Being as effortlessly chic as the French is a popular fashion goal. Onlookers can buy all the right things, cut their hair in all the right places, distress their jeans, smudge their lipstick, and tousle their blouse in all the right ways, and still not have "it" — "it" being a certain je ne sais quoi that lies in subtleties.
It's why covert garments and accessories that might fly under the radar elsewhere play such an important role in the Parisian fantasy: Those who are aware are aware, and those who are unaware, well... We weren't really worried about them, were we?
This is the thinking behind Polène, a quintessentially Parisian leather-goods brand founded in 2016 by three siblings. Polène began with a collection of handbags and has steadily gained global recognition for its strong, simple designs that insiders may recognise on the shoulder of some Jeanne Damas-type.
You won't find any flashy logos or hardware here, as is customary in the French-girl myth. The label strives to be "discreet," allowing its work to speak for itself through pristine materials and elegant savoir-faire. Prices are still reasonable, with most bags costing between $300 and $450.
"Our point of view, and also the whole idea of the company, is to build something from the product, from the design, from the quality, from the story," says co-founder Antoine Mothay, who keeps his own background private so that it does not distract from the brand's.
What Mothay does reveal about himself is that he is the middle child, sandwiched between big brother Mathieu and little sister Elsa, the three of whom co-created Polène. After all, fashion is their family business: In 1889, their great-grandfather founded the iconic French clothing line Saint James, purveyor of cult-favorite Breton-stripe shirts.