Carla Bruni shows up right on time at the Bar des Théâtres, which is located on the Avenue Montaigne a stone’s throw from Christian Dior’s maison. She is wearing a velvet hat that she bought at a flea market, a small Azzedine Alaïa pullover in fluffy black velvet: a black cotton jumpsuit also by Alaïa: and black knee-high Michel Perris boots with a very high heel. She is carrying a Kelly bag by Hermès and is without make-up, jewellery, or a watch.

Why did you – a girl from a good family from Turin – decide to become a model?

Because I decided to work, and I wasn’t cut out for university studies. It was accessible. They asked me to do it. It is a respectable profession. Princesses model as well….

How did you get started?

I started at age nineteen a year after finishing high school in France. A year I spent in Paris doing nothing. I wasn’t very independent during that year, and I wanted more freedom. I thought that this job would give me more freedom, financially as well.

What does your work consist of?

My work consists of fashion shows and having my photograph taken, and these are two different types of jobs. The photographic model needs to learn to make sure she is in the best light that works for her and in the clothes that fit her best. Many important designers ask our opinion when we wear their clothes. We have a participatory role.

And what about fashion shows?

It’s a spectacle. The fashion show is the final step in the work. What counts is showing off the clothes. The clothes have the responsibility while in photographs what counts more is professional ability.

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about how you posed nude for the American magazine Playboy. Why did you do it?

Yes, this was talked about in Italy. The Italian press jumped on the word “nude,” and then jumped again on the word Playboy. It is a black-and-white portfolio of artistic nudes and shots while I am wearing in silver knickers. The photographer is Herb Ritts. This has already been done three times. The first time with Cindy Crawford and twice with the model Stephanie Seymour. These are photos that are very different from normal Playboy shots. These are special photos. The nipples aren’t shown, genitals aren’t shown. So you don’t really see anything. Furthermore, I have an agreement with the photographer to not sell these photos to any other publications, especially not to Italian publications.

Is it true that you will be a presenter at the Sanremo Festival?

Absolutely not. Nobody has offered me the job. I’m not good in television. That’s not my line of work.

Why are models today like the cinema stars of the past?

I think it has to do with the fact that the cinema stars of the past represented a perfect, very sophisticated image. They were never seen without make-up or without jewellery. Today cinema stars are much more than actresses. The dream, however, is for a person that is out of reach.

Are models out of reach?

No, but they have a very sophisticated image that makes people dream. Actresses are without make-up…

Do you love fashion?

I do. I love it very much. I’ve met many interesting, unique, and cultured people. I think that designers are artists.

Who are your favourite designers?

It depends on the country. As for European designers, my favourites are Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Azzedine Alaïa.

And your favourite models?

Jean Shrimpton in the nineteen-sixties. Now probably Christy Turlington.

Do you feel beautiful?

No, I really don’t. On the contrary. I see myself up-close and so I see all of my defects.

Do you return frequently to Italy? To Turin?

To Turin once a year. In September when I go to see my parents in the countryside.

Do you feel an attachment to Italy?

I am deeply attached to Italy. We still feel very Italian. We speak in Italian amongst ourselves, though after having spent a lot of time in the United States, I surprise myself by often thinking in English.

What do you think about what’s happening today in our country?

I have the impression that it’s a sort of decline that one could generalise about the entire world. I think it is just one sign of many. There’s Italy but then there’s also (the former) Yugoslavia, the East, and Africa. There are many worse things going on.

There was a lot of talk about a relationship between you and Mick Jagger. Was it true or was it fabricated by the press?

It was fabricated by the press.

Who is your current boyfriend?

He’s French. He’s an actor. He’s an adorable person named Vincent Perez. He starred in the film Indochine.

What do you look for in a man?

I look for a vibe. Men that give me a vibe. I look for friendship and likeness, something in common that makes things possible. When you are too different, nothing is possible at all.

Would you like to get married and have children?

Yes, though I am not crazy about the idea of the white wedding with all of your drunken friends. I don’t like the idea of a wedding as a big party. That sounds like a prison to me.

Are you a cold woman or are you sentimental?

I am quite sentimental, but I’m also quite controlled. I’ve always been someone who controlled herself. I don’t ever go beyond the limits.

How do you invest your earnings?

I spend a bit. I have people that take care of my earnings to invest, but I don’t squirrel it all away. I spend my money.

Would you say you are happy with your life?

Yes, I am very lucky and very happy. And the more I see and do, the more I realise it. I only hope it lasts.

What would you still like to achieve?

I should be more satisfied, more relaxed, and calm. I am always pushing myself a bit too hard toward something else.

Do you think it’s frivolous to work in fashion and allow yourself to be photographed while the world is devastated by wars and tragedies? Are these things that affect you?

Yes, I find the world of fashion frivolous, but it creates this sort of vague dream, like a spectacle that can distract us from the terrible things that happen.

What effect does it have on you to be a symbol of beauty, a woman of great success?

It has a very pleasurable effect. Success is a pleasure, especially when you’ve worked hard to have it.

Do you have any regrets?

My conscience is quite clean, though I have made mistakes like everybody else.