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Paris with Flynn Coleman

flynn coleman paris the style line Marion Colombani

Photos by Marion Colombani for The Style Line

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Revisit our story with Flynn – Photos by Marion Colombani for The Style Line

Flynn Coleman is a woman of the world.

You may remember our initial features with Flynn in collaboration with WITNESS followed by her Neighborhood Story in San Francisco where she kindly outlined a few of her go-to destinations around the city. As an international human rights attorney, ethical fashion entrepreneur, and a spirited activist, we’re constantly in awe of Flynn’s steadfast commitment to her passions, and more importantly, her efforts to do what is right. Today she rejoins us from across the globe to share more on these ideas through the lens of one of our favorite cities: Paris. Without giving too much away, rediscover Flynn’s story, her thoughts on the synergy between travel and activism and the Paris she knows and hopes others get to experience at some point too. Also, enjoy exclusive photos from our day together by Marion Colombani for The Style Line.

flynn coleman paris the style line Marion Colombani

Hello! I’m an international

human rights attorney, an educator, an author, a public speaker, a former competitive athlete, a social entrepreneur and innovator, and a founder and CEO. I have a background in innovation and design for social impact, civil rights, innovative approaches to economic development, behavioral economics, international trade, war crimes, political reconciliation, humanitarian law, and improving access to justice through innovation. I believe that we all have a story to tell; that we are all equally and intrinsically valuable and inherently worthy, and that we all deserve to have our basic human rights protected, with the freedom to make we own choices about our lives and futures. Everyone should be able to live with dignity, and we all have a voice that deserves to be heard, which is at the foundation of all that I do.

Talk to us about your relationship to Paris. What brought you here for this trip, what do you enjoy most about life here and how has it fostered your relationship with style?

Paris is where my heart lives, always. I used to live in Paris (I have lived there several times, and always have plans to move back whenever I leave). I visit often (when I lived in London I took the Eurostar to Paris as often as possible), and spend as much time as I can in the city, and always will. I studied French Literature, History, and Philosophy at La Sorbonne. I also worked with an international law firm in Paris, and I studied French Criminal and Civil Law in Paris as well for a portion of my law degree. As Victor Hugo, author of my favorite story said, “[t]o study in Paris is to be born in Paris!” For this particular trip, I was en route to Italy, where I also used to live and made time to see friends in Paris, have a few meetings, and frolic around my all-time favorite town.

I love everything steeped in Parisian life and culture, from the food and art to the shopping and history, the nightlife and universities, to wandering, strolling, and idling around the city, my most treasured pastime (there is even a literary word in French for someone who does this type of urban exploring: “flâneuse” or “flâneur.”) Essentially, Paris to me is sacred. And most of all, I love my memories and adventures in laughter and love, joy and adventure, passion and fun, and my conversations and experiences with my friends and community there. 

I’ve soaked up elements of global styles that I love from spending my life around the world. However, French style (unsurprisingly for this dedicated Francophile) is my ideal. In true French fashion, I tend to prefer a natural look with minimal make-up, lots of time-honored black outfits, and I also love the tradition of having a few stunning and classic pieces that are timeless, perfectly tailored, and that last a lifetime. 

flynn coleman paris the style line Marion Colombani

It’s also an homage to an ethical fashion approach that moves away from fast and disposable fashion and towards the art of slow living and slow fashion, which encompasses everything from sustainability, less waste, and fair wages, to a way of life that relishes living in the moment and taking the time to revel and delight in everything from your food and wine to honoring the people and stories behind what we consume, as well as how we travel, work, and live our lives. 

My grandmother had the most elegant wardrobe, and I still wear some of her pieces every season. I also have my classic spots where I go whenever I’m back to hunt for my next treasured item, and each piece I own from Paris has a story. From a jewel encrusted and backless black silk New Year’s Eve dress, to a gifted pair of vintage jade and pearl earrings from an incredible antique jewelry shop, Paris is the home and the epicenter of fashion and style in general, and is a very important influence on my own personal style, which translates far beyond clothes, and infuses a sense of passion and timelessness into a way of living and walking through the world.

