The Inès de la Fressange Factor

by Dena Silver

While you’re show-hopping in Paris this week…Who better than the eternally joyful Inès de la Fressange to remind us how beautiful life can be? We caught up with the peripatetic creative force (Uniqlo designer, Roger Vivier brand ambassador, style tome author) in the blessed final days of her Provençal holiday. Take a lesson.

How was the end of your summer?
It was quite sad, because most of my friends went away and I felt lazy. I didn’t want to go back to work! But it was nice to have some real rest and a quiet moment to read, sleep, and do nothing.

Do you go to Provence every year?
Indeed, and it’s important for me to take long, long holidays. It’s great for the kids and for my friends also to come back every year and find the same things. People are always looking for the new, but I don’t think that’s the path to happiness.

You seem pretty happy all the time. What’s your secret?
First, always think that things could be worse. Think of others, not only yourself, and accept the fact that not everything is at the top all the time. Things happen, but the sun will come back. It always does. Smile, and the world will smile at you, and don’t try to change others. Also, see your friends and talk to them, and when you do complain, say that you realize it’s not that bad. Make some order in your life or throw things away—that always helps. Personally, being with my daughters is a great joy. I appreciate that they can still put up with me!

That’s great advice! Is there anything you credit in particular?
It’s about the attitude. When a work trip is canceled, an appointment is canceled, I feel it’s a gift of time. I am thrilled! When I get new clothes, I am still like a child receiving toys. I must confess that I love Fridays knowing the weekend is arriving. Urrghh. I’m going to seem so superficial and lazy in this article. What a shame! [Laughs]

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“You are able to do it,” which was coming from Karl Lagerfeld, which is always nice. Now I’m name-dropping—it’s getting worse and worse!

And the best advice you’ve given?
“Stop waiting for the charming prince and you will find him.”

How important is friendship?
It is essential! If you are not able to love others and forget their tiny faults, you will never love yourself. Also, sharing what’s on your mind helps so much. And humor, obviously, and trying to help others. Sorry for all of these banalities—my brain has been left next to the swimming pool!

When did you first meet Gilles Bensimon, and why do you think you became such good friends?
I came to visit his secretary, who was a friend of mine.That was a long time ago, when dinosaurs were still alive. He took a picture of me in a black leather Perfecto, with no makeup and short hair. Ever since, I’ve appreciated his sense of humor—his talent but humility, and his way of working like a dilettante even if he is very serious in his work and we are quite sure the result will be perfect. He is very faithful in friendship and has a huge sense of fashion and elegance. Seeing his funny face arriving is always a great joy. And I must be precise in this—I am one of the only models on Earth who hasn’t been his lover!

How has your work contributed to your happiness?
My English is not good enough to understand your question. No, I’m kidding! Being a model helped my shyness, and being a designer who creates products is absolutely fulfilling. But one must learn to be happy without being a workaholic. I’m so French!

What was the most fulfilling aspect of your collaboration with Uniqlo?
Okay, imagine you find a magical lamp that realizes all your desires for your wardrobe, only the genie is not blue but Japanese, and his name is Naoki Takizawa. Rather than a designer, I feel like a very lucky customer who gets all her wishes! This winter, for instance, I will have the perfect dark denim jeans I have always dreamed of. They are straight, but not too skinny or too large. They have copper buttons and the fabric is perfect. I can also say that about the tweed jackets without linings and the navy blue coat. Even though I did them, the prototypes were great surprises. I couldn’t imagine such quality.

And what’s new at Vivier?
Nothing! No, I’m kidding again. I am just getting used to success, but do you know that “Vivier” means, in French, a place where there are lots of things coming to life? Actually, this is the first time I realized it. It’s your scoop! We usually say that Vivier equals fish tank. Yes, indeed, there is always something happening at Vivier, but it’s always elegant, creative, chic, and trendy. This year, Ambra Medda is going to be our ambassador. Brilliant idea, yes?

It is, indeed. Any plans to write a follow-up to your book, Parisian Chic?
My editor goes to church every day to light a candle! But I really do have to do it. It was such a best seller, I am still amazed! Now I am sounding pretentious. I should never do an interview on holiday.

All will be forgiven if you tell our readers your secret to eternal youth.
Ashley, you are my best friend! Listen, first I put some Revitalift from l’Oréal, but I tell you this secret only because you are my best friend. Second, I don’t think about the past, and usually I forget everything, which is much better. Third, I take off my makeup every day, even late at night. Fourth, I sleep a lot. Fifth, I still listen to the Rolling Stones on my iPod like a teenager. And last, I don’t criticize young people, and not even my neighbors. I accept the fact that I am not young anymore and don’t try to look young. In fact, I don’t think about it except when you ask me.

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