Garance Doré ‒ the girl next door who became a brand
Fashion Week in Paris: For several hours now, street style photographers in the Jardin de Tuileries park have been shooting images of Fashion Week guests in their spectacular garb. The nonprofessional blog photographers have made hundreds of shots by the time Garance Doré arrives and unobtrusively chains her bicycle to the iron gate. The tall Frenchwoman with hair tied back nonchalantly in a bun sports 5-inch heels and wears her camera slung over a shoulder. The 36-year-old wanders through the waiting crowd of photographers, guests and spectators. She chooses the most stylish outfits and requests a private session to frame the portrait in the right light.
As the show begins, the square slowly empties and the gates close for the photographers. Admittance is by invitation only. Garance Doré alone is allowed to breeze through the security check toward the beckoning PR ladies who then escort her to a front-row seat. The reason for the special treatment is that Garance Doré is the best-known female fashion blogger in France, if not in the world. An average of 80,000 visitors (she is not really sure about the exact number) click on her website daily. And she is the significant other of yet more famous fashion blogger Scott Schuman. The images on his street style blog The Sartorialist attract an average of 13 million visitors a month. Together they are THE glamour couple of the fashion blogging scene. And to think – as is so often in this still-fresh medium – that it all began quite simply.
A Corsican by birth, Garance was living in Marseille in 2006 where she had decided to try her hand at illustrating. "I was very bored. Marseille is a provincial city.”
I wanted to show my work and connect with people who were on the same wavelength. So I started a blog.
And very quickly, she says, she and her sketches and illustrations started drawing attention. Just half a year later, she moved to Paris. "A new world with fresh possibilities opened up for me. There were people out there who were noticing my work and I started getting job offers." She began taking photographs and started uploading these to her blog as well.
Feeling very much at home in Paris, she soon became a minor star in the World Wide Web. Then, in a next move, she decided to have her blog translated into English to attract a larger public. This proved to be a wise decision. Garance's blog now began to draw international attention and Scott Schuman, the absolute icon of street style photography, became aware of her. Their first meeting at the Paris Fashion Week in 2007 was not without consequences.
With Scott everything changed.
Not only did he give her a better camera and improve her eye, he also arranged access to the exclusive fashion shows which she had previously not been able to attend. "He taught me so much, but most of all he changed my way of seeing things. As an American, he is extremely success-oriented. I, on the other hand, am very French and continually questioned everything I did. He gave me the confidence that allowed me to appreciate my own work and to go for it.”
In March 2009, they officially announced that they were a couple. This created a big stir in the blogging scene. But the big changes in Garance's life were not restricted to her private affairs: She designed a limited T-shirt edition for Gap, was signed by French VOGUE to support their online team, asked to do a fashion shoot for ELLE France, and GQ welcomed her to their exclusive "Women of Fashion" circle. She also decided to try her hand at video filming and soon gained recognition in this medium as well.
The idea of combining these three disciplines fascinates me. Together they give my work a sense of balance that it would otherwise lack.
Now, just five years after she started her blog, Garance can draw on a client list that not a few professional photographers would die for. As a self-taught photographer, she has already worked for Moschino, Paule Ka, Chanel, Jil Sander, Chloé and a number of women's magazines. Garance Doré herself is overwhelmed by her success and can't really find a good explanation for it. "I like my work and I take my blog very seriously. My images relay a natural impression with a subtle, underlying sense of humor. Possibly it's also because I'm approachable and don't pretend to be someone else."
“Une fille comme moi” was the original title of her blog. Just like the girl next door, Garance shared her dreams about craving her very own pair of designer shoes, or discussed saving up for a new It Bag, and even revealed her hang-ups about what she wore. Her comment about a Chloé dress: "J’adore, j’adore, j’adore!" had hundreds of her readers cheering. Though the subjects she writes about now have hardly changed, the problems have. She now owns the longed-for designer shoes, yet they do not look right on her size 9 feet. And she has still not found a way to tame her thick, brunette hair. The fact that she will ditch her intentions to lead a healthier life and take up sports the instant she is offered a croissant continues to result in a storm of enthusiastic comments.
But, is Garance Doré still the girl from next door? The undeniable fact is that she dropped the old title of her blog some time back and is currently residing in New York's Greenwich Village in a fantastic loft with Scott Schuman. Garance Doré has become a brand, yet the woman behind the brand is something of an enigma. Using a pseudonym molded after the well-known French illustrator Gustave Doré, she prefers to keep her real name to herself. Nor does she reveal what she originally studied. Her Skype connection has been blocked to guard her privacy and an assistant is in charge of her appointments and correspondence.
At the major fashion weeks she has a reserved seat in the sought-after first row and she is on friendly terms with all the famous fashion editors whom the blog scene refers to as "Editorialistas". Some French bloggers say that she has changed a lot from the early days. And she herself says that she has grown accustomed to the glamour and no longer has any illusions about fashion.
She is also quite skeptical of the steady influx of new blogs.
Nowadays, people start blogs to become famous. Most of them do not realize how much work a blog needs, and only a very few have the persistence to pull it off.
She did pull it off, and earns a good living from the revenue of the blog and the follow-up assignments that came with the fame. "When you're in the limelight, the number of offers and projects pile up, and you can pick and chose." In the time to come, Garance would like to widen her range of subjects. "Travel, for example, and food. And other new and exciting projects that I can't talk about yet." Her future, however, will remain closely linked to her blog. "I can express myself there. And it gives me freedom."
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