A few weeks ago I jetted off to Monaco with Le Meridien Hotels to celebrate the launch of Au Soleil, a suitably summery collaboration between the hotel brand and Atelier Doré. There, on a terrace overlooking the blue mediterranean water, I was lucky enough to sit down with the Atelier's founder, Garance Doré. I first discovered Garance about a year after moving to Paris and starting my blog, and she's been an inspiration ever since. Garance is the original cool girl French blogger, amongst other things - photographer, illustrator and all round badass boss. She helped pave the way for a new digital generation who weren't content with the status quo. One of the things I've always admired about Garance apart from her elegance, intelligence and inimitable style is that she refuses to follow the road more travelled and has instead carved out a life for herself on her own terms. She also started her blog at an older age and wasn't afraid to follow a new career, at a time when it was deemed very risqué. I thought she'd be great therefore for my Better Living interview series, as she's the perfect example of someone who is following and living out their dreams!
Marissa: What does better living mean to you? How do you make the most out of life, work and play? And do you have a healthier lifestyle, now that you live in LA for example?
Garance: I guess it’s a big question and a small question, so I don’t know where to start… it’s definitely a place where you have to find your own way of doing things, for your health and all that, because it’s just so different living in LA. I was saying how I now exercise almost every day, just because. But it’s not because I’m crazy about it, it’s more because I don't walk in LA. There is really a different lifestyle here and you have to adapt to it. I feel pretty far from my roots obviously. It’s costal, but the culture is totally different. The question is always how can I do my own mix? So that I feel like I’m not trying like crazy to live a different life than everybody else there, but still bring my culture into it. It took juggling things, you know. It’s only been a year and a half, so I’m still trying to figure it out, but I know my values and so I’m trying to organise myself around these values, which are being more in contact with nature and trying to be a good friend - friendship and being with people is a big part of the French culture.
Marissa: And especially when you move abroad.
Garance: Yes, and I find that French, maybe even Italian relationships have that depth that I really like. So I try to cultivate that in America and have found that in my American friends. I know what I left and why, and I know what I wanted to find, and I did, but how can I mix all that? And I think, to go back to your first question, it is better living in the sense that it’s taking what’s offered to you, but also bringing your own personality and what you love into it.
Marissa: And how would you say being French has informed the way you live? I mention relationships, but I’m thinking - for example, I have lived in Paris for 5 years now and I’m from the UK and my mum is from San Diego, so I’ve had a strange kind of international upbringing. But the way that I live now is very different to how it was in London. I've definitely adopted a French sensibility of living. But it’s not just the friendships, I feel like French people also enjoy themselves more! They like long dinners, and food for example...
Garance: Yeah, did you find when you moved to Paris it’s completely different, isn’t it?
Marissa: Totally different - in London I’d be going to sometimes 2-3 events a night and there was no spontaneity. Whereas in Paris I rarely do that. I spend time with people. Luckily I feel like I’ve also finally been accepted into the French community and now have French friends!
Marissa: Thank you!
Garance: It’s not easy!
Marissa: No, it's not! It has taken time. But it’s wonderful. The French take friendships very seriously. Once you're friends, I feel like you will be friends forever. The friendships aren't fickle as I find they can sometimes be in anglo-saxon cultures. Also I never really understood what joie de vivre meant, but after five years living in Paris I finally do.
Garance: “I get it!”
Marissa: I get it now! And so I’m wondering - how do you blend this joie de vivre lifestyle with your new life in LA?
Garnace: Well the funny thing with LA is that people actually really like being at home. So you end up spending a lot of time in people’s houses and at your own house. They enjoy hanging out. In the afternoon, someone might say: “Oh, I’ll come around by 3pm!” And by 7pm you’re still hanging out. So, I think there is that sense of community and sharing here. And that’s something that I feel you don’t have in New York, where it’s really like “let’s meet at the bar” and “yeah we have an hour or two”. you know and then that’s it...!
Marissa: You're on a schedule and it’s ten times as fast.
Garance: Yeah exactly! So, in that sense it’s closer to our French, European culture.
Marissa: Wonderful. And just to talk a little bit about this collaboration. How has Au Soleil complemented the way that you work and your lifestyle? It strikes me as very 'Better Living' and it obviously harnesses your South of France/ Corsican roots.
