LEARNING CURVES I grew up in the French countryside with my grandmother. She was the one who was really into fashion and couture. I used to hate the way she would dress up in all these silks and taffeta but, finally, I learned about the culture without knowing it. Since then I’ve had a lot of interest in clothes rather than fashion.
I was reading a lot of magazines and, in my late teens, I started working as a model with all these famous designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. I learned a lot about fashion and design that way, inside the industry.
First, it was to recognise the importance of fabrics ... fashion is like food, you can’t do it with bad ingredients. Second, it’s like Coco Chanel said, that it’s useless to do useless things, like designing fake pockets. After that, fashion sensibility is like playing the piano; when you’ve been playing a lot, it just comes naturally.
PERFECTLY IMPERFECT I try not to be self conscious. I want to always be open-minded and interested in what’s new, without being a fashion victim. That’s especially important when you are an old lady like me! There are not many women like me, in fashion at almost 60 years old.
Instead of saying that in the morning I wake up early, work out and drink a litre of water, before being super organised working on Uniqlo, Roger Vivier stuff and my own brand and all that, I tell the truth.
I actually don’t manage so well for some things. I don’t want to give this image of this wonder woman who succeeds at everything. There are things where I don’t succeed. That’s life. It’s the most important thing to see your friends, chat, lose time, and realise that it doesn’t matter if everything is not perfect.
AGE OF REASON It’s true that in most magazines worldwide, you open them, and see only pretty young girls. It’s not even young women; it’s teenagers, young girls. Maybe it’s true about the French appreciating older women more. This summer I did a cover for French Elle. At first I said, “Come on, I’m too old for that,” and they said, “No, no,” and that they wanted readers to see someone like me having this life and being happy. But thank God for PhotoShop!
BEST INTERESTS AT HEART You always have to do things by feelings. I use my heart to make most decisions. Like how I approach collaborations with brands such as Roger Vivier. And I remember I used to love working with photographer Paolo Roversi before he was famous, because he was kind and sweet. My modelling agency would scold me for taking small jobs with him for little money. And I would say, “Yes but he’s talented and l like him”, and they would scream.
When I signed an exclusive contract with Chanel, at 18 years old, I was working a lot in America and France. When I quit everything to work only with Chanel, people said I was crazy. And do you know how many shops they had in the 1980s? One, on Rue Cambon, in Paris. You forget that. People would say about (Chanel designer) Karl Lagerfeld, “He’s German and it’s a French company.”
So what? That’s the good thing, you learn with time. You try to escape from convention and prejudice. You can do a lot of things, but it’s really important who you do them with. You have to follow your heart, which is not always easy.
THE MONEY MEN The changes in fashion, such as digital and social media, are good because it’s information, and more people are connected. What was bad these past 10 years is that the businessmen thought that they could do fashion, that it was only a question of money, advertising, publicity – spending money. Now they are starting to understand that product is important – something that, as designers, we have always understood.
LESS IS MORE About three years ago, I returned to the eponymous brand I founded in 1991, because the partners who bought it said they’d only do it if I was part of it. I want to be very down to earth with the label, and find solutions for women, to help them. And also to tell them that you don’t need a lot, but you need the right things. You don’t need a thousand pairs of shoes or thousands of clothes to
be stylish. Personally, I would never dress up only with expensive or luxurious clothes because people would think that I’m 20 years older than I am.
URBAN BEACH BUMS I’ve been to Hong Kong for work several times, first for Chanel, then my own brand and, after that, for Roger Vivier, where I once organised a really fun exhibition in the Landmark of fake bags, made from cardboard, paper, bronze or fake chocolate. It’s a common thing to say about Hong Kong that there’s this huge energy and it’s very cosmopolitan; but what I appreciate most is that people here really love living in their city – to be able to live in such a big, urban city and head to the beach so easily is rare.