Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, aka CCD, is a bona fide fashion legend and sound-bite machine. Not only has she styled some of the most iconic images ever, she also dabbles in photography and shot the cover of The Daily Palm Beach’s inaugural issue.
We recently sat down with the queen of style to discuss her storied career and find out her rules to live by. J’adore!
How do you define luxury?
For me, luxury is simplicity and should be effortless!
You’re known for your singular aesthetic. What are the ingredients of #CerfStyle?
I was born this way! My style comes from the inside. I work from instinct. I am totally visual. As Karl [Lagerfeld] said, “a classique eccentrique.” I think he’s right. To have style is the most important thing. You don’t need expensive clothes to have style. It’s about attitude and personality. All my life I have always mixed high and low. That is #CerfStyle — something that I created and was recognized for. I was the first to mix Chanel jackets with jeans and T-shirts. I mixed Adidas tracksuits with gold Rolex Daytonas and Chanel bags. This is what I call my salade! I have done this all my life.
You worked with Anna Wintour on her first Vogue cover and put Michaela Bercu in jeans.
I was shooting couture in Paris with Peter Lindbergh. I said, “Non, non, non, don’t put the skirt on. Put on my jeans!” It happened like this. Now, it’s history! I’ve always done this kind of thing all my life. I was doing it already at French Elle for 10 years.
You’re also not a fan of trends?
I hate trends! I always create my own fashion. Trends are the opposite of me. When I see the collections of some designers, I know every single story the magazines are going to shoot. Unfortunately, people follow what they see and lack invention to create their own story.
What’s the most luxurious thing in the world to you?
My freedom. I was born in luxury. For me, it can be the most simple thing in life. But lately, perhaps the definition has changed. Sometimes what people call luxury is simply bad taste.
What do you mean?
I mean that luxury means a lot of things. I love sophistication. I love quality. For example, a simple fisherman sweater can be luxury. Often when I work, I say, “I don’t need all of this.” I prefer quality over quantity. I don’t know how to explain. It’s impossible to explain. Luxury is a feeling. I am luxury!
You’re famous for being fun, but also tough, on set.
Yes, I need action! I need movement, happiness, and good vibrations around me. I am full of energy, curious about everything, and have a sarcastic sense of humor. Everything I do, even if it’s boring, I will do it with excitement. I cannot stand people who are down, morose, complaining all the time. For me, there is no separation. I enjoy everything I do. I love nature. I am obsessed with nature. And I adore animals, many times more than humans! I also cook. I cook like I work. I can cook with my eyes closed. I do everything with intuition.
Do you have more fun in fashion than most people?
For sure. I make it fun.
Do you ever doubt yourself on set?
Yes, of course! As every creative person does.
How do you know if a shoot does turn out successfully?
I see. I feel. I know!
Are you surprised how mainstream fashion has become?
No! I am not surprised at all. I think a lot of people now think it’s trendy to be in fashion, but they are not fashion.
Let’s talk about your jewelry. You must have quite a collection.
Yes, a serious collection. I don’t need to wear them all, or show them all. They are for my personal pleasure.
Tell us about your longtime relationship with Azzedine Alaïa.
I had the deepest admiration for Mr. Alaïa. He was beyond fashion. He was the master — he was and always will be. Azzedine was my family. When you have real talent, you have no need to be pretentious. I think this is the chicest thing in the world. He was the funniest, the smartest… He was a genius!
You also had a long relationship with Karl Lagerfeld.
I did. Because Karl understood. He got it. He got everything quickly. He was one of the sharpest, most cultured people I have ever met. He was a walking encyclopedia! The thing with Karl is you could talk to him about anything. Not just fashion.
Do you think Chanel will thrive without him?
Yes. It’s a new era with Virginie Viard. Chanel is magic!
Could you put a number on how much Chanel you own?
Impossible to count!
More than 500 items?
[Laughs] Of course!
Do you archive your wardrobe?
Yes, I do.
You don’t really go to fashion shows.
Yes. I only go to the ones I want to. Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Giambattista Valli, and Marc Jacobs… just to name a few.
You were at French Elle for a decade during its heyday. What was that like?
It was serious, but not pretentious. And we had a blast, too. We were a small, talented team, which is when you do the good s**t. But the thing I hate now is that it’s not quick enough. French Elle is a weekly magazine. Bing, bing, and it’s out. Is it good? Is it less good? Doesn’t matter! You like? You don’t like? Who cares! On to the next week. It was not a big statement or planned. It was simple and honest. This is what fashion is about!
