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Parisian Teens On The Myth Of The "French Girl"

Direct from Paris, the Gucci Gang, comprised of Angelina, Thaïs, Annabelle, and Crystal (who are all under the age of 18) is today's more fashionable version of yesterday's BFF4L-type squads — hold the friendship bracelets, add skate hoodies. And though you probably haven't heard of them — admittedly, we stumbled upon the group on Instagram about a month ago — they're a prime example of today's ultra-woke, deliciously judicious youth.
Photos: Courtesy of Gucci Gang.
Annabelle (L) and Crystal.
If you're not already having flashbacks of your own high school friend group, perhaps it's easier to relate to them individually. Like most squads, the Gucci Gang has an unofficial leader — it's Angelina, who at 15 is the most outspoken and most followed, and has already landed on the cover of L'Officiel. She possesses a great talent for not giving a fuck, but is also the kind of teen who makes eye contact when she speaks. Next, you have Thaïs, also 15, whose Parisian aesthetic cleverly contrasts her open ears and open mind. There's Crystal, the youngest, at 14, and arguably most eager to make shit happen. And finally, Annabelle, 16, who is their secret weapon of sorts, the member who may not say much, but packs an unapologetic sense of humour, if you can get her to crack a smile. All of these young women are bonded, as their culture would have it, by being so French and anti-French at the same time.

Thanks to French icons like Françoise Dorléac, Sylvie Vartan, and Françoise Hardy, the Parisian woman is her own conundrum. She's dramatic yet poised, lovable yet absurd, and impossibly perfect. It's a misinterpretation people are hell-bent on mimicking, which is why books like How to Be a Parisian Wherever You Are exist, and are so popular. It's why so many of us conflate being "Parisian" with being "French," when they are not the same thing. But they are. But they're not.

This task of assuming the "French girl" role — which, thanks to the aforementioned clichés, we're led to believe French women are born into — is of no interest to the Gucci Gang. When it comes to fashion, for example, the idea of "effortless French girl style," to them, at least, is a thing of the past, a paradox, or at least unattainable bullshit. They're not phased by price tags nor hype ("Vetements is a joke" and "Sandro, it's old Paris," Angelina says), they know where to find style when they need it (in Paris, private parties and thrift stores are apparently where it's at — not the streets), and unlike their name might suggest, they have no qualms with admitting to not wearing Gucci all that often (or many designer goods at all, for that matter).
In fact, Gucci, the fashion label, has nothing do with their name: "This girl in high school's email address was called 'Gucci bella,' and we started calling each other 'Gucci bella,'" Angelina explains. "And then we thought, Shit, why don't we just call ourselves 'Gucci Gang?'" Finishing her sentence, which happens often in this group, Thaïs followed, "We put it in our Instagram bios, and then during our first interview, they asked if we call ourselves the 'Gucci Gang' for fun. Then it just blew up."

Yet as uninteresting as they'd like to present themselves (that's the self-deprecating Parisian in them), their coolness is seriously unavoidable. Between them, they boast over 50,000 followers; their #nofilter posts include photos from the front row at Paris Fashion Week; they host exclusive parties, share behind-the-scenes footage from photo shoots, and make Paris look like a playground of teenagers breaking with French tradition. They spend their time sifting through thrift shops, like Emmaüs, Kilo Shop, and Free’P’Star, which may seem like a quintessential teen activity, if these weren't the exact places Vetements mastermind Demna Gvasalia claims to get his inspiration. (Of course, he's also looking at kids like the Gucci Gang, who hang out in the 20th, 6th, and 4th arrondissements, neighbourhoods populated by young people of all different backgrounds — the type notably left out of Gvasalia's runway casting.) Thus, the Gucci Gang is in a league of their own.
On a recent trip to New York, the girls found their answer to the often heated discussion between fashion folk: Parisian versus New Yorker style. "In France, everything is taboo," Angelina says. "Everything, really. It’s true. The other day, we were walking around in the city, I was wearing an orange dress and Thaïs was wearing these super-short shorts, and we were saying we would never wear this in Paris. Never in the world. Guys here, they will talk to you like, ‘Hey, you’re cute.’ But in France, it’s more like, ‘Bitch, look at that dress.’" Crystal adds: "They judge you a lot in Paris. It's a judgmental city."

Obviously, the girls haven't spent enough time in New York to get their first "fucking bitch" on the subway, but nevertheless, it's a sad-yet-helpful perspective that degrades the romantic image of Paris and New York as sublimely melancholic cities. That's been happening long before the Gang's time, of course, turning tradition on its head and making it one's own, but they're still piercingly what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Their mere presence amid Paris' climate of monotony and institution is a sign of progress.
So, what is there to learn from four young women who just go with the flow? Especially when there's no method to the madness and no secret French girl formula to follow? Apart from admiring typical luxury designers (Céline, Amélie Pichard, White Project, Grace Wales Bonner, and Gucci, duh), the Gucci Gang's unique identity includes other fundamental components: They've got the tenacity that comes with the youth of today's obsession with the internet (and its unlimited access to anything at any time), they possess a rawness that French culture hasn't seen since the days of Jean-Luc Godard and La Nouvelle Vague (or even earlier, the revolutionary time that was narrated by Simone de Beauvoir) and they're uncensored, which is the only thing that's going to tie American and French youth together.

Surprisingly, they set limits to their power (yes, we'd call it power). And they're brutally honest about their age, their haters, and their "fame." "It’s easy to hate us, actually, because we are not doing something, we’re not really doing anything," Angelina says. "Whenever you get a little bit of attention, work, and money, people are going to hate you — if you are 25, 16, 50 — people hate when you’re successful. We are not successful, but that's a part of success. And we’re making money. But we didn't ask for all this attention. We are just friends and we like to do things on Instagram."
Crystal notes aggressive Tweets the girls receive: "It’s not even that [people are] mad at us; it’s hate, real hate. It’s personal shit and all. It’s crazy." Thaïs interrupts: "I want to say something. I want to say something to all [of] the people saying fake things and all that. They need to understand that we are like 16." Sure, they may be young, but that doesn't change the fact that they're seated front row at fashion shows alongside industry influencers. Angelina (remember, she's the leader), isn't blind to that fact: "If I was a normal kid, I would hate us, too."

All of that, then (the followers, the haters, the je ne sais quoi 'tude) would make the Gucci Gang a piece of fashion's future. What started out as an innocent pact between friends has, beyond their strongest grip, turned into something worth documenting. The primal virtue of friendship (and girl power) is perhaps what makes the Gucci Gang — and, frankly, Generation Z — so strong. They don't need affirmation from anyone but themselves; and if they happen to gain international recognition along the way, so be it. Because if you ask them to describe what they are, they'll tell you plain and simple: "We're best friends."