Jeanne Damas founded Rouje in 2016
Jeanne Damas is the Parisian internet sensation-turned-fashion entrepreneur whose Rouje brand has nearly a million followers on Instagram and is endorsed by an international circle of "nice girls" including Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie and Lea Seydoux.
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The former model, who also has 1.5 million followers on Insta under her own name, originally gained notoriety through her original Tumblr account, which rose to prominence as a quintessential Parisian-style personal scrapbook, bolstered by her own styleI do not know what, a sophisticated mixture of sensuality, self-control and feminine mysticism. Long before Julia Fox claimed to be her own muse, Damas had already established herself as an influencer in the truest sense of the word, her keen eye inspiring others through her chic yet easily undone Parisian style.
Maybe she was planning for the hype, or maybe she just dived into the creative moment — whatever her intentions, Damas became an "It Girl" at age 17 and was snapped by IMG Models. But Damas had ambitions to shine beyond the social media spotlight. In 2016 he foundedblush, which launches a small collection of floral dresses and timeless classics with a retro flair. In short, these were the things she wanted to wear in her various "roles" as party girl, fashion designer, and city girl. One of her first creations was her Gabin wrap dress (the dress Margot Robbie wore to a press conference forMary Queen of Scotsin 2018), which became an instant hit and is still available in a variety of patterns.
Capitalizing on the popularity of that perfect silhouette that flatters any figure, she focused on well-made garments that have become synonymous with a particular Parisian uniform — including the Columbo trench coat, slightly baggy Belleville jeans, the striped cardigan Mylene, and the low-cut top Gio. It can be argued that these are not innovative designs, but Damas has always understood the power of presentation and more importantly the small style details that make the difference when it comes to standing out, from the cuff fold to the high collar, always mixed with an indescribable sense of louche modernity.
Damas has been intensively developing its business, breaking new ground (sometimes literally) every year. In 2018 she launched her beauty lineThe Girls of Rouje, followed by a Los Angeles pop-up in 2019 that firmly established her in the minds of young California fashion shoppers as a purveyor of easy glamour.
From there, things got a lot bigger and bolder. Last year she launched a fully recycled collection, launched her brand in Hong Kong and Singapore with concept store Rue Madame and debuted her first skincare line. Additionally, the entrepreneur has just announced plans to open physical stores in New York and London - the latter will open temporarily in Mayfair in April, followed by a larger permanent store in the city.
"The modern Parisian should not be pigeonholed"
Ahead of this exciting new addition to the London retail scene, TheWeek.co.uk spoke to Damas about her journey to the top and her definition of so-called 'French style'. She also reveals some of her favorite places to eat and shop in the French capital.
How did you fall in love with fashion?
My ideas about fashion emerged early on. My mother ran a restaurant with my fatherParisand was considered an opinion leader. She was repeatedly invited to exclusive fashion events and press sample sales, so her closet was full of bargains by Jean Paul Gaultier, Manolo Blahnik, Issey Miyake and Co. You could say she was a very modern, powerful type, in touch with her feminine side, strong and determined, in a business that required courage and good business sense. Sometimes her look was sensual, sometimes flirtatious and playful, sometimes sharper and stricter - she just did what she wanted, which I think showed me the synergy between clothes and confidence.
Another big influence was and is the stylist Nathalie Dumeix, who had her studio next to my parents' restaurant. As a teenager, I used to kick there all the time. You know, if you grew up in a restaurant, you're a naturally social creature. You know the businesses and the people around you, so Paris, at least for me as a kid, was all about community, it had a village vibe. So I stayed there in my free time, watching Nathalie's sewing patterns and assembling her creations to make themcustomCollections in an artisan way, which helped me appreciate an art around the ritual of dressing.
People often refer to your brand as "Paris chic", how do you feel about that?
I don't find the term offensive or derogatory per se, but historically it's a rigid definition that has presented a fairly narrow view - often used to describe a specific aesthetic or physical appearance that does not embrace diversity. The modern Parisian is not one thing and should not be pigeonholed. I think what I'm trying to defend is the joy and spirit of dressing naturally, comfortably and uncomplicatedly, and perhaps that's where the definition should go, attributed to a Parisian attitude rather than a set of ideals of beauty. We also have a great mix of styles here at Studio Rouje and it's a great melting pot of ideas. For example, [Lead Designer] Lou Menais has a real eye for '90s fashion, which brings its own freshness to the collections. I subscribe to every season but each is a mix of influences.
Are you influenced by other designers?
French fashion is so exciting now! I think building a strong brand identity is both about seeing and appreciating what's out there and focusing on your DNA. Being inspired - instead of being directly influenced by my peers - spurs creativity. For example, Vaillant Studio [founded by former ballerina Alice Vaillant in 2020] is breaking new ground with its draped, deconstructed pieces. My friend Emma Reynaud does big things with her sustainable brand Marcia, known for her sexy, form-fitting silhouettes that look fresh for Paris, usually more conservative when it comes to partywear than, say, London and New York. . There's also designer Nix Lecourt Mansion, famous for her corseted looks...all very different from Rouje's proposal, but together we as designers and entrepreneurs build a specific moment that feels free and exciting. I have the feeling that from a male design point of view, too much emphasis is often placed on the "fantasy woman". These designers come from personal backgrounds and that's encouraging.
Have you changed your style now that you're a busy mom?
Honestly not really. Although I wear sneakers now. I've never done this before, but got used to the convenience when I was pregnant! Actually, I don't want to stop wearing my dresses, whites and heels thanks to a glamorous mom who was always very active.
How do you design your collections?
It's a confusing process, but it works. I recently saw a Pina Bausch play [at the Paris Opera Ballet] and I loved all the ballerina flat dresses that are cut from high shine satin and I'm going to include them in the next winter collection. Sometimes my influences are more abstract, come from a piece of music or are inspired by a certain mood. Last September I was in New York for Fashion Week and the experience was really impressive. I noticed more girls wearing sheer clothing and I loved it. It's something you don't see very often in Paris, so why not bring it here? So our summer 23 collection is going to be more transparent… not crazy transparent, but “French” transparent, so a bit more subtle.
Do you even have a favorite social media account?
Not a person, but a place! I love Charleston Farmhouse (@charlestontrust) in East Sussex, home of the Bloomsbury Set. It's my go-to for interiors, full of beautiful patterns and details along with artfully arranged objects.
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
In Paris, my favorite place to eat is Clamato (on Rue de Charonne). In London it's Cépage[s], a lovely wine bistro in Notting Hill.
Where do you like the treasure hunt?
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (Paris' famous flea market) is fantastic for little silk tops from the 1930s and 1940s. I love it too thank god I'm a V.I.P. – a luxury vintage shop in the 10th arrondissement that is a Parisian institution. You can get everything from rare haute couture pieces to vintage Hermès scarves.
Best baby bag?
I don't use a baby bag - I'm not a fan! However, I have designed a large suede shoulder bag – aptly named Le Big Bag, which is great for carrying all those diapers and my Les Filles en Rouje makeup essentials.
What is your piece that cannot live without Rouje?
I have a favorite saying when it comes to my favorite fashion look - "un jean et un rouge a levres" - because a good pair of jeans and a great lipstick gives you instant glamour. The jeans must be the classic Jeanne!
Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
I used to wear a lot of yellow gold, but I've fallen back in love with silver and especially my hoops by Sophie Buhai, who lives in downtown Los Angeles. You have a nice swing.
For more information, seerouje.com
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