Monique Foy: “Australians are at an advantage living and working in Paris – we bring an international approach”
Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance
Working in Paris, in the fashion industry; there are few things that could sound more glamorous. While there is undoubtedly a certain je ne sais quoi about the City of Light and its most associated and stigmatised industry, Sydney-native Monique Foy, Director of Marketing, Communication and Image at menswear brand AMI Alexandre Mattiussi, dispels the rumours that working in the thick of the fashion capital is all allure: “It’s a city that is very challenging, but rewarding if you stick it out.”
A self-described “foodie” and fitness junkie, Advance got an insight into a day in the life of this Parisian adoptee, and the advice she would give to Australians looking to make the move. And, of course, the best places to eat!
ON WORKING IN FASHION IN PARIS
How long have you been in Paris? How did you find yourself there, working in fashion?
I've been in Paris for eight years, and a Francophile for as long as I can remember. It was my favourite subject at school, and I continued studying French at university through my arts and law degree. I've always had a fascination for the fashion industry and I worked at both a law firm and a fashion magazine throughout my studies. I knew fashion editorial wasn't my calling though; I wanted to get into the business/corporate side of things. Shortly after finishing university, I was working at a law firm until I decided to take the plunge and move to the city where fashion is a very big business.
Did you have a vocational background in fashion at all?
No, not at all. I was lucky when I got to Paris because the first job I landed was in marketing for one of the biggest luxury groups – Richemont – owning fashion, watch and jewellery brands such as Cartier, Montblanc and Chloe. It was the perfect segue between the corporate environment I'd been accustomed to working in, and the world of luxury and fashion that I was looking to enter.
Was the ability to speak French a necessity?
Richemont is a Swiss company, so there was a mixture of languages spoken. The office life was in French, but all the reports and recommendations we wrote were in English.
What was your next career move?
At Richemont, I was in purely a strategic and consulting style role, and after a while I decided I wanted to get my hands dirty and get some operational experience within a brand. I was approached by womenswear brand Elie Saab to come on board as the head of marketing. It was so crazy and hectic and fast paced but overall; incredible. I loved the cultural element of working for a Lebanese company in Paris. There were people switching from English and French to Arabic in the same sentence.
I was there for four and half years until my recent move to menswear brand AMI Alexandre Mattiussi, where I'm now the Director of Marketing, Communication and Image. I thought after having worked in watches, jewellery and womenswear, menswear would be an interesting challenge.
How is it different?
I was working on about eight collections per year at Elie Saab; ready-to-wear, pre-collections, haute couture, bridal, fragrance and more. At AMI, we do two main collections a year. There's definitely not less to do though, instead we are able to go more in depth with marketing the collections. It’s a very cool menswear brand that’s on the up, and it's such a privilege from a marketing perspective to be working for a brand that is naturally progressing.
How stark were the cultural differences when you first moved over from Australia?
It took me about two years to actually start liking living here! Once everything fell into its place I began to fall in love with living in Paris. It’s a city that is very challenging, but rewarding if you stick it out.
I, like many Australians, put a lot of emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle. When I first came here, I struggled to find healthy places to eat and places to exercise. Now there are yoga studios and healthy restaurants opening every day; the trend has definitely arrived. I actually created a side project called "The Light Side Paris" which is a newsletter about new healthy wellness spots in Paris and events to help people keep up!
DAY IN THE LIFE OF…
After waking, I go for a run in the Jardin des Plantes, a beautiful botanical garden and one of my favourite parks in Paris. It was previously used to grow medicinal herbs for the King of France. It also contains a small zoo that was started during the French Revolution for the animals at Versailles. I love starting off the day in such a beautiful and interesting place. Then I come back and do my 20 minutes of Vedic meditation. Sport and meditation help me keep my relaxed Australian vibe in such a busy city!
I benefit from the fact that (at least in my industry) work starts slightly later here than it does in Australia. I walk from the upper to the lower Marais and across the Place des Vosges to get to work, which is really a blessing, as I get to avoid the Metro. At over 400 years old, I think Place de Vosges is one of the most beautiful squares in Paris and was home to so many interesting historical figures. In contrast, at AMI we work in a new loft type of space in the lower Marias. It's a very young environment, very casual, very cool, but the days are always intense.
I eat lunch at a market called Le Marché des Enfants-Rouges in the Marais. It’s the oldest market in Paris, first started in 1615! It has all these amazing fresh little food stands and stores. The crepes are out of this world.
My evenings can be a collapse-on-the-couch situation or an exercise class. But mostly I'll go for dinner with friends. I don't think my kitchen has ever been used. It's just for decoration.
I’m a big foodie! I feel compelled to try every new opening in the city which keeps me very busy. Paris has really gone through what I think is a recent renaissance of the modern cocktail and food scene. There are a lot of French people who have gone to live overseas in the big cosmopolitan and international cities and brought ideas back, and things are just exploding at the moment.
For an Australians visiting, I would recommend Frenchie Wine Bar, Vivant, or Restaurant Bachaumont that has modern French food and uses beautiful products. Nanashi is my regular casual go-to and an old favourite that's well known by the fashion crowd. Les Caves Legrand also has a great wine list and is located in a very cute little covered passageway.
For anyone looking to start a career in the fashion industry here, my advice would be to do part of your studies in France. That will give you the paperwork to do an internship, through which you can get really amazing experience at the big (or small) fashion houses. There is a high volume of internship opportunities so it’s not as difficult as you might think. They’re all around six months in duration, and you gain really invaluable insight into the inner workings of these companies and the industry. As Anglophones, Australians are also at an advantage – we bring an international approach, which is always appreciated.