Letter From Paris: Alice Cavanagh

A fashion journalist's unique take on the City of Lights.

Most Popular
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The memory is distinct in a fog of lots of hazy half-recollections: About ten years ago some friends and I were sitting in a decrepit loft in Chelsea, New York, having a few drinks (to save money) before we went out and tried to talk our way into clubs in the Meatpacking District that, I like to think, weren't as unequivocally awful as they are now. Among the group was a wide-eyed Australian girl visiting from Sydney and as we started talking it quickly became obvious that she was destined for great things. Why journalism? I remember asking: "Lois Lane," she answered, smiling.

Most Popular

A decade later, Alice Cavanagh is living the dream: She's turned an unbridled passion for writing and the fashion industry into a career that's taken her from her hometown of Sydney to Paris, where she contributes to Vogue Australia and edited Miss Vogue (kind of like Teen Vogue, but Australian), while writing for some of the most prestigious fashion titles in the world. A regular on street-style blogs, she loves female writers Joan Didion, Nancy Mitford, and Lillian Ross, and her adopted city, and has taken a moment out of the pre-Fashion Week craze to tell us about herself and her favorite neighborhood, the 11th. 

So, what do you do?

I was an editor of Oyster Magazine and then Miss Vogue, and I now write for WSJ Magazine, Porter, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, W, Cereal, and Kinfolk. I also work with fashion brands including Chloé, Kenzo, and Chanel, and teach a digital media class at Parsons [School of Design, in New York City].

When did you move to Paris?

Five years ago.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What do you like about it?

I love the history of the city and obviously its physical beauty. I like to remind myself of that by riding my bike across the bridge early in the morning, when no one is around—it is exhilarating. I also love how life is savored here and every moment is appreciated. The French are experts in the art of living and it has influenced the way I live my life.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live in the 11th. It's full of young creative people and a mix of personalities. There are seedy bars and trendy cafés crammed next to one another and decrepit forgotten buildings alongside beautifully preserved ones. This neighborhood has true character and it's where people live and go about their lives and it's one side of Paris you don't always see if you're visiting as a tourist.

Describe your perfect day in Paris.

Walk, walk, and walk. The city is so beautiful and easy to navigate. My ideal day is to be with a close friend and pound the pavement, stopping for food along the way, and just talking about life; taking it all in.

Where do you go to escape the city?

I love Bordeaux and Biarritz and London. In fact, I love to travel, and it's one of the reasons I moved to Paris: so I could explore Europe so readily.

It's fashion week! What shows are you most excited to see? Any designers we should be keeping an eye on?

Paris Fashion Week is exciting now. There is a new crop of designers and they have this fresh, raw energy that is making the city so interesting right now. I feel like all this new life is bubbling below the surface. I love Koché, Y/Project, Vetements, and also Lemaire and Cristaseya—all designers you should watch out for.

And what shoes are you most excited to wear?

For me, shoes-wise, it's sneakers or bust.

Where is your favorite neighborhood to spend time, and take visitors?

Definitely the 11th, 10th, and 9th neighborhoods. This is where the real Paris happens.

What outfit most sums up your personal style and why?

Elegant comfort. I like to feel groomed and chic, but I will never ever suffer for fashion.

What are some of the micro-trends in Paris right now?

In terms of fashion, Vetements has permeated the scene: so it's a '90s, lo-fi, vintage, raver look. But everyone is still wearing Stan Smiths—Phoebe Philo has a lot to answer for. Outside of fashion, specialty coffee is a big trend. The French are a little behind, but coffee shops are taking over and there is this whole new lifestyle and routine emerging around that. 

What is your favorite hidden gem in Paris?

I feel like I discover somewhere new every week—Paris is full of hidden spots. I love a park called the Square Gardette. It is in my opinion the most charming pocket of Paris.

If we were looking for you after work on a weekday, where would we find you?

The Aux Deux Amis bistro in the 11th.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Paris?

That people are unfriendly. They're not: they're just prone to grumpiness so don't take it personally.

More from sweet: