The Heritage Tailor Unveils the Fashion Secrets of the Classic Parisian Gentleman
Doyens of Left Bank chic since 1933, Saint-Germain-des-Prés tailors Arnys opens its atelier to photographer Carlotta Manaigo ahead of the luxury menswear brand’s first full catwalk show at the Paraguayan Embassy in Paris. The house first made its name when iconic architect Le Corbusier requested a jacket with wide sleeves for especially large movements and went on to dress the likes of Jean Cocteau, François Mitterrand and André Gide, delivering to its clients a discreetly iconoclastic chic. Merging classical lines with British tweeds, kimono-inspired folds and traditional French work wear, Arnys has become de rigueur for gentlemen south of the Seine. The boutique offers ready-to-wear accessories, such as hand-stitched ties and scarves in linen weaves from Srinagar, while the top floor boudoir and atelier specializes in bespoke menswear, where a jacket can take months to complete. Here brothers Jean and Michel Grimbert, the brand's designers, explain how to stay elegant round the clock.
Tell us about the iconic "La Forestière" jacket.
The success of "La Forestière" was inspired by the classical gamekeeper’s jacket and perpetuated the same tradition: it reinvented a uniform and re-injected it into urban life. This jacket has since been worn by university professors, artists, even prime ministers who wish to indicate a move away from classical, banker-style suits.
What makes the Left Bank distinct fashion-wise?
Right Bank fashion has always been less precise, more bling-bling; it’s visible, unsubtle luxury: big car, driver—exactly what the Left Bank looks down on. Here, people feel more intellectual, and thus have a more discreet relation to money. Instead, there is a conscious, playful appropriation of workwear, such as classical peasant wear or painters’ jackets.
Who is the Left Bank gentleman today?
It is a man who is stereotypically speaking, in the publishing or intellectual world. He is always himself and maintains distance vis-à-vis diktats of any kind. He knows the music but composes his own.
How would you define French chic?
Jean Cocteau once described the French as "sad Italians." I would say French chic is the synthesis of Italy and England. France has borrowed from England a certain old school, countryside tradition, with tweeds, cashmere and the color palette, but has taken the craftsmanship and the lightness of fabric from Italy. At Arnys we believe one can stay classically chic, but with a sprinkle of color.
What are your top addresses of the Left Bank?
Joël Robuchon is a good restaurant, L’Ami Jean is a great bistro, L’Ecume des Pages if you’re looking for a good bookstore, and Le Duc is the best place for oysters.
You have a rather impressive client list––any memorable meetings?
We don’t communicate our current "celebrity" customers; but in the past, yes, we’ve been lucky to dress all the European intelligentsia throughout decades: Jean Cocteau, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Sartre, Fernando Botero, Orson Welles––who was terrible at paying!