French spend far less on fashion than Brits and most other Europeans

Chic on the cheap: New figures reveal the French spend far less on clothes than the British and other Europeans.

French spend far less on fashion than Brits and most other Europeans
Photo: AFP
France is among the European nations whose citizens spend the least on their wardrobe, with clothing expenses for the French falling well below those of their neighbours including the British, according to new figures that may surprise many. 
The statistics, which come from a comparative study of household spending by data agency Eurostat, tell a surprising story. 
The French who are known around the world for their style and chic dress sense are somewhat shockingly among the nationalities in Europe who spend the least on their wardrobe. 
According to the statistics, in 2016 clothing and footwear represented 3.7 percent of the total spending of the average French household. 
This compared to 6.3 percent for the Portuguese, 6.2 percent for Italians, 5.6 percent for British and 4.5 percent for Germans.
Photo: Mario Mancuso/Flickr
Put into euros, this the average French person spent on their clothing budget in a year was €668 compared to €855 for Germans and a whopping €1,061 for Italians.
In fact, the French were well below the European average which stood at 4.9 percent, with only the Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Czechs revealed as more economical than the French when it came to their clothing budget. 
“Italians are over-consumers in terms of both women's and men's clothing because in the country (especially northern Italy), appearance and self-esteem are very important,” distribution expert Laurent Thoumine told BFM TV.  
This might have been something many expected to also be true of the French. 
However a survey carried out by Statista showed that contrary to the Italians, the French do not attach great importance to their appearance, with nearly 70 percent of French people saying they are not interested in fashion (and 24 percent not at all interested). 
And while those living in France's chic capital Paris might well be confused by the figures, it appears the amount the French spend on their clothes has been falling for years. 
For example, in 1991, French people spent 6.7 percent their outgoings on clothing and footwear but in 2005, this figure had dropped to 4.7 percent. 
And of all household expenses, clothing has been the lowest for the past 25 years.
By comparison, the French spend 13.4 percent on their diet, 4.8 percent on furniture and household items and 8.5 percent on leisure and culture. 
Photo: AFP
But why?
It isn't just a question of a lack of interest in fashion, say experts. 
According to the national statistics agency INSEE, the household budget in France is “increasingly constrained by pre-committed expenses (such as those relating to housing, insurance, telecommunications). 
And as a result French households are spending less on clothing.
On top of that, the French love to buy clothes from cheaper outlets like hypermarkets rather than from the France's luxury fashion houses. 
Hypermarket E.Leclerc is for example the third biggest seller of clothing in France, behind Decathlon and Galeries Lafayette and Carrefour in 9th place. 
Also showing the French taste for affordable clothing is the garage sale phenomenon which has taken hold of France since the 2008 financial crisis, says Thoumine. 
“A trend which has hit areas around France is for the buying and selling second-hand clothes,” he said. 
So while France might be the home of Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton, it seems the French are not quite the dedicated followers of fashion they are believed to be. 


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.