Jeanne Damas never wanted to be famous. But 17 years after creating her first Tumblr account at the age of 13, the influencer, model, fashion designer, and art director is well and truly in the spotlight. Followed religiously by 1.5 million people on Instagram, she is celebrating the fifth anniversary of her ready-to-wear brand Rouje with a book – a photo album in French and English “produced like a film, a glamorous road movie, an inspiring, joyful scrapbook” – and is about to launch a new line of beauty products.
Rouje, she says, “is about everyday feminine looks that draw inspiration from vintage and are made by and for women.” Her main influence, before Georgia O’Keeffe, Penélope Cruz and “the strong women from Almodóvar’s films,” is her mother, her “first icon.” Then there is her sister Louise, who makes jewelry, the stylist Nathalie Dumeix, who she met in her parents’ restaurant when she was a teenager, and who sparked her passion for fashion, and the lingerie designer Yasmine Eslami, “[her] friend for over a decade,” for whom she is a muse and an ambassador.
These are the women featured in the book La Vie en Rouje, along with Malian singer Inna Modja, American actress Maya Thurman-Hawke, and painters Inès Longevial and Nina Koltchitskaia. They are accompanied by Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Béart, and Léa Seydoux, who wore a Rouje dress in the movie No Time to Die. Free, sensual, and natural, whether on the terrace of a café in Paris, on the harbor in Lisbon, or on the beach in Malibu, they form a succession of pictures in this stylish lookbook illuminated by the sun and retro splashes.
“This book is a voyage,” writes Jeanne Damas in the foreword. “Through my dreams and my imagination, starting with my early childhood memories in Paris. Years spent in my parents’ bistro, hanging out in between the customers’ tables. Listening to conversations, observing women talk about anything and everything. Photographing my mother, my sister, my friends, capturing moments of life and beauty – creating stories with images.”
“Women Before Clothing”
Images is the operative word. The entrepreneur, who considered a career in acting and studied theater at the Atelier Blanche Salant, thinks nothing of posing for the Rouje campaigns. Last year, she was photographed candidly in her daily life in Paris, with her partner, pushing her son in a baby carriage, leaving a grocery store with six rolls of toilet paper under her arm, and in a dress and sneakers on an electric scooter, carrying a bunch of leeks in her shopping bag.
When she was pregnant, she posed in lingerie for L’Officiel and Vogue before appearing on the cover of Elle with her baby in her arms. A few years earlier, she published In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light, presenting 20 portraits of women “each of whom embody, in their own way, the elegance, the carefree attitude, the charm, and the spirit of the legendary Parisian woman,” with her own photos and texts by Lauren Bastide, a journalist and the founder of the feminist podcast La Poudre.
Jeanne Damas is now continuing her ventures with Les Rencontres en Rouje, a web series focused on Parisian women including restaurant owner Coralie Kory and Syrian photographer Sara Kontar, as well as pursuing her longstanding partnership with La Maison des Femmes in Saint-Denis, which works with women who have been victims of violence. Combining activism with proudly brandished clichés, Jeanne Damas is still blazing her own trail. “You’re a Parisian when you live in Paris, when you love your city, and when you want to stay there,” she likes to say. “You don’t need to have been born there!”