Interview

Ines de la Fressange The ultimate Parisienne

Our London partners Business O Féminin shared with us this BWBeautiful interview of iconic model, successful entrepreneur and outrageously stylish Parisienne.

Our London partners Business O Feminin share this month with us this beautiful interview of Ines de la Fressange.

Charming, funny and outrageously stylish, the former model and Chanel muse candidly shares her fashion memories, future plans as a designer, philanthropic projects and life philosophies.
Ines de la Fressange is the very incarnation of creativity and colour that makes up the fashion world of which she has been an integral part for decades. From an international modelling career, muse to Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld to a successful foray in designing and writing, she is the ultimate ‘Parisienne’. She shares her candid memories, future plans, philanthropic projects and life philosophies with Business O Féminin…

How did your collaboration with Roger Viver begin ?

When Diego Della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, acquired the Roger Viver brand, he asked me to help relaunch the business. At the time, he didn’t know that I had met Roger Viver himself and that he had asked me the same thing!

Where do you find inspiration?

As soon as a company wants me to consult with them, I look closely at its history and heritage and choose what to showcase out of everything and avoid applying the same system for one as for another. I gather documents, books, photos and facts to try to understand the business and its owners – because people sell what they know, the more we know about something, the more we like it. It’s important never to have bias and not to do things like everyone else.

You were a model, a muse, a symbol of French style, an entrepreneur and a mother… What is the secret to juggling all of these different elements?

Firstly, I accept that I can’t be perfect! Putting things into perspective is also a daily exercise. You have to take a step back to notice symptoms of stress and not to forget that things we worry about are rarely very serious. I use my optimism (which has given me a sense of risk), a little frivolity and a lot of humour but I’m especially lucky to get to spend a lot of time in my office at home, which for me is the key to happiness. When I’m there, I can procrastinate without feeling guilty!

To be an entrepreneur is to covet and to be a designer is also to desire things that don’t yet exist.

During the 1990s, you launched your career as a designer. What made you want to become an entrepreneur after modelling?

I was a bad model: I spoke too much, always gave my opinion and didn’t behave like the others. It was thanks to this, perhaps, that I entered into the best school of modelling in the world where I had the best teacher in the world: Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, who once said to me: “One day, it will be you creating your own collection”. I replied that I only knew how to make wearable clothes that were relatively basic. He said “That can be your concept!” So, when Henri Racamier suggested I launch my own brand, the little seed that had been planted in my mind by the grand master grew. To be an entrepreneur is to covet and to be a designer is also to desire things that don’t yet exist.

What is your most memorable moment of the time when you were working with the house of Chanel and with Karl Lagerfeld?

One day, Karl cancelled a dress which was just finished. I knew the hours of work that went into the dress and saw the disappointment of the couturières so I convinced Karl that it was a mistake to cancel the dress. He changed his mind and the women in the atelier all chipped in to get me a present. That never happened, so I was really touched.

How do you perceive the modern businesswoman of today ?

Like the modern businessman! No, I actually have a very favourable perception of women. I’m happy when I know I’m going to be doing business with them – it’s a form of sexism, but it’s also about having a certain female solidarity! For example, when I met the female director of L’Oréal Paris, Isabelle Guyony-Hovasse, we became friends and accomplices after 15 minutes. It seems to me that the importance of career, authority, hierarchy and success is played down for women when compared to men. But as I say, (I regret saying it already!) there are idiots everywhere, even among women!

Fashion is not dying but France must not lose its title as a fashion country.

In what ways do you think the fashion industry is going to evolve in the coming years?

It’s not the most worrying sector in France. Particularly concerning the luxury industry. But one day, the leaders of France will realise that it’s a flourishing industry, with huge exports, that involves the whole world and acts as an international badge of honour for the country. They will realise that a lot of manufacturers have disappeared (silk merchants of Lyon, woollen mills of Roubaix, Norman shoemakers…) and that these luxury artisans and craftsmen need to be helped and protected. Because it’s the rare, the unique, the “well made” and the creative products that people look for. Fashion is not dying but France must not lose its title as a fashion country.

Do you think that fashion has a future at the heart of the digital world ?

