By: Maja Von Horn
Photography: Chloé Harrouche
Opening photo: Laura Friedli
Her unique, tomboy approach to French style gained her a large Instagram audience, her own womenswear brand, and the respect of the fashion industry. Born and raised in Paris, fashion consultant and street style icon Chloé Harrouche is funny, charismatic, and doesn’t like to be bored with her outfits. She tells us what it takes to be a successful influencer and which clothes are best for boosting your confidence.
Maja von Horn: Have you always been drawn to fashion?
Chloé Harrouche: My mother owned a shop with children’s clothes, and I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Nobody in my family was into fashion, and neither was I in the beginning. I was a weird kid who usually preferred to wear black. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I had some Barbie dolls at home, but all their clothes were pink, so I used to look for some black fabric and create black outfits for them. I remember feeling horrified by all the glitter and pink of Barbie dolls. Later on, I would buy lots of fashion magazines and look for inspiration there. I did dream about working in fashion, but had no idea how to do it, because it’s such a huge industry. I tried to study fashion design for a while, but then started working in press office for fashion magazines. It wasn’t really my thing, but it was definitely good experience. Then, little by little, I started doing consulting for brands.
M.V.H.: Things changed for you in 2015 when you joined Instagram as @LoulouDeSaison.
C.H.: It started really spontaneously, just for fun. I wanted to express my ideas, share my looks through a new medium. In the beginning my audience was very small, but it was growing steadily. Although Paris has always been the capital of fashion, when I started, it was mainly Scandinavian girls who worked with the more luxury brands and high fashion brands. French girls were more popular within the beauty industry, or more commercial brands.
M.V.H.: What was the biggest challenge for you as a beginner-influencer?
C.H.: Probably confrontation with the press. Now, journalists are used to our presence, they can’t pretend we don’t exist. In the beginning it was really hard [for influencers] to be taken seriously, as professionals who do their job. I wasn’t a kid, I was already a mother of two who wanted to express her identity. I felt I had to justify and defend myself in front of journalists who did all the schools, and I was sitting next to them on fashion shows. Slowly, they started to accept me.
M.V.H.: What does it take to be successful on Instagram?
C.H.: You have to have something to say, something you want to express. You can’t just decide “I’ll be an influencer now,” it doesn’t work like this. You have to have your own identity, you’ll never succeed if you copy other people. It’s not about sharing brands, it’s about sharing your vision. People also forget that this is a real job, and like in any other job, you have to work hard to be successful.
M.V.H.: Where does the name Loulou come from?
C.H.: It’s my daughter’s name, my lucky charm. It’s also because of Loulou de la Falaise – growing up I admired her, I love women with big personalities, who are not afraid to show it.
M.V.H.: Three years ago you launched your own womenswear brand Loulou Studio. Is it a natural consequence of having a large social media following?
C.H.: Again, I don’t think it’s a good idea to launch your own brand if you have nothing to say. I’ve always been really picky when it comes to quality, fabric, and cut. I also had to take into consideration the luxury brands I work with.I couldn’t discredit them by launching something of poor quality. I knew I couldn’t make it on my own, so I took on a business partner — who also happens to be my partner in life. He’s been in the fashion industry for over twenty years, and has all the contacts to manufacturers and fabric suppliers, as well as all the necessary know-how. I have my knowledge of art direction and styling, so each of us brings different qualities to the brand. We often say that Loulou Studio is our third child.
M.V.H.: What makes it different from other brands?
C.H.: These are pieces I couldn’t find on the market. They are simple, timeless. You will wear them a lot, but they’re not boring. When you buy something in Loulou Studio, I want you to have a crush on it, to have butterflies in your stomach. It cannot be simply a black cashmere sweater, there have to be some details that will make it more exciting. I am a working mother, so it was really important for me to design clothes for other busy women of all ages. Easy, quality pieces that you can quickly put on in the morning without having to think about it. You’ll drop the kids off at school, go to a business lunch, and in the evening you’ll just add some lipstick and heels. The symbol of Loulou Studio is a seashell – something very natural, organic, but also protective. I love the idea that my clothes are like armour for women.
M.V.H.: What kind of outfit makes you feel most confident?
C.H.: The one I’m wearing now, it’s my typical weekday uniform – a Loulou Studio jacket – simple, but with a unique shape (it was inspired by Lady Di, probably because I watched “The Crown” too much), a good T-shirt, a pair of nice pants, some golden earrings, Chylak handbag, and I’m ready to go.
M.V.H.: You’ve been wearing Chylak bags for quite a few years now, what’s your favourite thing about them?
C.H.: We share the same vision of fashion, of creating something strong, but timeless. It’s great quality – the more you wear it, the more you cherish it. I’m in love with the new Moiré collection. The accessories are well-balanced – not too aggressive, not too fashion, but not boring either. I love the big Hobo bag — honestly, I can fit my whole house in it. I also love the Pillow Clutch – it’s feminine, chic, but not too girly. I’m not really into girly stuff. I’m more of a tomboy. I need pieces like this soft clutch, so that people don’t think it’s some little boy walking by. It’s perfect for daytime as well as for the evening, you can fit so much into it. I also wear Chylak belts a lot, they’re very easy to create an outfit around.
M.V.H.: Is there anything a Parisian girl would never wear?
C.H.: It’s all about balance. A French girl will never wear too much stuff at the same time. If you do your hair, don’t put on too much makeup. If you put on a big dress with heels, don’t do your hair. A girly dress goes well only with flat shoes, and so on. Having said that, I like to see girls from other countries, who bring their own style, do their own thing. Parisians are quite safe – jeans, white T-shirt and a blazer – there’s nothing daring about it. I like more daring stuff, maybe it comes from my travels, from watching other girls abroad. I don’t like to be bored with my outfit.
M.V.H.: Have you ever lived somewhere other than Paris?
C.H.: No, I grew up just outside of Paris, in a house with a garden, a family-friendly neighbourhood. But as soon as I grew up, I moved to the city center, close to cinemas, restaurants, theatres. I’m like a sponge, I really absorb the energy of the city. Now I live in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, so if I want to go to a cafe, I just go to Café de Flore. I know it’s super cliché, but I like it. The only times when I avoid going there is during fashion week and on weekends, when there are way too many people. But for anyone looking for recommendations in Paris, I have only one piece of advice: get lost in the city. That’s definitely the best way to discover it. Turn off your phone, open your eyes and look around.
M.V.H.: What’s the best thing about Paris?
C.H.: It’s all about lifestyle, we call it art de vivre. People take their time, sometimes they take too much time, but I like it this way. After work you go out for an aperitif, then to a restaurant for dinner. People spend a lot of their money on good food and wine. They know how to appreciate life.
M.V.H.: And what is the biggest challenge for you as a working mother?
C.H.: To find balance. Weekends I spend with my kids. It’s important to have some energy left for them. But I don’t want to be just a mom, I like my work too. It takes a lot of good organising. We are constantly being judged – she didn’t show up for the show in kindergarten, she doesn’t take care of her kids, she works too much. If she takes care of her kids, then she’s boring, and so on. That’s why I created Loulou Studio, with clothes that can give women a bit of help in everyday life. That’s my ambition.