Garance: Everything about what we’re doing is everything that I love - the collaboration brings together my culture which is a sense of fun. The party tonight, is a 'no pressure' type of party. If you want to wear a light dress and not think about it too much and have a glass of rosé with your friends and play backgammon, you can! It really says: “just sit down and enjoy.” It’s not a productivity thing. It’s just being here with no schedule. And the music reflects that - I’ve been listening to Nouvelle Vague for forever. Together we're creating a sense of peacefulness. At Atelier Doré, we’ve always been about quality and not quantity. It's not just about being glamorous, but more about the quality of the people we portray, for example: what’s the quality of what we show and the clothes we want to wear? I think this is what we’re talking about in what we’re doing today. In that sense, I feel very excited and very at home with it. It really defines what I’ve always stood for.
Marissa: It seems like the perfect collaboration. If you were to think of one which blended everything that you believe in, your ethics and then your roots and your background, and France!
Garance: Yeah, this is amazing!
Marissa: And tell me, what's the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Garance: Oh that’s such a good question. I guess the best advice is... that I don’t always follow, but I really try to is: to figure out what your definition of success is, so you don’t adopt everyone else’s and lose your way.
Marissa: That’s a very good one. Especially now that we live in a digital world where oversharing is rife! You can see everything that everyone else is doing and it can be damaging. Yes, that's a very good one. And how do you find balance whilst running your business?
Garance: I don’t think balance really exists. There is no one that has balance. We have moments in our lives when we’re very busy and when we try to rest from these moments, we might think: “Ooh perfect life balance!” and bam, something happens and it’s gone! So I don’t believe it exists, I think it’s like something you can strive for and think: “okay I need to work a little less, I need to take care of my family more”, but you know it’s an illusion. There is nobody that has a perfect balance.
Marissa: Agreed. So what you do to relax?
Garance: I guess I would say a few very simple things. Try to have sleep well, it’s so so important because it's the base of everything. In order to do that I think exercising is good, because then you will sleep well and be more relaxed. Also I’m more relaxed when I try to be kind to myself. So I try as much as I can to bring kindness to myself and in my life.
Marissa: And have you found that life has slowed down since you moved to LA?
Garance: No, no.
Marissa: Not at all?
Garance: Not at all. No, because I still work with my team in New York. In LA, you can breathe more - it’s a city that gives you that. But it’s also stressful because you’re at the other side of the world and you know there’s a lot of things to get done. Stress comes in many different ways. You can live in a very noisy, crazy city like New York and be very relaxed, and live in LA and be super stressed. It’s how you manage it from the inside.
Marissa: That’s very true. And are there any women that you particularly admire, either within their careers or the way that they conduct their lifestyles? In terms of career and/or family?
Garance: Yes - the person that comes to mind is Lauren Hutton, because I think she is just being herself. She’s not trying to show off much more than: “hey, I’m me, I did that, I do that now”. Right now I am trying to just look at people for their individuality and not necessarily at their achievements. I like her because I can see her at a café in LA every morning, where she will go and have her coffee and just read a journal. I think she’s more than 70 and I think that’s the exterior side of a good life. If you can give yourself time every morning to have a coffee at your favourite place, I think: okay maybe you’ve achieved something and that you’re at peace with yourself - you don’t have to be running around like crazy. And she has lived a very interesting life. She has travelled a lot and she didn’t do all that for fame. She is just following her bliss. I admire that.
Marissa: I particularly like not looking too much at the achievements. I find that’s one of the differences about living in Paris - when I meet people and I have conversations with them, they want to know who I am first before knowing what I’ve done. It's refreshing. The first half an hour of a meeting is talking about what makes you tick, what’s your personality and then we talk about work afterwards. It’s such a different way of working.
Marissa: Ok, just three more things. What was the last good book you read?
Garance: Oh my god. Have you read Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan?
Garance: Oh it’s crazy. It’s a very good book. It’s not art of life. But it’s very good. It’s the story of a girl who loses her mind for a month. And because she has a disease, she talks about what going crazy feels like. It’s very well written.
Marissa: That sounds very interesting! I will look it up. And what’s on your nightstand besides a good book?
Garance: So much stuff. You want to know everything?
Marissa: Just a few things. I feel like you can really tell a person's life by what’s on their nightstand...
Garance: Yeah, okay. What’s the most important thing? Earplugs.
Marissa: Haha, yes! And your handbag essentials?
Garance: I don’t have any, just my money. Yeah, that’s it. Maybe also a lipstick, but I never wear it. I try not to carry too much. And my phone obviously, like everyone.
Marissa: Okay, wonderful, thank you very much for the interview!
Garance: Thank you, you’re welcome!
Words & photos by Marissa Cox.