Q&A with inspiring, intelligent and eclectic women around the globe that we admire. They all working in creative fields, dared to follow their dreams and convert their hobby to a job. We asked questions - they tell stories.
We catch up with beautiful, smart and funny Monica Ainley - fashion journalist and brand consultant to ask about how come she is so cool and successful in her under 30.
ZZ: What did you do right before coming to the Sprezzatura today?
Monica: Today I woke up and I unpacked my suitcase from Marrakesh. I was really happy because I found a beautiful huge circular straw bag from Le Souk of La Medina. I dress very simple usually, so I like to look for interesting geometric shapes, things that I can add to my outfits to make it more interesting, and accessories.
ZZ: Can you describe yourself with 3 things?
Monica:Ok let's say... My tortoiseshell Tom Ford spectacles; An oversized white shirt and a radio.
ZZ: Are you more Nsync or Backstreet Boys?
Monica: I love it, this is a good one! I have a weird respect for Justin Timberlake. So I would have to go with Nsync.
ZZ: 50 Shades of Grey or Dorian Grey?
Monica: Haha, to read or for my own life!? To read, Dorian of course. In my own life I’m thinking neither! Although I am glad 50 Shades of Gray exists. Broke down some serious barriers.
ZZ: Are you more Rachel of Phoebe?
Monica: What do you think? I wanna know what you think...
ZZ: But we want to know how you feel! (We think you’re more of a Phoebe, you’re kind of a crazy gal)
Monica: Actually I feel I’m more of a Rachel. When I watch her mess up I admit I sometimes think, “oh dear, I’d totally make that mistake.”
ZZ: What was your first job in fashion?
Monica: When I was 16 I was the girl at the front of the store who said “Hey, welcome to Abercrombie” all day. Does that count?
Then my first real fashion job was as an intern in the features desk of British Vogue. Very exciting for me at the time! Although, I was in Journalism School and I wanted to be like Christiane Amanpour. I really admire her. But then I slowly realised “oh good, I can do my hobby as a job”, and combine reporting with fashion, for the time being at least...
ZZ: How did you come up with the idea of Fashion No Filter?
Monica: Well, there are a few parts to that. First of all, Camille and had wanted to work together for a long time. We both love podcasts journalism, we are secretly both videos geeks. The podcasts were the internet answer to traditional radio.
We just had this day when we came up with it. We wanted to start a new way of consuming fashion recording. It really differs from the way that we consume fashion in magazines, I love magazines, I love reading online. But it’s hard to focus on the words when the pictures are there. So if you see beautiful women dressed up with amazing clothes, your eyes are actually not going to drop to the text. I remember when I was young noticing my mom reading Vogue. She’s really intellectual and a huge reader but when she had Vogue, she just turned all the pages looking for the clothes she liked...
So we wanted to discuss the industry, all the questions that people are always asking us.“Why is it like this? What’s this?”. And we figured with the radio format, we could actually get the point across! That’s how we pick the subjects: things that people inside and outside the industry seems to be interested in. And we thought that if we’re gonna do the subjects it would be great to actually have people really listening to the story and the interviews rather than focussing on street style shots or an editorial. Plus, podcasting is a super exciting new media, it’s already a huge thing in North America where I’m from and in the UK as well, it’s just becoming a thing in France.
ZZ: You know some friends that never listen to podcasts, you find it difficult to make them listen to yours and explain the whole concept of a podcast?
Monica: No, because, for every person that doesn’t know about it, there is someone who’s obsessed with podcasts and loves them. We’ve had some pretty incredible numbers of downloads; we’ve really been taken aback. It seems to be a snowball effect and we’re really excited.
ZZ: Camille Charriere is your partner in crime. So, how is it to work with a friend?
Monica: I wouldn’t work with every friend. Camille is incredibly hard working! We have a similar work ethic. We really prioritize work, despite the fact that we also manage to have a lot of fun in our lives. We also balance each other really well in terms of our personalities, in terms of our experiences and in terms of what we can both bring to the table for this project...it just makes sense and it works.
ZZ: Fashion No Filter, is it more for fun or for business? Or everything is for business?
Monica: Listen, it is my favorite thing to do. Interviewing, recording. I find it very very fun but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is, of course, a business project. I think part of the reason that it's working well thus far is that we both enjoy it so much. So, I think that’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation. I think everyone who truly manages to do want they actually want ultimately finds it difficult to differentiate between business and fun.
