FASHION IS CULTURE. Ines de la Fressange started modelling at the age of 17 and quickly made a name for herself. She became nicknamed by many as “the talking mannequin”, due to her tendency to talk with fashion journalists and express her opinions on her profession and on fashion. In 2013, she re-established her own brand Ines de la Fressange Paris, effortlessly embodying a modern sense of “Parisian chic”. Today, she remains an enduring style icon and beloved muse for high fashion houses.
Ines de la Fressange, your early youth was formed by an aristocratic eccentric father, your beautiful Argentinian mother, and your grandmother who was a Jewish heiress with an extraordinary personality. Since the age of 17, you have spent your life in fashion. How come?
It’s an accident… Like many people in fashion it wasn’t planned, though I always loved clothes. When I started working as a model I was studying art history and thought it was a small job just to have pocket money. To make a long story short, I learned meanwhile where to put a pocket on a jacket!
It was actually the proof that sometimes one shouldn’t listen to others’ advice: most of the people I met at this time told me my decision was not a good idea. Friends who love you are often afraid of changes in your life, but I am convinced great things are risky.
How do you remember Karl Lagerfeld, one of the great fashion icon designers who passed away in February of 2019?
Someone who loved joking even if he stopped smiling in front a photographer, was never satisfied by his work even if he was proud of what he did, worked a lot but didn’t want to show it, wanted to look like a dilettante, had great culture but ignored psychoanalysis. So finally, very paradoxical, like many exceptional people. No? (laughs)
They say that when you accepted to be the French “Marianne”, the woman symbolizing the French Republic, Karl Lagerfeld found your decision too bourgeois and you went your separate ways. Since then you have created your own brand, opening a shop in the mythical Avenue Montaigne, and then what you did was endless…. from Roger Vivier shoes to your book Parisian Chic: A Style Guide, then your perfumes like Blanc Chic. In the midst of all that you also modelled for Jean-Paul Gaultier in 2011. Can you recount for us your fascinating journey in the French fashion world?
No. It’s boring to talk about the past like an old star of Sunset Boulevard! Being too narcissistic leads to madness. (laughs)
“For me a woman (or a man) that I find chic is often someone that looks free.”
Ines de la Fressange, what has changed over the years in the way women should dress?
“Should dress” is not politically correct: it’s “could” dress. Today they can dress the way they want. It’s fun to see one can go everywhere with very casual clothes, even to parties in the evening. The astonishing thing is that finally, despite this freedom, sometimes they go back to the bimbo look of stickers in lorries like pin-ups. But this is their right too…
How do you dress yourself?
Quite badly! I wear very simple clothes, not at all trendy, with sophisticated accessories. Like Roger Vivier’s shoes and bags. They call it “a style”, but I am an imposter with gorgeous shoes! (laughs)
You are considered the Parisienne par excellence. What is your intimate relationship with Paris?
As a child and a teenager when I was living in the country I dreamt of Paris like all the real Parisians. You just have to love the city to be a Parisian. It’s not a nationality, it’s a spirit.
What is Paris for you?
Paris is four cities and 200 villages together: schizophrenic but charming. Fatal.
As well as Paris, another of your fidelities is Provence. Why did you make this choice?
I fell in love with the father of my daughters there, so it made a big confusion in my head and I loved the whole thing. But I could answer you that Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Giono, Picasso or Henry James did love the place before because the light is incredible. Love is only stronger than light.
Was it in Provence that you spent lockdown, and during that time did you conceive new ideas?
During lockdown everybody conceived new ideas because everyone had to think about their own lives. For some it was very positive, like a long meditation; for me personally it was great to focus on essential things.
Just a few months separate us from one of the odder and more uncertain Christmases. What are you plans? How do you live your life?
Indeed. Many people are anxious about this period. It’s not my case because I know I will be with friends who are like a chosen family, in the mountains, in the snow, and with my daughters and companion. So it looks like a very conventional Xmas, next to the fireplace but it’s not that much, just like Canada Dry! (laughs)
The time for fashion magazines with great photographs by outstanding photographers like Helmut Newton, Raymond Depardon and David Bailey seems to have passed because it is out of fashion and too far from the image of today’s world. Is this true?
Talent is never out of fashion. Fashion magazines are sometimes slightly afraid and very concerned by the brands who take advertising… but each decade has its own mood. I am not nostalgic.
“Human beings don’t evolve so much, but fashion always does”
Ines de la Fressange, recently you have published in the famous weekly Elle magazine a few editions of Le Journal d’ Ines. Can you tell our readers what the concept is, and how come you decided to become an editor and a blogger?
