French lessons in effortless, chic looks

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

French contemporary labels are expanding their retail presence globally at a fast clip. Besides Sandro, several others are moving into Los Angeles, where their takes on effortlessly undone chic resonate particularly well. They all have similar offerings (biker jackets and skinny jeans are mainstays for each label, for example, and I challenge you to distinguish them from one another). But there are subtle differences between the brands in terms of look and feel.


The look: Casual but polished women’s wear, resort-ready glam with a heady dose of embroidery and lace.


The back story: Founded in 1999 by Judith Milgrom, sister of Sandro creative director Evelyne Chetrite. The two brands are owned by the same group — SMCP — which stands for Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot. The name Maje is not a slang word for major, but rather a combination of initials of Milgrom’s loved ones.

Key spring pieces: Chain-embellished cardigan jacket, palm print T-shirt, skinny leather pants, striped tunic dress. Prices from $75 to $1,100.

Side note: Collaborated with French heritage sportswear brand K-Way on a line of windbreakers that’s in stores now.

Where to buy: Maje stores, 350 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-2428, and Beverly Center, 8500 Beverly Blvd., No. 683, Los Angeles, (310) 360-4888; select Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom stores; or


The look: Women’s clothing that’s clean, graphic and sporty with an arty angle.

The back story: Created in 2005 by Arik and Laurent Bitton, two brothers who left careers in music to go into the family business. (In Paris, their parents ran a women’s wear line called Somebody for two decades.)

Key spring pieces: Bomber jackets, mini-dresses and linen T-shirts with painterly prints, colorful tweed or mesh insets. Prices from $150 to $1,600.

Where to buy: Iro stores opening at the end of April at 325 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, and 1319 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; now at Barneys and; or

Zadig & Voltaire

The look: Rock ‘n’ roll festival vibe with fringe, skulls, studding and lace. Men’s, women’s and children’s collections.

The back story: Established in 1997 by Thierry Gillier, grandson of Lacoste co-founder André Gillier. The brand has its own independent music label and plans to open a hotel in Paris.

Key spring pieces: Fringed

leather mini-dress, drapey studded cardigan sweater, skull design burnout T-shirt, tie-dye jeans, quilted leather sandals with biker details. Prices from $110 to $835.

Side note: Model Freja Beha Erichsen designed a capsule collection for the brand, in stores this month, with a portion of proceeds benefitting Doctors Without Borders.

Where to buy: Zadig & Voltaire store, 8640 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 358-9616, and coming later this spring are stores at Malibu Country Mart and on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; select Bloomingdale’s stores; or

The Kooples

The look: Rock ‘n’ roll street-inspired with a dandy twist. Men’s and women’s collections designed to complement each other.

The back story: Launched in 2008 by brothers Alexandre, Laurent and Raphael Elicha, whose parents started another successful French fashion company, Comptoir de Cotonniers.

Key pieces: Slim-line blazer with leather trim; moto miniskirt, hooded biker sweat shirt, floral baby-doll dress, zebra-print creeper shoes. Prices range from about $95 to $895.

Side note: Known for ad campaigns featuring impossibly chic real-life couples, such as musician Devendra Banhart and his photographer-designer fiancee, Ana Kras, photographed on the street. Suits are made in London on Savile Row.

Where to buy: The Kooples’ store is opening in the beginning of July at 100 S. Robertson Blvd. in Los Angeles; now at select Nordstrom stores.