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Parc Monceau

Address: 35 Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris, France

“I am a lifelong lover of the parks and gardens of Paris and have fond memories of wandering through them ever since my first trip here as a little girl with my family. Parc Monceau is a little less well-known than some of the other gorgeous beauties like Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg, places I also love and spend a lot of time wandering through. I would often walk and run in Parc Monceau when I was working with the law firm in Paris. It was close to my flat and is very close to one of my favorite shops in Paris, and I adore the light that seeps into every corner of this magical place. The Corinthian pillars that surround a small lake (that was completely frozen over this winter) are situated along patches of wildflowers and a nearby stone bridge, set amongst the statues and grassy areas where people walk and children play from sunrise to sunset in this ethereal and whimsical park.”

Shop Flynn’s Look: Floreat embroidered tulle skirt (Similar $39.95)Reformation top (Similar, $58) Madewell navy boots (Similar, $139.50)Malena shawl (metallic gray pure silk Joy collection designed by Flynn)

“To retain immense honor in one’s identity, while always remaining open to celebrating diversity, innovation, progress, and what’s to come is often a challenging balance, and Paris takes great pride in living at the edge of this juxtaposition, and also celebrating the joie de vivre that is quintessential to the Parisian way of life.”

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La Terrasse des Archives

Address: 51 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, France

“Le Marais is among my favorite neighborhoods in all of Paris and is the ideal neighborhood to “promener” (“walk leisurely” or “stroll” in French). In addition to being of historical and cultural significance, and beautifully diverse, it’s home to some of the great galleries, boutiques, and brunch spots Paris. A perfect Sunday here is a long, lazy brunch, full of fresh coffee and tea (my favorite teahouse, Mariage Frères, is also in Le Marais), crêpes with lemon and honey, croissants, beautiful plates of fruit, salads, and baskets of bread, snuggling with the in-house café cat, and then setting off to wander the narrow streets, shopping, laughing, visiting the awesome Musée Picasso, and meandering some more.”

Shop Flynn’s Look: Madewell high waisted black denim jeans $39.99Marc Jacobs studded booties (Similar, $201.60) Malena Lalibela tote bag (designed by Flynn and created in Ethiopia) $170,  Cashmere duster sweater and French camisole  

Paris is known for its beauty, history, and allure – even with this in mind what is one question you hope people ask more of when it comes to visiting or living in Paris?

There is so much to explore, from the grand halls and palaces to the famous boulevards, restaurants, and shops, but I highly recommend putting your phone away and meandering down the endless whimsical tiny streets that strike your sense of mystery and magic. I first lived in Paris before smartphones and ubiquitous use of the Internet and my friends were French, my world was French, and it was one of the greatest times of my life to get lost in a stunning little neighborhood, ask a local baker for directions, find out the life story of the bookseller at my favorite bookstore, laugh with my friends as we danced through the evenings, and soak in all of the beauty that is always around you if you dare to look.  Also, the French art of conversation is unique and unparalleled, so I highly recommend learning a bit of French (even “hello” and “thank you” go a very long way), and enjoying (and always respecting) the cultural differences in how life is lived there, and learning from the people around you, engaging with friends new and old, asking them what they love, what they are passionate about, what their favorite book is, what art means to them, what their favorite memory is, or what they love about Paris. And then bask in the majestic art of conversation without any expectation or endgame, whether it’s talking and strolling through the city streets or lingering for hours upon hours over an incredible meal paired with a wonderful wine, that is all at the heart of being French.

