect for her. She does everything with moderation. 


10 JM: In America, we are also seeing a real paradox when it comes to body image. We’re obsessed with wellness and fitness and there’s no shortage of headlines about celebrities who have gotten their bodies back 2 weeks after having a baby, but at the same time, there is a real body positivity movement happening. Women are encouraged to love themselves as they are. Is this happening in France yet?

NP: We have to make the difference between VIP and normal people like we are… I think that the Parisian woman is also moderate in that, she is taking care of her body and her face but without excessive vanity. She takes care of herself all over the year. Her diet and way life make that she doesn’t need those drastic obsessions. 


11 JM: There have been so many books about eating as a French women and not getting fat… Tell us once and for all: How do the French stay so slim and have all that butter and cheese and wine?

NP: She eats with moderation and…

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• She eats small but varied portions.

• She eats balanced meals.

• She eats a lot of fruits.

• She eats a lot of vegetables.

• She drinks a lot of water.

• She eats 3 times a day.

• She does not snack between meals.

• She likes fresh products with taste.

• She cooks at home.

• She favors quality over quantity.

• She knows how to eat light but also enjoys a good gourmet meal.

• She does not wait for a 4 kg (8.8 lb) gain to lose weight.


12 JM: In the beauty world, there is a real obsession with what’s actually called “French Girl Beauty.” I’m going to describe it from my point of view, which is how these brands basically describe it: Clean, bed-head hair. Skin that looks dewy. No-makeup makeup. MAYBE a red lip. How would you describe it ?

NP: The cure of our skin and hair is deeply in our ADN, this is our secret… Clean, hydrating and cure are our best key words. We learn from a very young age that, to be elegant, we have to appear in such a way that our elegance isn’t visible to others. We like to make up simply, secretly terrified of being classed as vulgare due to too much bling or artificial improvements ? 


13 JM: How does one get that “French girl look?”

NP: For an elegant Parisian look you need act with moderation and to make a choice of what you want to value: your neck, your waist, your face, a necklace, a low-cut dress, the cut of a jacket that looks great on you, but not all at once. Bright red lipstick or ultra-made-up eyes, not both! 

Then, it’s good to get dressed up, but the best lipstick in the world won’t look great when it shows damage teeth, and the same for a mini-skirt and badly cure legs. 

Coco Chanel said “Elegance is refusal”, she simply wanted to say that elegance is not defined by abundance but by its opposite, simplicity. 

Parisian Elegance is made up of details ! 


14 JM: In the US, people always talk about how in France, it’s so different. You get a month off in August, it’s illegal to email your coworkers after 5pm (I don’t think that’s true), etc. But is it really very different?  

NP: The organization is very different maybe, but for sure we have a high level of productivity! The French woman is very smart and manage to do everything: super competitive in her job, super involved mum, super friendly and always ready for new culture interests. 


15 JM: As we become more multicultural, and as the world gets smaller and we’re all more influenced by one another through social media, do you feel like the French style and way of being is going to be endangered?

NP: I don’t think so, because the French education bases its concept of “what you are and not of what you show”.  It is interesting to ask the reason why of the focus on Parisian life in that time of globalisation: I really think that our culture and Art de Vivre represent an ideal of freedom and balance. The same reason why terrorist organisations pointed on France: we represented a model of way of life that they hate…

FRENCH KISS- FRENCH KISS-FRENCH KISS  photo Eh Stock pour iStock.  - copie

16 JM: I loved the section on Seduction in your book. It feels so different and foreign in the age of Tinder. Any words of advice for a generation that like it or not, is dating on an app?

NP: What a dangerous and difficult argument! I have to be careful not to fall into “clichés”, but a point is official about the Parisian woman and seduction: her seductiveness is not only physical. In France, natural attitude, true look and sincere relation sheep pay on long time. No “fack” at all, outside=inside. 

For the young generations, ee should ask them the answer, but I think maybe even if they like there boyfriend the notion of couple is not closed and reductive as it was before, maybe a kind of romantic but realism relation.



17 JM: Where in New York are the most “French” places?

NP: Albertine Library, Ladurée, Christofle, Daniel Boulud bistrots, Baccarat… many places!

 COUVERTS-POSATE-SILVERWARE  photo pour Christofle  couverts collection Mood de Christofle  assiettes collection Madison de Christofle


18 JM: Are there any American celebrities that feel very French? If so, who? What about them is “French?”

NP: I now that all the American who come to leave in Paris, want to have a true Parisian life, starting with attitude and the relation sheep, going to the marché and having true contacts. 

 A lot of American buy a “pied a terre” in Paris to live as a parisian.


19 JM: While we can’t all up and move to France, what are some small things we can each do to bring some of that French spirit into our lives?

 NP: Eating well quality French food

• Less make up…

• Dressing classy but modern

• The cinema and the books are fundamental to catch the French Spirit.

• Maybe following French table art and interior deco…

 I give a lot of exemples in my book


20 JM: Do you think Sophie has more to say? 

 NP: I read 2 lovely compliments about my book a few days ago on Amazon: 

 “A book to sip ... like a glass of champagne”.

 “More than a book it is a gift to offer to your friends to make them love French art de Vivre”



 21 JM: Can we expect another book?

NP: How the Parisian can be “gourmande” (greedy) and at the same time can slim and have a healthy… with a lot of interviews of chefs and health specialists… 




 Thank you all. Waiting for you in Paris. 





Photo 1 Jessica Matlin and Nathalie Peigney at Rizzoli’s
Photo 2 Rizzoli bookstore, 1133 Broadway, New York
Photo 3 Brendan Hunter for iStock
Photo 4 © Malhorovitz pour iStock
Photo 5 © Frederic Poletti; model Rosa Belinda Sette; dress Anna Ruohonen La Petite Maison de Couture ; make-up Melissa Mattei
Photo 6 Cover of the book; illustration Alessandra Ceriani
Photo 7 Clara for Sophie the Parisian
Photo 8 © Encrier for iStock
Photo 9 © Petit Bateau
Photo 10 © Eh Stock for iStock.
Photo 11 © forChristofle ;  silverware collection Mood of Christofle ; plates collection Madison of Christofle
Photo 12 Jessica Matlin and Nathalie Peigney at Rizzoli’s
Photo 13 © photo Benne Witz pour iStock
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Catherine - Lifestyle

Bonjour, my name is Catherine. I live in the heart of Paris. I’ve always loved to travel and, over the years, I developed it into a real art: the right addresses, the suitcase, how to manage fatigue with my Parisian look! From Cannes to Antigua, from the red carpet to Pilates, I have to live up to the reputation. I have small apartments in Paris that I rent out. I love to personally welcome my guests and give them some recommendations about life in Paris “living like a true Parisian and not like a simple tourist in an elegant private suit in the heart of the city”.

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Edizione Italiana

Edita da RIZZOLI, Sophie la Parigina è una guida di stile moderna su PARIGI. Illustrata dai disegni di Alessandra Ceriani, completata da un elenco degli indirizzi preferiti dalla parigina e arricchita di ricette gastronomiche.


English Edition

Published by RIZZOLI New York, Sophie the Parisian'sis a modern life style guide about PARIS. Illustrated with color drawings, complemented by a list of Parisians' favorite locations and enriched with gastronomic recipes.

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