French women are known for their trend-setting fashion sense, unapologetic confidence and seemingly fluent sex appeal. Few embody these qualities better than iconic beauties such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, among others. But who are the nouvelle génération of French women icons?
These women are chic, sexy and charming, while à la fois (at the same time) mysterious, effortless and edgy. And they’re carrying on the tradition of all that encapsulates the French je ne sais quoi—and more.
Here are the women to watch:
1. Marion Cotillard. The Oscar-winning actress (as Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose), has mastered the art of haute couture glamour and irresistible French sex appeal. When she isn’t strutting runways, filming movies or wearing ChristianDior, Marion is the official spokeswoman for Greenpeace.
2. Lou Doillon. Daughter of British actress/singer Jane Birkin (an icon in her own right, she’s the inspiration behind the famous Birkin bag by Hermes) and director Jacques Doillon, Lou is a singer/songwriter. You may have also spotted her strutting the runway for Missoni, Tom Ford or Dior, or as the spokesmodel and muse for Givenchy. Her signature style? A mix of masculine and feminine. You’re as likely to find her in jeans and army boots as a LBD or flirty skirt.
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg. Lou Doillon’s half-sister (they share mother Jane Birkin), and the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg, this French icon is effortlessly cool. A talented actress and singer (her most recent album was produced by Beck), her style has influenced the likes of Luis Vuitton and Nicolas Ghesquière. In her words: “Style for me is a casual way of putting something on. It’s not thought out but needs to suit your way of life.”
4. Julia Restoin Roitfeld. Graphic designer and model, Julia is the daughter of former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld. She inherited her mother’s flawless fashion sense and captivating presence. Undeniably, this budding icon is one to watch.
5. Cecile Cassel. You might recognize her from the finale of Sex and the City, where she played the teenage daughter of Carrie’s fleeting lover, Alexander Petrovsky. Today, the French actress/singer/songwriter continues to captivate with her slightly ruffled trusses and effortless sexiness.
6. Clémence Poésy. This instinctively chic actress (“In Bruges,” “127 Hours,” “Gossip Girl,” “Harry Potter”) and Chloé perfume model, has a youthful look with au naturel makeup and undone-chic hair. Poésy is also known for her characteristically cool street style.
7. Audrey Tatou. She charmed the world in “Amélie” and immediately gained French icon status. Tatou has since starred in “The Da Vinci Code,” “A Very Long Engagement,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” and most recently, “Coco Before Chanel.” The actress shies away from the spotlight but continues to captivate us with her enchanting nature.
8. Elisa Sednaoui. This model, actress, director and global it-girl of French, Italian and Moroccan descent is known for her enviable cheekbones, gorgeous smile and impeccable style. No wonder she’s Karl Lagerfeld’s muse.
9. Vanessa Paradis. The actress, model, singer and mother of two (with Johnny Depp) became a star at age 14 with her catchy single “Joe le Taxi.” Also beloved by Karl Lagerfeld, she has an off-beat style, ageless beauty and an everlasting mysterious look in her eyes. When asked about her breakup with Depp, Paradis commented: “Love is the strongest and most fragile thing we have in life.” Aussi sage que belle (as wise as she is beautiful)!
10. Virginie Ledoyen. This breathtaking beauty seamlessly evolved from child star to sexy siren, to accomplished actress. Ledoyen’s air of mystery, radiant smile and sensual allure make her an incontestable icon of French seduction.
What I love most about these iconic women is that each has her own signature allure, which begs the question: what’s yours?