The 20 best French brands
Lou Doillon, the daughter of Jane Birkin, after whom Hermès designed its famous handbag, once said: “French style is arrogant by nature. The French woman has great respect for herself and is so sure of her style that it is pointless to tell her what to wear or not to wear in a given season. In my opinion, her words very accurately reflect the three most important characteristics of a French woman: uncompromising, self-confident and unrealistic.
To understand how to achieve the desired effect – to look fashionable and relaxed at the same time – we should look at what real French clothing, footwear and accessories brands are offering their customers today. It’s likely that their designers and stylists subconsciously know what clothes, shoes and accessories to offer fashionistas.
So, this is the list of most well-known and powerful French clothing brands
- Christian Dior
- Isabel Marant
- Louis Vuitton
- Maison Margiela
- Claudie Pierlot
- Faith Connection
- Nina Ricci
- Yves Saint Laurent
In this article I will tell you about ten French brands for premium womenswear, in the next one about the democratic brands, or as they are also called, budget-friendly.
Year founded: 1919
Creative director: Demna Gvasalia
Cristobal Balenciaga, the founder of Balenciaga, comes from Spain. The Spanish Civil War forced him to move to Paris, where he opened his first shop in 1937. Christian Dior called him a “role model for us all”, while Coco Chanel claimed that he was the only designer who really knew how to cut and sew.
The late 1940s and 1950s are considered the “Balenciaga era”: the fashion designer created many garments that are still used in fashion design today. These include dresses with bow ties, sack dresses and buttonless and collarless neck coats.
After his death, Andre Courregier and Emanuel Ungaro continued to develop Balenciaga’s ideas, but sales did not pick up until Nicolas Ghesquière arrived in 1997.
Today, the Balenciaga brand is known for its avant-garde styling. The brand is always one step ahead of the times and is considered a pioneer in fashion.
Celebrities such as Sienna Muller, Emmanuelle Alt, Stephanie Seymour, Caroline Trinity, Hilary Rhoda and others wear Balenciaga outfits.
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Year founded: 1946
Creative director: Olivier Rousteing
The French fashion designer Pierre Balmain opened his first boutique in Paris. Over the years, his clients have included Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich and Jennifer Jones.
The perfume and accessories lines were launched in the 1970s. In 1998, Balmain launched its first miniature ladies’ chronograph and has been producing a Swiss ladies’ watch under the same name since 2001.
The original Balmain bag is available on the official Balmain website for between €661 and €193.
Year founded: 1945
Creative director: Hedi Slimane
Céline has been part of the international holding company LVMH since 1996. Originally Céline Vipiana and her husband Richard launched a range of luxury children’s shoes, but since 1960 the company has also produced handbags and accessories for women. Céline clothing, shoes and accessories are sold in over a hundred boutiques worldwide and in numerous online shops.
A bag by Celine is available at a minimum price of €720 and a maximum of €3400.
Year founded: 1910
Creative director: Virginie Viard
Coco Chanel introduced many elements of men’s fashion into women’s clothing. She was a pioneer in replacing tight and uncomfortable corsets with loose trouser suits and straight-cut dresses. Thanks to Chanel, women began to dress less garishly, but more comfortably, loosely and freely. Outer changes led to inner changes as women adopted a more active approach to life and self-realisation.
Despite the ups and downs of Coco Chanel’s career, despite the fact that she collaborated with the Gestapo and participated in the conspiracy against Winston Churchill, her contribution to the development of 20th century fashion is invaluable. She made tweed suits, the little black dress, pearl necklaces, Chanel No. 5 and Coco Chanel perfume, and the 2.55 quilted leather chain bag in gold or silver, launched in February 1955, symbols of good taste.
Chanel clothing and accessories are not sold in online shops. Beware of counterfeits!
Dresses, shoes and accessories by Chanel have been worn by Catherine Deneuve, Ines de la Fressange, Vanessa Paradis, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Tatoo, Keira Knightley and Nicole Kidman, among others.
Original Chanel handbags from the 2023 collection are available in the Chanel brand shops at prices from:
Chanel PVC / Iridescent Patent Boy Water Small Flap Bag – $4,500.00
Chanel Braided Lambskin Boy Chanel Old Medium Flap Bag – $5,100.00
Chanel Embroidered Denim/Tweed Mini Flap Bag – $5,800.00
Chanel Tweed / PVC Gabrielle Hobo Bag – $5,000.00
Chanel Sequin Waterfall Belt Bag – $2,800.00
Chanel PVC Coco Splash Medium Flap Bag – $3,000.00
Chanel Medium Coco Handle Bag – $4,300.00
Chanel Printed PVC Coco Bucket Large Bag – $3,700.00
Year founded: 1946
Creative Director: Maria Grazia Chiuri
Christian Dior’s first New Look collection, launched in 1947, was so successful that by 1949 Christian Dior accounted for three quarters of French fashion exports.
