Un mécène

September 25 marks the début of Paris Fashion Week. As beautiful as the creations we’ll see this week will no doubt be, they are also the domain of a tiny fraction of the population. If you’d like to buy from a French designer who’s a little more tuned in to the budget of ordinary mortals, check out agnès b (all lowercase on purpose) – this is the name of the understated designer as well as her boutiques. The designer’s full name is Agnès Andrée Marguerite Troublé and she was born in Versailles in 1941. Even though agnès b designs for real folks, she’s also adored by some pretty big names – Jodie Foster, Leonardo Dicaprio, and David Bowie, for instance.  And no wonder. When I wear something from agnès b, I get compliments all day long.

agnès has a solid foundation in art, having graduated from the École des Beaux Arts in her hometown. She was plucked from her stall at the Paris flea market by Elle magazine because they liked the way she put herself together. After two years as a junior editor, she left to work at a variety of apprenticeships with fashion designers. After earning her stripes, and she does like stripes, she opened her own boutique in 1975 at Les Halles in a former butcher shop. She tackled New York just a few years later and now has about 100 boutiques around the world. I pass one of her shops almost every day when I’m in Paris when I walk down rue d’Assas to buy my lunch at Kayser and I always check out what’s in the windows. Her collections are chic and simple, relying on classics such as a perfect white blouse and a striped jacket, but there are always surprises as well, like black satin army pants or lace shirts. Her T-shirts are made from the same fabric used for French rugby uniforms. And many of her clothes are made in France, too. That does make them more expensive than if she shipped the work offshore, but the workmanship is wonderful.

agnès has expanded her projects, not just around the world, but also to many other projects – fashions for men, children, and babies, cosmetics, sunglasses, and watches. She’s also a huge film patron, supporting both individual film projects as well as underwriting festivals. In fact, instead of doing runway shows for her new collections, she sometimes does a movie, showing the clothes in the context of a storyline. Here’s a more standard runway show for the current women’s collection. agnès also has two art galleries, one in Paris, and the other in New York.

Today’s word is un mécène (uhn maysen), a sponsor. I think it’s impressive that agnès b has stayed true to her roots as an artist at the École des Beaux Arts by giving her financial support to artists and filmmakers. Staying true to her roots in France by continuing to manufacture there is another type of sponsorship, this time to French men and women who would otherwise find their jobs outsourced. In in recognition for all her work, she’s been a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur since 2000.

All You Need to be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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2 Responses to Un mécène

  1. Pingback: Le slip français | One quality, the finest.

  2. Pingback: En fonte | One quality, the finest.

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