Ines de la Fressange talks French style
With a new collection at Uniqlo, the fashion icon and Chanel muse shares her sartorial secrets
It’s been a buzzy time for Parisian style thanks to hit Netflix shows Call my Agent! and Emily in Paris - not to mention Michelle Pffeifer’s new movie French Exit, which sees the glamorous 62-year-old dressed in an enviably chic wardrobe as she makes a new life for herself in the French capital.
Often described as easy going and effortlessly cool, the quintessential Parisian look has its own singular place in the fashion firmament: essentially, it’s one that mixes elegance with a degree of nonchalance. A style that combines simplicity with a little kick of creativity, appearing purposefully undone.
But how to achieve it? One person who perfectly encapsulates the enigmatic notion of French style is the timelessly beautiful Ines de la Fressange, a model, Chanel muse and global style influencer who has written extensively on the subject. She has just released her latest collaboration with Uniqlo, a collection inspired by her fond memories of Deauville, the chic seaside resort in northwestern France where many Parisians flock to in the spring and summer months.
Counting nautical pieces (including that all important striped “Breton” top), relaxed tailoring in cream and navy hue and streamlined form-flattering dresses, these are wardrobe staples that combine off-duty casualness with underlying sophistication, making it easier to achieve that imperfectly perfect look or as they say in French that je ne sais quoi. The Week spoke to de la Fressange about her failproof dress code and asked her about her own fashion influences growing up.
How would you describe Parisian style?
Parisian style is indeed quite special. It may be luxurious but it’s never ostentatious. Always a mix between expensive things and casual ones - for example a nice cashmere sweater with a pair of simple jeans. It’s about making an effort while not appearing like you have. Really there are a few guiding principles: you should choose well-made items and not combine more than three colours together. Mix vintage finds with new items and keep accessories to a minimum.
Tell us about the Uniqlo collection
I have always maintained that great style can be affordable, which is what Uniqlo is all about. I work closely with Naoki Takizawa, the brand’s creative director who is based in Japan. We agree on mood boards - we do one each and then we compare them and discuss. So, it starts with a dream of elegance, very often inspired by the past [as we consult] documents, movies and paintings. Naoki, like me, has a background in the luxury fashion world: him at Issey Miyake, me at Chanel, so we are still convinced that everything is possible! Together we look at pictures of our grandparents and their parents. Don’t you think that they all had such a great look? So, this is our target: a timeless kind of elegance. Sometimes it’s a question of proportion, sometimes it’s only in a detail, often it’s down to a certain fabric or a colour.
Your new collection is inspired by Deauville, famous for its annual film festival. Who were your French cinematic style icons growing up?
Funnily enough, my icon as a teenager is still the same today - Jane Birkin. I think she is the person who has consistently influenced young girls over several decades. Her style is perfect and out of time. She is chic, rock, cool and gorgeous. As a teenager, I remember seeing a movie with Marlene Dietrich called Seven Sinners. She was dressed up like a sailor with a white suit. It was a revelation to me because I realised that a woman could be dressed up like a man but still stay very feminine and glamorous. Later, I also discovered Katherine Hepburn and her sister Audrey. Real people are the biggest influence. They are anonymous, but you never forget them: a friend, someone you often see, someone in the family or someone at school. A person who left a huge impression on me was Stella Tennant: I loved her elegance and her personality too, she was a real angel.