Ines de la Fressange - Fashion Insider #4

by Emmanuelle Christ

Successively a model, a muse, an ambassadress, the French symbol “Marianne”, a stylist, a writer, a Parisian, a beauty/fashion columnist, a creator, a newsletter editor, Ines de la Fressange - who used to be nicknamed “the talking model” when she started - is clearly a creator to be taken into account.

You have several jobs at the same time, with so many of those then what do you say when you're asked what your profession is?

My answer is “stylist”, because whatever happens, I always try to bring in some style.

Tell us about your first steps in fashion!

Wow, your grandma was not even born yet! A long time ago, I wrote “Profession mannequin” a literary masterpiece published by Hachette you may easily find in Parisian book stalls (or on Amazon), and in which I explain it all. In short, I've worked with Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and even Cecil Beaton! But at first, I was not succesful at all. Surely this makes me terribly likeable, doesn't it?

As a former model, what is the Fashion shooting you will remember forever?

The very first shooting with Oliviero Toscani rolling his r's as he said “A starrr is borrrn!”, but since I was more the skinnny Bambi type barely standing on her legs, it was ironic! Another shooting with Issey Miyake in the New Hebrides -where I had to hold gigantic crabs with my hands or huge bats and where I had been so much in the sun that my skin peeled- is also sure to go down in history.

A lot of people dream of becoming a model, could you tell us about what you went through behind the scenes?

Being a model is not very funny because it is not a very creative job, yet all the people you work with are creative: couturiers, stylists, photographers, hair stylists, make up artists, etc. But that is when you work, a lot of models have signed with agencies but do not work much. My personal experience is unusual because at one point I made the decision to sign an exclusive rights contract with Chanel, this enabled me to attend all fittings and to enjoy the best school and best teacher ever: Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel. In any case, this is not a job you have a vocation for, you have to be chosen.

How do you look at today's models?

I find it always fascinating to see that there are always gorgeous girls all over the world. They have more access to information now than in the past with the Internet: the advantage is that they know the brands before they start working, the downside though is that rumour has it that girls are now being judged on the number of followers they have on Instagram -and this should not be happening. Classic beauty is getting closer to popular beauty, which marks a huge difference with my time where some girls, especially for shows, had really extravagant and personal faces. It seems to me that now models are not expected to have strong personalities. “Creators” wish to highlight their clothes and to show only one type of women. Also, there is no opportunity for improvisation on the catwalk -I am not saying this is less good, it's just the way it is.

Please tell us about something completely crazy you've had to do for your job!

All is relative, riding a horse bareback is not exceptional, but it is on a catwalk -that's for the model's part. Organising a fashion show with no budget and just volunteer friends was also quite tricky - that's for the stylist's part. Launching a luxury brand like Roger Vivier with no advertising budget nor press agent, was also quite uncommon - that's for the consulting part.

You recently launched “La lettre d'Ines”, a newsletter. Do you really do it yourself?

Yeeees! Do you read it? I'm so glad! So, yes indeed, I choose the spots, take the pictures, (now I always carry my little Olympus in my purse) then write the texts and find web sites, my friend Dominique Lionnet-who works as a journalist- re-writes some of it, deals with the formatting, and double checks the links. She is also more professional as far at beauty products are concerned, but we've also come to the conclusion that my tone should be kept as it is, and not be too journalistic. Now, every time I buy something, visit a new place I like, I write about it in my letter. It's becoming a bit of a diary but meant for my new friends. I like the freedom of not having to deal with current events, I am free to write about a book written 30 years ago, or about an old movie I've seen recently. Just like when you have lunch with a friend.

What's in your office? What's on your desk?

The room in itself is bright/Sèvres pink, with paintings and photos on the walls, on the shelves are things such as a rubber tiger, a colored wooden totem, or a bronze handbag, and even a stuffed crocodile between a photo of Churchill and one of Françoise Sagan. It's a happy mess, with two sofas and a fireplace. I never welcome anyone sitting behind my desk, but rather face to face as we sit on the sofas. On the desk itself, I have a box filled with documents I should have sorted over the last ten years, scissors, pencils, fountain pens, a large computer and two huge signature books my assistant would like me to look at: one for work (with urgent responses required), one for invitations, exhibitions, etc. At home, like at work, I love stationery: writing paper, cards, erasers, colored masking tapes, paper clips, staplers, notebooks, post-its, ink pads, it's a bit of an addiction!

Your worst professional blunder?

I asked a very young Emanuel de Savoie if he often went to Italy (I was probably the only one who didn't know that at the time the Royal Italian family was not allowed to set a foot there). This was not a serious offence, and every one had a good laugh at it, but this really proves I'm not a snob!

Your best professional encounter?

Jean-Jacques Picart. He used to work as a press agent at the time and was in charge of several fashion shows. He's the one who decided I was chic, that the French style was good and that I needed to be seen differently from what I looked like (wearing my black Perfecto and with my short tousled hair). He almost imposed me as his choice to several brands and has greatly helped me with his friendly pieces of advice. We're still friends and I value his opinion a lot.

According to you, what makes an ideal press agent?

Someone not pushy, with good manners, who does not try to place the products (of the brand hiring him/her) at all costs, who tries to help and find solutions, who can send a product at the very last second, who knows well the magazine or structure asking him/her to do something, and above all who SMILES! Well, that's Olga working for the Ines de la Fressange Paris company!

For someone quite outpoken as you are, has being a muse and working an ambassadress sometimes been a problem?

No, never. People are surprised when I speak honestly, this makes the rest even more persuasive. But truth begins with the choices I make regarding the brands I work with, so it is not so hard.

For your Ines de La Fressange shop, you've declared choosing heart stoppers with no market research, is such a spontaneity still possible?

I believe that the bases of commerce are honesty and truthfulness, why sell items you'd never buy yourself? If we go for market research, then why choose products people know already and available every where else? Fashion is meant to disturb mildly and to imagine what others will like later on. It is made of nothing else but joy, spontaneity, and desires. Nothing is for sure, but it is quite fun!

What is the question you have never been asked and wish to be asked?

Hmm! “Do you believe there should be a fashion university in France?” And my answer is “Yes, fashion is a specificity France excels at and is unfluential in thoughout the world. It is high time it were considered at its own worth. Directly or indirectly, it generates a lot of employment, it is time for style and creation to be considered as serious matters.”

You've been a model, a muse, an ambassadress, “Marianne”, a creator, a writer, a fashion columnist, a beauty columnist, a newsletter editor. So, what is the next step?

Oh! I don't know, but I'll still be lazy!

Who do you nominate for our next interview?

Elie Top. He was Yves Saint-Laurent's latest assistant, he designs Lanvin's jewels, has his own jewellery brand, he is young, handsome, elegant, and cultivated. Elie is both impressive and friendly and he will be a great star in a few years' time. My question to him is: “Hey Elie, when are you going to started on the clothes!?”

Photos: Alessandra d'Urso

April 2016

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“Model? This is not a job you have a vocation for, you have to be chosen.”