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Notre-Dame de Paris

Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France

Paris is the most beautiful city in the world and is awash with stunning historical landmarks laid out in immaculate detail and design throughout the city. In addition to being an incredible example of French Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame is en route as one crosses from the Right to the Left Bank of Paris, and vice versa, so I often pass this majestic building when I cross one of the many breathtaking bridges that connect the two sides of Paris. It’s a wide-open space full of romance (a friend of mine had a surprise wedding there) and is a monument that can be seen from all around as you approach it. It is also right by the Seine, a river that has a very special place in my heart. I also highly recommend taking the Bateaux Mouches at sundown to see the cityscape of Paris as you glide along the river by boat. I don’t often do the most tourist-filled activities, but my experiences on the Bateaux Mouches, watching the architecture, life, and glittering lights of Paris go by, capped off with experiencing the sparkling Eiffel Tower by moonlight, have been nothing short of heavenly.

SHOP FLYNN’S LOOK: CATHERINE MALANDRINO MAXI DRESS (SIMILAR, $128)MADEWELL NAVY BOOTS and Hand hammered golden bangles from Flynn’s mom

With a nod to your profession and with the uncertain political climate, in your opinion why is it important to travel in general and immerse yourself in new cultures?

Traveling around the world has informed much of my career and my worldview, and as David Mitchell says in Cloud Atlas, “[t]ravel far enough, you meet yourself.”  Travel, whether it’s a place near or far, known or unknown, is an essential piece of finding ourselves, our tribe, and our place in the world. As Hans Christian Andersen knew well, “to travel is to live.” There are so many reasons that travel of all kinds is critical, now more than ever. For me, travel is a way of life and a metaphor for our paths as humans and social beings. It’s a way to connect with ourselves and others, to celebrate our diversity, and to understand more about our common humanity. Travel helps us to learn how to help others, how to widen our lens and remove some of the filters that cloud what we perceive as true. To immerse oneself in another culture is to see that the world is vast and beautifully diverse, but also so small, in that we are all the same underneath it all, and that we all bleed the same blood. 

Travel also shows us how to creatively solve problems, together. If we are willing to listen to the heartbeat of the universe, it can teach us resourcefulness and compassion for ourselves and others, as well as tolerance, communication, and acceptance. In learning from and connecting with others, we also learn to love ourselves along the way. For me, it’s about cultivating a sense of wonder and curiosity, and always remembering what MLK Jr. said, that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

It’s true what Mary Anne Radmacher noticed, that “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” Seeing the sun set and rise as I sat on the steps by the Pyramide du Louvre has changed me, and seeing the same moon and the sunshine across the globe is an intuitive reminder that we are all in this together. So whether you understand more about who you are and what lights you up, or you support a local organization or community you believe in, or you learn about someone doing incredible things half a world away, or you share the stories of people you meet, through travel, you find yourself as well as ways to support and learn from the people all around you.

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Shakespeare and Company

Address: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

“Books are some my most beloved treasures, and reading and writing are my great solace in this world. And Shakespeare and Company, on the Left Bank, is a mecca for vintage and used books, and is also a free reading library for those who pass by. It’s a place for strangers to connect over books and coffee, a longtime respite for aspiring and established writers, and it holds the history and lore of French bohemian culture and literary life. It also has a delicious little café that is a fantastic spot for lunch with friends, getting work done, or reading, of course. The café is also filled with books (and a gorgeous assortment of vegetarian delights). I’ve met some amazing friends by sharing a small table with strangers and connecting over a favorite novel or a cherished story of being in Paris. Simply put, it’s a bastion for all and a cozy sanctuary of literature and culture, right along the banks of the Seine.”

Shop Flynn’s Look: Catherine Malandrino maxi dress (Similar, $128)Madewell navy boots (Similar, $139.50) with a used or vintage book in hand to add to Flynn’s beloved book collection or to gift to a friend

How would you advise the next generation of creatives to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

I believe that creativity can change the world, and in fact, amidst an era of global uncertainty, literature, poetry, design, and the arts tend to thrive. So seek to find out matters to you, what lights you up, what makes you feel alive, and stay as close as possible to that, and align your decisions with that axis. And there is always a way to leave a positive imprint on the world through what you love. In my classes, I often tell my students to find the intersection of what they love, what the world needs, and what they are good at. This is your own personal mold-breaking and world-changing sweet spot. So be on a lifelong adventure to find that, and to continue veering towards it in new and powerful ways.

