Camille Bidault-Waddington

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am

EAST MEETS WEST For many years my style was quirky, eclectic, poppy - even cartoonish. When I moved to London [from France] in 1997 to become a freelance stylist, I was excited to discover markets such as Portobello Road, where I could buy the most amazing vintage clothes and accessories. London is such a great place to find unusual fashion to create a unique style. I went crazy.

Now I'm 40, my personal style has changed - I can't wear what I did at 25 - it's more classic. I go for quality these days.

I have been working on a concept with [avant-garde Chinese photographer] Chen Man, which is very exciting. It is also the first time I have met Hong Kong celebrities such as Hilary Tsui, Claudia Shaw and Wyman Wong, as well as personalities from the mainland such as Chen Kun and Wan Baobao. There were 10 wonderful people to style and I was quite nervous at first, because it is very difficult to style somebody you don't know; it's important to let their personality shine through. The intention was to combine Eastern style with Parisian chic for the Chanel Paris-Shanghai collection.

In 13 years of styling I have been commissioned by publications in Europe including Italian Vogue, British Elle, The Face and Dazed & Confused, and in Asia I have worked for Chinese Vogue and Japanese Vogue.

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE My approach to styling is that it needs to be spontaneous, free and perhaps a little bit strange. I think you need to have an open spirit. I am constantly absorbing information; seeking new experiences through travel, exhibitions, books, photography, painting, ceramics ... I need to feed myself culturally to feel inspired. I am also a fashion victim; I know who's who in the industry, who is emerging and what the current trends are. Being a stylist is a way of life rather than a job. You have to love it - fully embrace it - or you couldn't do it. The people are my friends and the 'scene' is my social life. People such as [designer] Marc Jacobs, who has called me his 'favourite French muse', well, he is a good friend: very sweet and really interested in what I have to contribute. He knows what he wants and working with him is fun.

I have had some wonderful and wild experiences, such as the time I worked with [British fashion photographer] Nick Knight on a shoot for Dazed & Confused and [the models were] fat girls dressed as nuns with painted bodies. [Once] I found myself in Albuquerque [in the United States] at 4am as the sky filled with balloons. Lots of shoots are special and memorable.

PAPA DON'T PREACH I grew up in France with very conservative parents who expected me to become a lawyer or something equally boring. My father was a businessman in the financial sector. He gave me a clothes allowance when I was 14, expecting me to buy sensible outfits appropriate for my age. Instead I went to flea markets and vintage shops, where I mixed styles and eras to create an eclectic look. He was furious and he never allowed me to go clothes shopping without him after that. My mum always liked fashion, though, and encouraged me to take an interest from the age of about nine. Even so, I was frustrated and I rebelled as soon as I left home.

I went to college to study graphic design and fashion and soon decided I wanted to become a stylist - that was in the days when it was not a popular career choice. It took my parents about five years to understand why I had chosen it. The enemy of creativity is conformism and I was always a free spirit.

UNCOMMON PEOPLE I was married to [British pop star] Jarvis Cocker and we were together for five years. We're divorced now but we have a son, Albert - we call him Alf - who's seven and sees his father regularly. We had good times, of course, and Jarvis is a very stylish man. When we were getting dressed to go out he would always check to see what I was wearing so he could co-ordinate with me - not in a German tourist kind of way, we didn't have matching outfits or anything - but he'd try to see what 'worked'. I always had the biggest wardrobe, though; he doesn't have lots of clothes - he'll often wear the same jacket for years - but he has a strong sense of style, a unique way of putting clothes together.

We lived together in Paris but he couldn't adjust, he never learned to speak French and he didn't really have any friends there. He's quite shy - he's a beast on stage but off it, he's a different person. It took him a year to move from Sheffield [his native city, in the north of England] to London when [his band] Pulp became well known.

Now he is living in England and he has an English girlfriend while I have a French boyfriend and I still live in Paris, where my kids are. I have another son from a previous relationship, with a German photographer - you could say I'm doing personal research on fatherhood in Europe.

PURPLE PROSE I am often asked about my involvement with [blog] Purple Diary. It is very erotic in places but it is also amusing. It was started by [French photographer] Olivier Zahm as an extension of the independent French magazine Purple, which he created [and] in which he attempts to link the worlds of art and fashion. He says he started the diary with the aim of mixing intimacy with his public life to create a contrast between what's intimate, like sex and love, and what's public, such as a party or a fashion show. He is one of my best friends and a playboy who likes sex. [The blog] has turned into a diary of the things our group of friends do, including the parties we have where we sometimes get drunk and naked. Olivier takes photos of us which are in black and white and very artistic. He's great, he doesn't alter the images with Photoshop, but if I have a spot or something, he will erase it before it goes on the site. That's what friends are for.

The exhibition of photographs by Chen Man, of people styled by Camille Bidault-Waddington, is part of the Chanel Paris-Shanghai Collection and can be seen until July 9 at Joyce, 16 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2869 5816.