Today, Christian Dior produces women’s and men’s clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, watches and lingerie.
The Christian Dior brand currently belongs to LVMH.
Creative Director: Matthew M. Williams
In 1953, French designer Hubert de Givenchy began a 39-year collaboration with Audrey Hepburn. Together with Audrey, who was just beginning her artistic career, they created a style that combined elegance and natural beauty. Hubert Givenchy designed Audrey Hepburn’s outfits for Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, How to Steal a Million and Charade.
At John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Jacqueline Kennedy wore a black Givenchy dress.
In 1987, the Givenchy fashion house was bought out by the French concern LVMH, which also owns such Parisian fashion houses as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Christian Lacroix and Céline.
In 1995, Hubert de Givenchy left his fashion house and retired.
For her wedding to Prince Harry, actress Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy gown designed by Clare Waight Keller. The veil, embroidered with a floral pattern and symbolising the 53 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, required hundreds of hours of handwork by the brand’s craftswomen.
Creative Director: Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski
Year founded: 1837
Hermès was originally founded as a workshop for equestrian clothing and carriages. Over the years, Hermès has produced ready-to-wear clothing for men and women, perfumes, accessories, watches and jewellery.
The most famous Hermès products are the Kelly Bag in honour of Grace Kelly and the Birkin Bag in honour of Jane Birkin.
Hermès handbags are made from calf, ostrich, crocodile and lizard leather. It takes 14 to 18 hours to make a single bag.
After PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) accused Hermès of cruelty to crocodiles in 2015, Jane Birkin banned the use of her name on the bags.
Victoria Beckham’s Birkin handbag collection comprises over 100 pieces.
One of the Birkin bags made of crocodile leather, inlaid with 18-carat gold and set with 245 diamonds, was sold for $377,261 at an auction in Hong Kong.
Year founded: 1994
Creative director: Isabel Marant
Artistic director: Kim Bekker
The French brand Isabel Marant produces clothing, jewellery, accessories and shoes. The heeled trainers launched on the market in 2011 have made the brand world-famous. The popularity of Isabel Marant sneakers is comparable to that of the boots from the Australian brand UGG.
Isabel Marant clothes and shoes are worn by Kate Bortson, Katie Holmes, Anne Hathaway and Hilary Duff.
Prices for Isabel Marant sneakers range from $288 (when there is a seasonal discount) to $600.
Year founded: 1854
Creative director: Pharrell Williams
The French brand specialises in the manufacture of suitcases, handbags, belts, watches and jewellery and also tailors high-quality women’s and men’s clothing. Louis Vuitton is now part of the international holding company LVMH. You can find a complete list of the companies that make up the holding company here.
Like Hermès brand, Louis Vuitton is best known for its suitcases and bags. The brand has been producing them since its foundation. LV uses leather and fabrics to make its bags. Chequered fabrics, monogrammed fabrics in the shape of the brand logo and fabrics with red and beige stripes are very popular with customers.
The brand does not hold sales as a matter of principle, and all unsold Louis Vuitton bags are incinerated. This automatically means that you can’t buy an original Louis Vuitton bag for less, unless you buy it from a second-hand shop. This is what it says on the official LV website.
The women’s handbags from the Louis Vuitton summer collection cost between $830 and $3200.
Year founded: 1988
Creative director: John Galliano
Even though Martin Margiela is Belgian, the luxury fashion house Maison Margiela was founded in Paris. The brand designs prêt-à-porter and haute couture clothing for men and women as well as accessories, jewellery, perfume, shoes and interior design. The Maison Margiela brand is known for its avant-garde and deconstructivist designs. Margiela cuts clothes from posters, socks, fur hats and false eyelashes.
Martin Margiela does not communicate with journalists and doesn’t like being phographed, never goes public after the shows and answers all questions exclusively by fax. Margiela takes the idea of invisibility to a grotesque level. At the spring-summer 2009 show, for example, the models’ faces were wrapped in nylon clothes and hidden behind wigs.
Nevertheless, the Maison Margiela brand is considered one of the most influential in the fashion industry. Its collections have inspired Hermès, Mark Jacobs, Junya Watanabe and Prada. Maison Margiela frequently collaborates with other brands, including Opening Ceremony, Converse, Swarovski, L’Oreal and H&M.