Famed for their vintage reds, three star Michelin restaurants and complete disregard for common courtesy, the French have more than one way to leave an impression. And it’s not just their chefs and sommeliers that drive our desire for all things Français, their fashion houses are more than capable of tickling our taste buds too.
French fashion in general is for those with an eye for traditional design. It’s full of classy, stylish, understated pieces and shies away from bold stand out colours. Even the major players like Saint Laurent, Dior or Husbands never get too flashy, although things are slowly starting to change.
Whereas in the past the old heads have dominated the market in France, there’s signs of a changing of the guard with brands like Jacquemus and Officine Generale coming to the fore – suggesting the French are starting to look outside their own borders for inspiration – meaning exciting times ahead!
If you don’t already own a few French numbers in your wardrobe, or you’re new to the world of haute couture and some of the most well-established labels in menswear, then you’re in the right place. French fashion remains a celebrated gem for men of all ages, and it’s for this reason we have decided to share with you our 14 favourite French brands – to add a bit of chic to ya week!
Atelier, Production, Creation is literally what APC stands for. They are all about the making and design process, and how sharing ideas can create beautiful things. Jean Touitou started the brand in 1987 as a way to expose his elegant yet minimalist take on classic jeans, made from raw denim. Now his collections have a lot more variety, and his shirts and suits draw particular attention. But whatever APC turn their hand to, whether it’s something for the office or something for the street, their logo is a statement of quality.
It’s a testament to the creative drive and vision of Mr Yves Saint Laurent that he started his eponymous label at the tender age of 25. He was making dresses for his Mother and sisters in his early teens, and at 17 was accepted into one of the most celebrated fashion schools in Paris. These days you can drop the Yves, as the brand is simply known as Saint Laurent, thanks to a rebranding from former creative director Hedi Slimane. Either way you want to refer to it, the house still makes truly outstanding garments and still stands at the forefront of luxury French couture.
Maison Labiche started out like a lot of wannabe brands by throwing some playful designs on a few t-shirts and hoping for the best. That was back in 2011. The Paris based brand is a little more adventurous with its collections but that signature playful edge remains, with hand embroidered messages embedded into all of their garments. They now mix it with the big names in luxury stores such as Harrods and Liberty in London, and even did a collab with Mr Porter back in 2018.
Wander around any major city in France and that chic elegant, luxury and upper class snobbery is at times over familiar. But look a little deeper and there is an altogether more flamboyant scene - one from the bloodline of liberal avant gardism - creatives who just enjoy being a little different. This is where Maison Kitsuné comes to the table. Their collections are quite simply cool as fuck, and the fact that they have their own Café/Bar at the Louvre, and highly successful record label just reinforces the fact.
Kooples is a play on the word “couples”. The concept was very clear when the chain of retail stores hit our high streets back in 2008, The Kooples was to be a store for him and her. But don’t let that gimmick get in the way of what they produce, which is a wide range of outstanding garments that work within a modern casual ensemble. Their jackets in particular are sleek and stylish and unquestionably Français.
LVMH (aka Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennesey) know a thing or two about staying ahead of the pack creatively, and their annual LVMH Prize goes to designers who they think are capable of following in their footsteps. So it’s probably safe to say Simon Porte Jacquemus was rather chuffed when he won the award in 2015. He has since started his own self titled label in 2018, mainly dealing in shirts inspired by the colours of Provence and the Mediterranean Sea, both of which sit next to his hometown of Marseille.
The creations that come from Lemaire are often a nostalgic look at one of France’s most creative periods, the 50s and 60s, when the city was was the world’s cultural centre - pulling in creatives from all over the world - much like Berlin now. Their jackets are a picture of understated luxury - loosely tailored, highly sought-after and inspired addition to any wardrobe.
Sandro started as a small shop in the luxury Parisian sector of Marais in 1984. Although more closely associated with women's fashion, the brand has recently moved into menswear, and created classic looking pieces with more daring cuts for a modern silhouette. Their shirt designs certainly stand out within their collections, which are exquisitely tailored with vintage 60s prints.
Ami means friend in French, and is also an abbreviation of designer Alexandre Mattiussi. Coincidence? Certainly not. Mr Mattiussi loves to blur lines, whether it's the ground between chic and casual or the relationship between designer and consumer. His creations are bold yet simple, from his wonderful Bi-Color T-Shirt to his classy Two Button Patch Jacket, both from his most recent, very impressive, spring/summer 2020 collection.
Although initially starting life in Switzerland, Armour Lux was snapped up by the French in 1993. The brand is all about fair trade, sustainable materials and promoting French values. They have a huge range of very well produced garments, from jeans and tees to jackets and jeans, but it’s their stripped French fishing shirts jumpers that they are renowned for, a picture of French heritage if ever there was one!
Saint Tropez and the French Riviera is often what we sit back and dream about when we think of summer in Europe, a place where Vilbrequin was founded in the 1970s. They’re renowned worldwide for their colourful swimming trunk designs inspired by French Polynesia, in particular the island of Moorea. Vilebrequin designs are colorful, exotic, and certainly used as a blueprint for a lot of modern day shorts manufacturers.
Pierre Mahéo had a great introduction to the fashion world, cutting his teeth with some of the globes’s most recognised labels. But what he saw from the inside was a dirty business, over dependent on a Chinese system that sold off its population like animals, so he started Officine Generale so that he could do things on his terms. The brand has become something of a cult since starting in 2012, thanks to its unique designs that mix high fashion ideas with classic French utility workwear.
The French do love a concept. When a gang of Parisian creatives came across an old U.S travel magazine called Holiday Boileau, so striking were the images and fashion pieces,that they decided to build a brand based on it. The end results are a range of fantastic collections inspired by pure Americana, with vintage print tees, bell bottoms and denim jackets for that Dazed and Confused summer look.
Nicolas Gabard, founder of French traditional tailoring brand Husbands, finds Parisians boring. He says they all look the same. Smart casual, after smart casual with the odd pair of white sneakers. This is why he started Husbands, named after his favourite cult 70s film. He believes that nothing is more beautiful than your everyday suit and a good pair of Chelsea boots, and who are we to disagree? His creations are outstanding, inspired by a time when the suit wasn’t purely for the office. And if you don't believe us, just check out his Mustard Slim-Fit Cotton-Corduroy for solid proof!