Whether as model, muse, mother or fashion designer, Inès de la Fressange has always been the epitome of Gallic elegance. The daughter of a French marquis and an Argentinian model, Inès began modelling herself in the 1970s, becoming the muse to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. It’s a role that today, at the age of 58, has morphed into her ambassadorial position at Roger Vivier, the luxury French shoe brand she has worked with since 2003.
She recalls her first meeting with the brand’s owner, Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle, who asked her whom she saw as the ideal designer to take the label on. Inès suggested Bruno Frisoni (serendipitously, she was wearing a pair of his shoes at the time). “Della Valle said, ‘That’s good news, he’s already done two collections’,” she laughs. “It was a test to see if we had the same idea of the brand. Bruno really had the spirit of Roger Vivier: witty, but always chic and elegant.” Which is of course exactly what one would say of Inès herself.
She lives in Paris – where else? – in a house near the Jardins de Luxembourg. “There are dogs, children – it’s a bit messy and not very French,” she confesses. “There’s even a tiny Indian temple at the end of the garden.”
It sounds like the perfect retreat. “At the weekends I feel I ought to see exhibitions and organise lunch with friends... but in the end, I’m in bed, watching stupid American TV series,” she admits. “Maybe I should invent a new life – maybe I should say I’m having tea with Princess Caroline?”
The truth is, for all her impeccable beauty, style and wit, Inès de la Fressange is a reluctant role model. “My real message is that nobody’s perfect,” she says. Though to the casual observer, she comes pretty close.
INÈS DE LA FRESSANGE'S STYLE RULES
KEEP UPDATING YOUR LOOK Often, women feel really good in their 30s. They know what suits them, and it’s a happy moment in their life; so they stick to that style, the clothes, the hair and the make-up. After a while, they start to think that everything new is bad. I think it’s fun to experiment with your hair and make-up and to try new looks. You don’t have to dress like your daughter, but it’s good to pick up little things. For instance, all the young people are wearing Stan Smith trainers. If you wear Stan Smiths with navy blue trousers and a coat, it looks great; if you wear the same outfit with high heels, you’ll look like Granny.
THE WEALTHIEST PEOPLE AREN'T THE MOST STYLISH Usually, when women can afford to shop in the luxury stores, they’ll buy everything there. It’s better to try the high street shops to buy a denim shirt, or wear a T-shirt instead of a blouse under a jacket. I often look in the men’s and children’s departments too – in fashion, nobody should have prejudices.
WITH JEWELLERY, LESS IS MORE The terrible thing when women are getting old is that they have more things: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, the ring for the first baby and the second baby – and they wear it all at once, all their life is on their hand. That’s the worst! A little shell on a cotton thread would be better. After a certain age, it’s better to wear nice jeans and not too many diamonds. Jewellery, along with fur and crocodile skin, just adds age rather than elegance. On the other hand, a young girl wearing a fur coat, or carrying a crocodile bag can look really fun.
AGEING WELL IS ABOUT ATTITUDE Don’t be too self-conscious. You have a few wrinkles, you’re obviously not a young woman any more – so what? You can’t worry about it because it’s impossible to hide – I haven’t seen many examples of successful surgery, and I haven’t had any myself: I’m afraid of needles, and of surprises. Once, a famous actress said to me, “Oh, you have less Botox than I do!” I didn’t dare to tell her that I hadn’t had any because that wouldn’t have been polite. I’m happy to do stupid things with my hair, because I know it will grow back the same, but not with my skin.
MY SKINCARE SECRETS The most important thing is to take off your make-up before bed. It sounds obvious, but lots of women don’t bother. All the fashion people use Bioderma Crealine H20 micellar water which takes off the make-up really well. My next tip is to sleep. I go to bed early – about 11pm – and I’m asleep by midnight. And the third is never to go out without wearing a day cream. Avène is good, and not expensive. Facials? Never. People come out afterwards with faces like red balloons. Obviously it’s very bad for the skin. But don’t get obsessed. After you leave the bathroom, you should forget about what you look like.
START THE DAY POSITIVELY It’s normal to wake up in a bad mood. You don’t want to get out of bed, you worry that you’re going to be late, today is going to be difficult. So the first thing you should do is smile, because that tells the brain that you’re fine. In our civilisation, we divide the body from the thoughts. It takes a lifetime to realise that it’s all one and the same. I try to meditate every day, but like everyone, I’m full of excuses: I’m too busy, I’m late. But at least the intention is there!
THE KEY TO FRENCH STYLE It comes down to not being obsessed by brands, mixing things up, keeping hold of clothes for years. It’s the idea that you could find something in Marks & Spencer, and it would be as good as a luxury brand. In America, there’s the impression that women need to buy the latest thing: they’ll order clothes before they’ve even arrived in the shops. In France, nobody would ever buy something without seeing it. It’s a different mentality.
See the images from our shoot with Inès in the gallery above, and watch her answer five all-important fashion and beauty questions below:
Roger Vivier-Icons Connected is at The Dubai Mall from May 2-14.
Photography: Gonzalo Machado. Words: Lydia Slater. Producer: Airin Milá de la Roca. Hair: Delphine Courteille for L’Oréal Paris. Make-up: Lydia Pujols for L’Oréal Paris.
This article appears in the May issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia, on stands now