It’s also essential to go where the love is and to invest in those who invest in you. Seek to choose love over fear, and when fear gets the best of you and knocks you down, to stand up and try again. Fear will always be along for the ride, but so is love, if you are willing to look for it. Persevere. Become resilient. Treat your community well, be kind to yourself and others. No one has your unique voice and your perspective, and the world wants to hear from you. Like everyone, you have a story to tell and a voice that deserves to be heard, so find out what you are passionate about, find your tribe and community, your sense of meaning, and try to live your life in accordance with your deepest values and the causes that make you feel alive and on fire. There you will find your own version of success. For me, it’s about remembering why I do what I do and coming back to that promise again and again. It’s about helping people, believing in them, and investing in them so they can make their own choices about their futures, and live with dignity and joy, on their own terms, not mine or anyone else’s. In uplifting others, we uplift us all. And ultimately, life is all about connecting with yourself and others, learning from them, and helping when you can.

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Musee d’Orsay

Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France

 “I love to spend time relishing in the majesty of the museums of Paris, home to some of the most spectacular art collections in the world, including some of the most visited museums on Earth, including Musée Louvre, which is also very important to me, along with Musée Rodin and Musée d’Orsay. Musée d’Orsay is in the 7th arrondissement, housed in a Beaux-Arts former railway station. I often walk to the museum from my apartment and linger as I weave through the charmed streets of the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the way to the entrance of the museum, which sits along the Seine. As a lover of train travel, particularly in Europe, this adds to the incredible feeling of being transported into a world of breathtaking grandeur as soon as you enter the main entrance hall. This museum specializes in French art and hosts the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks in the world. And just being in the space, whether it’s walking along the sculptures through the grand hallway, gazing up at the enormously spectacular golden clock in the main lobby station, or paging through the exquisite art books in the museum bookstore, is a work of art in and of itself.”

Shop Flynn’s Look: Catherine Malandrino maxi dress (Similar, $128)Madewell navy boots (Similar, $139.50)XIV jewelryNARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil $27

Talk to us about Paris’ small business community. What do you love most about the local flavor here and how do you think the city supports small businesses and creatives in general?

Paris is so rich in history, culture, beauty, and art, and combining this with cutting edge design, thought, and fashion makes for a magical mélange of inspiration and utter style. There will forever and always be a local flavor in everything that’s done because there is such a strong loyalty to all things French, and this is truly a sight to behold. I have adored going beyond what one will typically see while visiting Paris, and immersing myself in living a life in Paris, which is quite a different story altogether. This includes spending precious time outside of the city and in the beauty that is the rest of the country as well. Being in the French countryside, in the Provinces, is a pure magic all its own. To retain immense honor in one’s identity, while always remaining open to celebrating diversity, innovation, progress, and what’s to come is often a challenging balance, and Paris takes great pride in living at the edge of this juxtaposition, and also celebrating the joie de vivre that is quintessential to the Parisian way of life. There is a fierce adherence to savoring life and marinating in its vibrancy, and this philosophy has much to teach in the art of passion, perspective, and joy.

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Paprika

Address: 65 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France

“Paprika is a cozy restaurant and eclectic teahouse that specializes in healthy delights and a delicious assortment of house-made desserts in an array of luscious colors and flavors, set amidst a backdrop of flea market and vintage finds, from repurposed pallette crates and mason jar lanterns to pastel colored chairs and mismatched tea sets. Savor the sweet offerings as you watch the world go by from one of the cozy couches that looks out onto the edge of Le Marais.”

Shop Flynn’s Look: Madewell high waisted black denim jeans $39.99Marc Jacobs studded booties (Similar, $201.60) Malena Lalibela tote bag (designed by Flynn and created in Ethiopia) $170,  Cashmere duster sweater and French camisole, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil $27

“I have adored going beyond what one will typically see while visiting Paris, and immersing myself in living a life in Paris, which is quite a different story altogether.”