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2023-06-20 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine How Paris Taught an American Stylist to Truly Live

How Paris Taught an American Stylist to Truly Live

Labor of love
PARIS MATCH The writer Ajiri Aki outside Du Pain et des Idées
Photo by Jessica Antola

When Nigarian-born, Texas-reared fashion stylist Ajiri Aki moved to Paris a decade ago, she was flabbergasted by how laissez-faire the French really are. “In fashion, we always complained about how slow the French are about getting things done,” she tells Avenue, “and how annoying it is they don’t work in August. But when I arrived in France, I was even more shocked to experience it firsthand. If you try to speed it up, there will be blood.”

But during the pandemic, Aki, the founder of the lifestyle brand Madame de la Maison, popped a French chill pill and soon started to embrace the tortoise-like way of life. “I now see how much joy I feel from learning and appreciating to live my life at a slower pace. I get to connect and feel calmer.”

TABLE FOR ONE Aki lunching at Le Chardenoux in Paris
Photo by Jessica Antola

She decided to tell her uniquely American-in-Paris tale. “I started to think about my life,” she recalls. “I realized how much my values and personality changed since moving to France. I started documenting the lessons I learned from the French.” The result is Joie: A Parisian’s Guide to Celebrating the Good Life (Clarkson Potter). Part guidebook and part memoir, Aki’s beautifully photographed tome celebrates all things French, from how to host a très Français dinner party to the art of being a flâneur, and to finding the best baguettes in the Île-de-France. “I loved deep diving into French culture,” she explains.“It was fascinating to chat with my friends about how and why they do what they do.”

The chapters are broken down into five French lessons (no verb conjugations!): on gathering with friends, caring for yourself, being able to spot quality when you shop, finding beauty around you, and, of course, slowing down. The book will inspire anyone to jet to Paris, if simply to eat one’s way through the cafés and outdoor food stalls that Aki lovingly writes about. “My palate has changed,” she says. “I can now taste when something was made in a factory versus by a farmer or producer.”

Far from New York’s frenetic fashion scene, Aki now relishes finding joie in life’s simple pleasures, French style. “I do most of my flâneur-ing when the kids are at school, so I can truly be free and savor those moments,” she says, adding a few things that bring a smile to her face as an expat: “Café lingering, sitting at a big table full of friends with half-empty bottles, lots of food, and one too many loud children running around.”

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