Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

There's nothing like going to Paris to make a girl feel a bit inadequate. Especially if you happen to be there during fashion week when the chicest, sleekest and most beautifully attired locals are out in force. I'm not saying that every Parisienne is superbly dressed but there is definitely an envy-inducing girl around most corners.  I know because I am fresh from a few days hot-footing it between showrooms and appointments in the City of Light and have been feeling this "Oh "I'm just not cool and French" feeling quite strongly . There are plenty of French brands which have brought that nonchalantly stylish vibe to these shores, including Comptoir des Cotonniers. As my last stop before the Eurostar, I went to talk to the brand's Creative Director, Delphine Ninous to see if she might divulge some sort of magic formula by which I could live forevermore. No such luck, but she was happy to opine on why we might all put French ladies on such a pedestal, as well as telling me about how she approaches the design process, her personal wardrobe staples as well as the collaboration she has just done with Uniqlo- a lovely capsule collection of down quilted jackets which tie very nicely into the A/W trend for high-fashion puffas.
Delphine Ninous, Creative Director of Comptoir des Cotonniers
 FJAL: How did your collaboration with Uniqlo come about?

Delphine: Well, we are part of the same company (Fast Retailing) so it was quite an easy decision from that perspective. At Comptoir, we really like those Ultra Down jackets which Uniqlo did and saw so many people wearing them but it wasn't something we have. It wasn't that easy! You know it's much harder than you think it will be to get it right. We wanted to add more of a style element and that meant Uniqlo had to find new ways to do things. So there were lots of solutions to be found to get it so that we were all happy.

FJAL: How do the Mademoiselle Plume jackets fit with the rest of your collection?

Delphine: Like everything at Comptoir, it's all about how you wear so it and i think there are so many ways to wear Mademoiselle Plume. I like that it's not a puffa that you wear just to ski, it's urban and you can wear it all day, whenever. You could wear it with a skirt or with tailored pieces- I like to think like it's your friend for anything. It's so pretty but also it's actually warm. Also we have seen puffa become more of a fashion trend, not just practical, so it was the right time to have one in our collection.

Comptor x Uniqlo Mademoiselle Plume jackets, click here to buy 

FJAL: I love the name Mademoiselle Plume, it gives the jackets such personality. Is there a "Mademoiselle Plume"? Who is she?

Delphine: She is a French girl who plays with fashion. She's chic, playful and free as well as being totally feminine. Also, mademoiselle in French sums this up, like being young and carefree but also plume (French for feathers) is obviously what the jacket is made of but feathers fly away on a whim- that's Mademoiselle Plume.

Mademoiselle Plume strikes a pose in Paris 
FJAL: Comptoir is a brand which represents that cool French style so many girls around the world want to capture, are you conscious of that? How do you "create" it?

Delphine: For a long time, we didn't really think about it at all. But once our stores began to open internationally people began to tell us about this French girl thing. I think it's important to keep your instincts, your soul while also understanding exactly what it is that foreign countries want from us and we try to deliver! I think it's about but being sophisticated, but also natural like not going for the whole look head-to-toe but mixing things up. Of course, we think about other places too. Like London girls are really creative which you don't see so much of here. I think the way you dress is really influenced by the music, literature and culture which surround you and that's where all these different style come from. When a French girl gets up, she doesn't think "what shall I wear?", she thinks " what am I doing today?" then gets dressed from that.

FJAL: There is so much in the British media about how french women have the best attitude to life- whethwr that's how they stay thin, or bring up their children, or treat their men and of course, dress. Do you think there's a kind of magic formula which french women live by?

Delphine: Oh my god.... Maybe it's about balance. Like, we have a very natural sense of values I think. So we try to keep everything as simple and natural as possible from our appearence to our families. We don't always put lots of pressure on like nedding to be the best mum, the best friend, the best girlfriend we just stay ourselves and hope for the best! I am not wonder woman, so let's not even pretend.
I love the idea of using the jacket as a base layer under a smarter winter coat as  a pop of colour. 
FJAL: What are your starting points when you design a collection? How do you find inspiration and themes?

Delphine: Every moment of every day I'm looking around, looking at eveything and taking it in. I go to London , Belgium and Japan a lot so it's good to see what I feel there and take in those different vibes. Somehow key things start to come together and I gether up images and themes. But fabric is also really important to me so when I am looking at those, lots of ideas come to me.

FJAL: You've been at Comptoir a couple of years now, what have you changed or introduced?

Delphine: Well when I joined, there was also a new CEO so we've had a completley fresh team which is important. I wanted to bring even more of a fashion element so there are key trend pieces which we're including more now. I've also introduced more colour which I think makes it more fun. My big goal is the surprise pieces, you know that feeling when go in a store to get a winter coat and yu come out with an amazing party dress? I  love that and I want girls to come into Comptoir and feel that surprise of finding something they love but didn't expect.

FJAL: Do you have style icons, or people who inspire you?

Delphine: It has to be Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, that family. They are so easy chic, but of anther time and generation. I love that. But also my friends because they all have such different shapes and tastes so I like to know what they think. Their opinion can make something become a key piece, even if I hadn't considered it before. Luckily, they usually all agree- if I love something they love it too, but I just need to know.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainbourg... Delphine's style icons (image from art247.com)

1. A men's jacket or blazer- "These are so strong and give you sich an attitude, it doesn't matter what else you're wearing"

2. Suede boots- "Go with anything, they're easy and comfortable. Perfect"

3. A silk blouse- "I love that this mixes a masculine shape but the silk is feminine and feels luxurious on your skin"

Mademoiselle Plume jackets will be available at Comptoir des Cotonniers and Uniqlo from Saturday. Prices range from £69.90 to £99.90


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