You love people-watching.
I love to watch everything. I am totally obsessed with the street. I can sit for hours on the bench outside Sant Ambroeus on Madison, or on any terrace in the world — heaven total! The way people carry themselves in a crowd, the way they act when they think no one is looking. Mamma mia! The good, the bad — I love it all.
We can’t imagine you at a desk job.
I can’t imagine me either! Going to meetings, hours of brainstorming about fashion — it doesn’t make sense for me. Never again anymore in my life. I have to move. I need action. I cannot be trapped. I can’t imagine being creative in a cubicle, and I feel so privileged and lucky that I don’t have to do it.
Who lives the most luxurious life of anybody you know?
I don’t know how to answer. Luxurious could mean a little shack on the beach, too. No cars, no noise, no people, but with cases of champagne.
No! I have been raised with Cristal. But I always say I do just as well in a yellow cab as in an SUV. I refuse to have a car and driver waiting for me every day. I’ve been raised to appreciate things of quality and simple pleasures. I live in luxury continuellement.
You keep it real.
I am totally real. The big trouble in my life is that I always say the truth. Some people don’t like to hear it because the truth can be tough to hear. But I always say it anyway. I can’t help it. C’est moi!
Do you ever worry about hurting feelings?
I know sometimes I hurt feelings. I don’t want to offend anyone. It’s just honesty. Unfortunately, I am authentic, sincere, and passionate. C’est la vie!
Do you have rules you live by?
Yessss! I love respect, love honesty, love friendship, love loyalty, love integrity, love generosity, love manners. No pretentiousness and fakeness with moi!
People refer to you as a stylist. Is that what you do?
I don’t think about what people think about me. I build stories. I create style. Styling is much too limiting for me. I am an orchestrator and inspirer. I make things happen. I create magic. All this with a ton of energy, love, and passion. I remember at my beginning at Vogue, working with Christy Turlington in Cabo San Lucas, Patrick Demarchelier told me, “Carlyne, you can be a fashion editor. You can be a photographer. You can be an art director.” In the end, I did everything that I wanted — and he was right! You know what I like in my work? That things do not look dated. The way things are mixed. This is what #CerfStyle is all about.
What do you think of the word “bling”?
J’adore bling! J’aime ça! I sometimes prefer a certain vulgarité from what people call “good taste.” There’s a fine line, but don’t ask me where it is. Tricky to explain!
Do you plan your outfits the night before?
Moi? Never! [Laughs]
What’s with you and leopard, by the way?
Moi? J’adore leopard. I am obsessed with leopard because it can be the most divine thing if you know how to play with it.
Worst fashion faux pas you’ve seen lately?
Cannot answer. There are too many!
Why have you never had your own fashion line?
I don’t know. I should have. So many people told me the same thing.
Do you get recognized on the street?
I have a fan club! I’m always nice to the people who stop me. It touches me a lot.
Do you like street style?|
I’ve been the queen of street style for decades.
You love traveling. Where do you like to go?
I don’t have a special place. I like to go where I haven’t been and discover. I love geography. J’adore! I’m obsessed.
Do you ever make it to Palm Beach?
Of course. I love!
How would you style a Palm Beach woman?
What magazines do you read?
I love to be online. It’s quick, quick, quick. But I’m bored looking at most magazines. This is a horrible truth. The only place I was still looking at magazines was on planes. Now, with the Wi-Fi on so many airlines, I almost never do.
What is it you don’t like about them?
I have seen everything online already!
What websites do you read?
The Daily Mail is the best one in the world! You don’t have to go anywhere else because you get it all there right away.
You’ve embraced Instagram. What do you like about it?
Sometimes I’m obsessed and look all day. The next day I don’t even look at it at all. I don’t treat it like a job. I don’t post every day. I pick and post what I love.
You should do a book.
Of course I should do a book! I know I should. It’s incredible the luck I have had to have worked with so many great photographers — Penn, Avedon, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Arthur Elgort, Inez and Vinoodh, Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, and so many others.
We suspect you don’t have plans to retire any time soon.
I don’t even think about this! I wake up every morning and whether I’m working or not, I am passionate.
Do you ever think about how you’ll be remembered?
Any final thoughts?
I am a French, Parisian, eccentric, original, life addict. I am passionate, obsessive, creative, and honest. I am all about panache, sophistication, and simplicity. Luxury is the result of my authenticity. That’s it! As The New York Times wrote: “A legend who’s unafraid to say so.” Voilà!
Read the complete new issue of The Daily Palm Beach below!