ZZ: What are you working on at the moment?
Monica: Well, I’ll give you some examples! I’m working on 3 very interesting young brands. The lovely Santosh cashmere brand is one. The designers are in Mongolia right now sourcing cashmere: I can’t wait to see the pictures. Then, I just got back from Marrakesh, I interviewed the designer from Kalmar which is a new London-based brand. It is аll about being inspired by the Marrakesh way of life and she invited us for this wonderful weekend to understand her culture, and to understand the brand.
I’m also working with Zoé Leboucher, from Admise Paris, she’s about to start to work on her new collection. We have some exciting shoots coming soon that I styled. So you know, I’m consulting, I’m writing, and now, we’re also working on episode 5, which is gonna be about “musical chairs” - how designers designers are traded between fashion houses so quickly these days. Like football players!
ZZ: In what city do you feel freer to dress up? And why?
Monica: I think in NYC. It’s pretty go for it!. But it depends, dress up like dress really chic - Paris. Dress wacky - London. Dress just super cool and no one cares, it’s New York. Oh, and when in Canada, I feel free to dress down!
ZZ: Where is the Monica that you like the most?
Monica: Well, I hope I’m myself in every city but I do feel very inspired here in Paris.
ZZ: About Paris, do you think that sometimes Paris makes us too conservative?
Monica: I don’t think Paris is conservative in general because I think the French are incredibly liberated about talking about sex and the gender struggle. Look at America right now -their current government are way behind on so many women’s rights questions. Thankfully France is in a very exciting new political era.
But, if you meant in terms of fashion...French have the chicest uniform on earth and when you find something good - why break it?
I don’t criticize the French for dressing all the same, they all look amazing. “Oh the French, they all wear black”, people say. So what? They all look beautiful and, frankly, chicer than everybody else. We have a saying in English called “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
ZZ: What trend annoys you the most?
Monica: Without naming any names, brands that are selling you something you could buy at a used clothes store, for two euros, and charging thousands of pounds. It’s embarassing.
ZZ: About your content, do you know what is your «Victoria Beckham pose»?
Monica: I’m not sure I know what you mean!
ZZ: Victoria Beckham poses the exact same way in every single picture.
Monica: Oh, I need to get one of those.
ZZ: Actually, we think you already have one.
Monica: Oh! What is it?
ZZ: To be honest, we’ve been stalking you on Instagram, you have 17 pictures of you laying down on the floor!
Monica: Do I? That’s brilliant! I can’t even remember but I’m not actually surprised...
ZZ: Did you pictured yourself as you are now?
Monica: It’s pretty close actually to what I wanted to do. I definitely wanted to be a journalist, I just wasn’t sure if I should go with the news or with fashion. So that was the only big decision I had to make. I always had a pretty good idea of what I liked and what I was interested in and what I was good at, even quite young in school. Well… put it this way, I couldn’t do maths, but I was good at writing, and all the creative stuff, like theatre… so I guess I had a vague idea where I was going from a young age.
ZZ: Who do you think we should interview next?
Monica: I see Alighieri jewellery on the cover of Please Magazine which you have on the wall here, so you should definitely speak to Rosh Mahtani, the designer. She is wonderful and brilliant.
ZZ: Could you pick 3 things to describe her? We’ll ask her the same question.
Monica: A Pentax 35ml analog camera; An Alighieri Jewellery Lion medallion; A rare vintage copy of Dante's Inferno.
ZZ: What is your favorite brand in Sprezzatura?
Monica: Wanda Nylon and AWAKE.
ZZ: We’ll love to know your favorites spots in Paris, so we can recommend them in our city guides in our application (download the app the get the full list).
Monica: The Picasso Museum
Café de la Poste
Hotel Particulier in Montmartre
ZZ: What is Sprezzatura for you?
Monica: This Italian word appears to originate from Baldasare Castiglione's Book of The Courtier, where it's described as "a certain nonchalance". In this context, it described the courtier's successful attempt "to conceal conscious effort that into difficult actions." Basically, it's trying to look like you didn't try.
I think this concept speaks fashion in recent years a lot, (ehm, normcore I'm looking at you!)
Interview: Hena Labidi