Yes indeed and it was a huge success!!! Can’t explain you why, because I am totally incompetent and only did what I liked, shown people I love, met interesting people too and gave addresses and names of things I love with a lot of joy and sincerity. Maybe that’s the clue, doing things with honesty.
This also was like a very neophyte project, a kind of letter to a friend where I would talk about a book, a film, even not at all linked to actuality and addresses in Paris – just like during a lunch, not bought by advertising, and it became very popular even though I did not do publicity about it.
Nowadays it looks as if fashion magazines and magazines in general are less read. Instead fashion seems to have moved to Instagram and to online platforms. Is this virtual world in which you cannot even have contact with the cloth or savour the perfume going to completely alter the tastes of fashion?
It’s just a new tool: personally I discovered many brands because of Instagram. One shouldn’t be afraid of what’s going on, evolution and transformation is the sine qua non condition of everything. Fashion is fed by changes.
Do you think that this uncertain pandemia is going to change fashion yet again and the way women want to dress?
Fashion changes anyway! Environment and climate change consciousness. Weather, population on earth, everything participates, and fashion is usually more then a reflection of the period. Fashion feels before other sectors. Actually human beings don’t evolve so much, but fashion always does.
Who are the designers who have inspired you most over the years?
With time you understand what you heard at twenty years old and didn’t understand at that time: Yves Saint Laurent talking about simplicity for instance. But for all designers childhood is always the biggest influence.
Indeed, he was the first one to take me for a fashion show. I was looking like Bambi, very shy; he was too. I was very sad, with this news it seemed frivolity, happiness and friendship would disappear in a day. He was a great designer who was creative and however would make very wearable items.
How do you yourself dress nowadays?
I have my own brand: Ines de la Fressange Paris (it’s very convenient!) but in reality I am rather everyday with white jeans, a navy blue sweater and Roger Vivier shoes. Quite boring, but thank God I have these gorgeous accessories made in Italy that save the whole thing! (laughs)
“For all designers childhood is always the biggest influence.”
Ines de la Fressange, they say that you are also a family woman and love to be with your two daughters Violette and Nine whose father was your first husband Luigi d’Urso. What kind of a mother are you?
I am a good mother because I know I am not perfect. They had a fantastic father, not for a long time but enough to make incredible human beings. I am so proud of them. One is “normalienne” (did “L’Ecole Normale” which is the most difficult school to get into in France and maybe in the world) and now a comedian. She looks like Audrey Hepburn, this is Nine. The other one is a specialist of middle age, philosophy and history and she looks like Brigitte Bardot, this is Violette. But don’t ask me about my daughters, the interview is gonna be too long! (laughs)
You started in fashion as a teenager and are still there as a woman. What is the advice that you give to women about how to keep yourself confident through the ages?
Maybe don’t ask yourself these kind of questions! (laughs) Take care of the others rather, keep curious and not self-conscious. And avoid Botox… smiling is less expensive and far better!
You always liked to read and be surrounded by intellectuals. Fashion is sometimes perceived as a futile world, but at the same time it is a necessity for every woman alive. How do you manage your two passions of culture and fashion?
- We need futility and frivolity.
- Fashion is culture.
- Beauty, extravagance, creativity, anti-conformism is everywhere in art and literature.
OOhh I’m tired I have never been thinking that long about something! (laughs)
Two words are very often used in fashion: sexy and comfortable. How do they match?
If a woman feels sexy she also feels comfortable. Personally I prefer the words “sensuality” and “casual”.
What makes a woman chic and confident in the world of today where people spend a lot of money for a pair of damaged jeans?
I am not sure the preoccupation is to look chic nowadays… For me a woman (or a man) that I find chic is often someone that looks free. Free of conventions and finally ignoring trends.
For a few years now the world of fashion has divided between on the one side haute couture with almost unacceptable prices and on the other people, including you, designing collections for brands like UNIQLO who make their clothes available to women who cannot afford haute couture. Is this the new trend in the fashion world, either highly expensive bespoke or very good quality and sustainable high street brands?
Do you know what? There are great things and boring things, costs and prices, talent or vulgarity, wealthy people that look awful, hobos with a lot of style, many people who are not at all interested by fashion. But in the end we all keep an old hat from a grandfather, a brooch from a grandmother or a picture of an uncle: style endures. Who do we remember, Michelangelo or Julius II ?! (laughs)
All images copyright © Rodolphe Bricard