Absolutely. One could say that it’s already in the past and definitely in the present! In the past because it’s a long time since online shopping began. La Redoute, for example, calls on different designers every month. But the industry is also in the present because fashion and images are distributed and shared at the speed of light and on a grand scale, thanks to sites like Style.com, among others. The phenomenon is otherwise anchored in the future: no brand can escape from the digital world now and community managers are recruited solely to control their sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and online sales, even for luxury brands. There are big American chain stores who haven’t established themselves in certain cities in the US because they consider the markets too small. But they know, on the other hand, that some of the inhabitants of these towns have buying power so their online shopping facilities are prioritised. I also think that specialised orders, personalised products or those made in limited quantities are going to be rolled out more in the long term. Today, you can choose your car online, so there is no reason why this can’t be the case for a skirt!

With Sophie Gachet, my co-author, we decided to try to define the Parisian woman, “la Parisienne”, of whom I speak so much about when I’m abroad.

How was the idea born to write La Parisienne, which has become the ultimate guide for every Parisian woman (and even for every tourist, as it’s often seen in the hands of Japanese fashionistas)?

Aligatô ! At the start, I only wanted to give my favourite Paris addresses, because people often asked me where are the best places to go. My editor, Teresa Cremisi of Flammarion, wanted me to include style advice, but I found that pretentious. With Sophie Gachet, my co-author, we decided to try to define the Parisian woman, “la Parisienne”, of whom I speak so much about when I’m abroad. When we began the research, we realised that what seemed to be a cliché was actually a reality – there’s a difference between the two! But I believe that the success of the book is due to the fact that it’s written as a letter would be between friends: sincere, honest and full of photos and we considered the fact that the reader was neither a millionaire, a fashion pro nor a model or fashion victim. I don’t know how to explain it, but what’s crazy is we’ve sold more than a million copies!

A secret address in New York
Save Khaki, a boutique for men and women’s fashion

What are your favourite secret addresses that you can share with our readers in London, Paris and New York City?

For Paris, the book will tell you all you need to know! Somewhere like the fashion boutique Sœur, for example, doesn’t exist anywhere else.
In London and New York, I think it would be better for my editors to ask a native! But as it’s you…
Paris : Le Bon Saint Pourçain, rue Servandoni, for their mock turtle soup
London : Brown’s Hotel, where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book –
New York : Save Khaki, a boutique for men and women’s fashion

If our sources are correct, you are also the spokesperson for a charity. Can you tell us any more about that?

It’s an organisation called ‘Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque’ (Patronage for Cardiac Surgery) who, thanks to Professor Francine Leca, work to save children all over the world who are suffering cardiac problems. The initiative relies on the benevolence of host families and of generous people. I’m just one of the spokespeople because the association doesn’t do any publicity or marketing. Twice a year, along with others, I go to the Café de la Paix to sell breakfasts and afternoon tea. The proceeds from the event go to the charity, who use the funds to operate on children who cannot avail of social security. (health services?) http://www.mecenat-cardiaque.org

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

Fabrice Boé, formerly of L’Oréal, Hermès and Prisma Media, gathered investors to relaunch the brand that carries my name. I am the artistic director and we already have several licences. What’s missing is the clothes, but there will be no further delay! I would like to reopen a boutique soon, but not necessarily one with just my designs. I want to showcase young talents and other objects that I find when I travel. I am also continuing to work with Roger Vivier, Allianz and L’Oréal.

And finally, the last word for our readers…

Dear little reader of Business O Féminin, I know that you manage very well (even better than some of your colleagues). The ad, “J’assure en Rodier » was created for you – you are wonderful. BUT! Think of the last day of your life: what will you be proud of? What will you regret? What will be the most important thing you see? (Apart from the glasses you have been using for years already…) To sum up, you have to determine what your priorities are, skip meetings to go to see your children dance, learn to go home early, to delegate… Don’t forget to tell your husband that he’s handsome (with magic effect, you’ll see!) and remember that the majority of events don’t merit the stress we give them. Everyone knows someone in their company who annoys them, but imagine that they are scared. If it was your best friend, you would indulge them. Also, instead of having your eyes glued to your computer (when you reach the end of this article!), write a text to that friend who you haven’t met for lunch in 6 months! And send me a postcard straight away (29 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré) to tell me if you are going to come to my boutique!
Merci!

Read more from Business O Feminin HERE

Interview: by Linda Addouane

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