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When we think of la parisienne, we can’t help but think of the chic and always fashionable French girl. But this image, argues author Lindsey Tramuta, is a stubborn fantasy that’s persisted for decades. In her recently published book The New Parisienne, Tramuta features 50 stand-out women who represent the real parisienne today— inspiring women who are sparking a new movement in the City of Light. Here she shares some insights into her wonderful portrait of the vibrant, female-centric Paris of today.
Mary Nicklin: Three years after the publication of your bestselling book, The New Paris, you’re back with another beautiful book. Can you tell us a bit about the link between the two books, and the inspiration for the new one?
Lindsey Tramuta: The first book was meant to offer an alternative perspective on one of the most beloved and most visited cities in the world. For too long, the narrative around Paris has focused on the grandeur and weight of the past, and especially its resistance to change. I felt that was a limited perspective that omitted the tremendous innovations, ideas, and evolutions that have made the capital a dynamic place to live and visit. Similarly, I wanted to offer a broader and less reductive view of one of the city’s defining features: its women.
Purchase the first book, The New Paris, through Amazon here.
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It’s already been one month since #TheNewParisienne was released and I’ve been so touched by reader feedback. Thank you for diving into these stories and participating in the important cultural and societal issues they highlight. Shown here, @poonamparis, whose profile is featured in the Storytellers chapter, photographed by her son @puxanphoto 🙏🏼💕🇫🇷 If you’re enjoying the book, please leave a review wherever you purchased it! They’re important for helping the book get seen by other readers. 🙌🏼 . #parisienne #parisiennes #frenchgirls #frenchgirlstyle #authorsofig #thisisparis #womeninparis #parisiangirl
MN: Why do you think the stereotypical myth of the Parisian has endured so long?
LT: There are many interests at play that allow the myth to endure. For one, the media and popular culture at large have a role in perpetuating the archetypal Parisian woman through articles and books that prescriptively guide a foreign audience to better themselves. Headlines like “how French women do X”, and book titles like, “Why French women don’t X” (age, gain weight, etc.) are still appearing to this day, despite robust body positivity movements and anti-stereotype campaigns. The mythology around the Parisian woman also sells: not only books but products, vacations, fantasies, and attitudes. Brands, publishers, and tourism boards benefit from a marketing formula that has worked masterfully for generations. Unless consumers challenge the ideas they hold to be true and demand more or changes from these companies / publications / individuals responsible for nurturing tired and, in most cases, problematic images of Parisian women, the myth will only continue to be wielded as a tool.
MN: You have included a cultural primer at the beginning of the book. What brought about its inclusion?
LT: So many of the themes that emerged in my discussions with the women in the book involved specific cultural realities that needed clarifying. They talk about laïcité, France’s version of secularism, but it cannot be treated as a direct answer to America’s separation of Church and State; the founding of the principle has its own history and purpose. Similarly, issues of race and identity do not operate the same way in France as they may in other countries. It is for this reason that I thought it was crucial to lay the groundwork for the issues and ideas that inform the women’s work and perspectives.
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I’m so excited for readers to meet / get to know one of the most special women in my life, featured in my book. @ajiriaki of @madamedelamaison has been a constant inspiration to me and her work, design eye, and dedication to the decorative arts has, in turn, inspired others around the world. We’ll be chatting LIVE later today (6PM CET) about all of that and more. Hope you can join us! 🙏🏼💙 Photo by @virginiegarnier for Ajiri’s feature in @dominomag ! #thenewparisienne #sharethemicnow #parisienne #madamedelamaison
MN: How did you choose the women to be featured in the book? How long did the research and interview process take?
LT: It was challenging! I had a shortlist that I included in my book proposal which was made up of women whose work I had been following for ages and knew that I wanted to spend time speaking with them and learning from them. Others were recommended to me or were part of my extended network. Key was incorporating a multitude of backgrounds and voices in an attempt to be a more adequate representation of the population. I had nine months to research, interview, and write the book and it felt like a marathon!
MN: What was the biggest thing you learned during the course of the project? Did you find that any of your own ideas changed?
LT: I have a far deeper understanding of the injustices that persist and that impact certain groups of women more than others. And it’s for that reason that I, too, believe that the only way forward is a feminist movement that is entirely intersectional — that considers the unique oppressions some women may face due to their race, sexual orientation, religion, health, or ethnicity. The second wave feminism of France’s past, one that purports that the fight for women is equally shared, I’ve come to see as flawed and unconstructive.
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Women in food! Moko from @mokonutsbakery & @mokoloco_paris, featured in my book, will certainly come up tomorrow night in my discussion with @kcrwevan for @nowservingla ! Click the Events link in my profile to register and receive the Zoom link for the conversation 🙏🏼🍤🍷 Also this is one of my favorite shots by @sliceofpai 🥰 . #thenewparisienne #mokonuts #parisfood #parisrestaurant #sliceofparis #authorsofinsta #womeninfood
MN: The photography is gorgeous. Tell us a little bit about the photographer and your relationship with her.
LT: Joann Pai is one of my best friends! We’ve collaborated on a number of stories together, for The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler, and have a very comfortable professional dynamic. She is supremely talented– it had to be her for this project!
MN: We really enjoyed the travel advice you featured in the book, highlighting favorite addresses and women-run businesses in Paris. What is your own ideal itinerary in the city?
LT: It changes so often! But my itinerary would revolve around good coffee (let’s say, somewhere serving /brewing Belleville Brûlerie beans, roasted by Mihaela Iordache, featured in the book!), a bike ride across town, an hour perusing books at Shakespeare & Co or The Red Wheelbarrow and then several hours of uninterrupted reading time in the Palais Royal Gardens. I’d probably finish the day with dinner and drinks at Le Mary Celeste, one of my favorite casual restaurants.
Ready to be inspired by these progressive, pioneering women in Paris? Purchase The New Parisienne at your favorite independent bookstore or on Amazon here .
Lead photo credit : Credit © Lindsey Tramuta