Garance Doré, doyenne of French cool, started a blog a decade ago in an effort to bring more attention to her fledgling freelance illustration business. In the 10 years since she bought that GaranceDore.com domain, Doré has grown into one of fashion's most prominent multihyphenates. There's been a New York Times best-selling book, a podcast and a sea of collaborations with her name stamped on top — not to mention the thriving editorial site into which her blog has grown and the conversational, quippy voice that made Doré's brand so distinctive in the first place.
It's been an ascension out of Doré's wildest dreams, and she'll be the first to admit it. "It was definitely not a time where you could think, 'Oh, I'm going to make a career out of it,' but I thought that at least it's going to put my work out there," she said at Wednesday's NYC meet-up event, moderated by Fashionista's Tyler McCall. "I literally had no vision at that time. I don't know if I knew what a vision was. I had dreams, but I was not a strategic person at all."
In her blog's early days, Doré was living in the south of France and only held a personal interest in fashion; the site was a place for her illustrations, despite the fact that many of those sketches were influenced by what was coming down the runway. She moved to Paris and churned out some writing work for AOL before a friend suggested she tap into the emerging street style market and bring a camera to Paris Fashion Week. "It was the very beginning of street style," she remembered. "There was no one there, so I started talking with everyone — because I can talk — and started taking photos of [showgoers]." Doré described how "addicting" the experience was, and how her images became a sartorial diary that reflected the Parisian woman she so deeply admired. "I never wanted to report on what I was seeing," she said. "It was a documentation for me. That's how I want to look. That's how I want to put my jeans together."
As Doré's photography began to open more doors professionally, so too did her illustrations, the latter of which she credits as being the driving force behind her site's longevity. Doré's "incredibly unique" artistic style, to use McCall's words, soon lent itself to partnerships with companies as mammoth as Gap in 2009 and as niche as Rifle Paper Co. in 2014. "When I started, everybody asked me how I stood out from all these other people," she said. "I was the only one who was doing the text — and [it was] pretty funny — and the illustrations. It gave me such a special point of view and a special style; once you went on the blog, you couldn't really forget it. It was different from everyone else."
But beyond GaranceDore.com's simple, recognizable aesthetic, readers found themselves striking a chord with Doré's approachable tone. It was and remains an authentic lifeline to her readers that reveals just who Doré, the human, is. We might call that "personal branding" in today's media landscape, but she's never treated it like a strategy. She explained:
"That's the way I am. To me, the material doesn't matter. It's the way [you] share it. It's the words. It's the way you project to people. I've never had a problem [opening up]. I could speak about everything. It's never too much. It's never embarrassing, because it's my words. It's my own vision. It's my filter. And I've never thought anything I do as reporting or being a journalist. To me, it's like writing a book — you just go ahead and share. Don't be scared."
McCall described a moment six years ago when she was living in Paris and asked Doré to take a selfie with her outside a fashion show. (You can see the photographic evidence over on McCall's Instagram.) So, McCall asked: How does Doré feel when readers approach her in the real world, acting as if they know her personally? "If you read what I write, then we probably have a connection," she answered. "We probably could be friends. We probably have things in common. Of course, I don't know you, but you read me, so we're connected. We probably have the same taste in things, and sometimes you're probably not happy with what I say — like how you would be with a friend."
In 2012, Doré took home the CFDA's Media Award — a surefire sign that her business had reached a point of recognition beyond that of her reader base. But in retrospect, Doré doesn't necessarily see that as being a milestone moment in her career. "You never know what is actually a step," she said. "You know what's important for you. I know the book changed [my] perception and it made my name known in places it probably hadn't been before."
Finally, she's well-aware that the most valuable tenet of her business has been, to take a leaf out of Diane von Furstenberg's book, her relationship with herself. To protect this quality, Doré has been thoughtful about the projects she pursues, though that hasn't always been easy. "The hardest thing to do is to keep to yourself, be yourself and come back to your roots," she said. "That's knowing who you are so you have something real to say, so that you're not just projecting whatever is happening in society right now." Conducting your business with that sense of integrity may take a bit more time, but Doré assured the audience that it would be well worth it, especially in fashion. "Style is [about] making your own thing and really being yourself — and not [being] scared if I decide to close my blog tomorrow or if I decide to do something completely different. Who cares? It's my story and I want to live my story, not other people's expectations."
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