Relationships & Divorce
Ines de la Fressange: Our Happiness Depends on Others
The iconic supermodel, fashion muse and designer on the importance of friends and family for our well-being
Leave it to French style guru, model, fashion designer, and mother of two Ines de la Fressange to come up with the right thing at the right time.
In her new book, Happiness: The Art of Togetherness, written with dear friends and long-time collaborators Sophie Gachet and Olga Sekulic, de la Fressange reveals how important family, friends and partners are to her joy and well-being. She wants her readers to incorporate this kind of “togetherness” into their own lives. A cross between a personal journal and scrapbook, thanks to whimsical sketches by de la Fressange, photos, quotes, and little notes, the book is like a vitamin for contentment as this challenging year draws to a close.
The book’s original French title, Le Bonheur c’est les autres, which translated means “Happiness is other people” is a play on one of the most famous phrases from French writer and philosopher Jean Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit, “Hell is other people.” De la Fressange begs to differ: It’s “others” who can foster personal bonds and spread happiness.
Happiness has seven chapters, ranging from “For the Love of Friends” to “Around the Table.” The “In Love” section features quotes from de la Fressange’s pals about what true friends are, the best gifts for friends (flowers! scented candles!), as well as small lists of books, movies, and music that are friendship-friendly. “Business as Usual” includes makeup tips to make you look fresh for your video meetings as well as suggested songs to start your work day. The “It’s a Family Affair” chapter is a wake-up call on parenting with solid advice, notably on how to have healthy relationships with teen and adult children. De la Fressange highlights a quote from French doctor and writer Catherine Dolto-Tolitch, a daughter of renowned child psychologist Francoise Dolto, “There is no perfect mother, but there is no mother better than you,” adding that the words, applicable to fathers too, “set her free.”
Covey tracked down de la Fressange in France for an interview. Here’s what she had to say. If you have ever met de la Fressange, you know her answers perfectly reflect her delightful personality.
TheCovey: Why did you want to write this book and have it published now?
Ines de la Fressange: Actually, this book came about because people around me asked me to write it. Maybe they think I have a funny way of seeing life and coping with everyday problems. Friendship is one of my clues, so I asked two of my friends to help me with the book. We agreed that sometimes we all go through down periods — a slight depression and a lack of desire to do things no matter what your life is, no? These days, we can also be overwhelmed by things that are happening around us and it can affect our mood.
There are many books about personal development, but Sophie, Olga, and I thought the best way [to approach it] was not necessarily to se regarder le nombril, or look at our belly button (a French expression), but to stay close to our friends.
TheCovey: During the stay-at-home period over the dark days of Covid — which were particularly strict in France — how did you manage? You’re so social.
De la Fressange: Indeed those days were hard for many people: students living in tiny places, sick people, old people…
But in bad experiences there is always a way to see things differently:
-Discovering how to live with a quieter rhythm.
-Learning to stay home.
-Understanding that life can change suddenly.
-Learning that nothing is sure or forever.
-Having the opportunity to live again with your grown-up children.
-Not working, but not being on holiday either — just living.
I did things I don’t usually do, like taking care of the olive trees or taking siestas. It’s great to change your life and see that everything is fine. Usually we can see friends whenever we want and sometimes we don’t do it because we just don’t organize it, so to realize the luck we have — that’s also a good thing.
I think it’s just like environmental problems: when we use water everyday we think it’s normal. One day at home without water and we can see how difficult it could be.
But observing that you can stay alone or with very few people you love without being afraid of getting bored is great too.
Personally I liked this moment in my life, where I had the opportunity to think about my priorities, but luckily I was in the country — being close to nature and the arrival of spring was a real blessing.
TheCovey: The “Family Affair” chapter gives some serious pointers on parenting and family life. Why was this important for you to spell out so clearly? Many families had to live together again during Covid and it wasn’t easy.
De la Fressange: I think Covid has been more or less forgotten now, even if it still exists.
What also still exists and hasn’t changed is the attitudes of human beings. Some families just complicate their relationships: parents bother their children, people complain instead of appreciating what they have and [keeping things in perspective].
Others know how precious it is to have a home, food, good health, and freedom and to be living in a peaceful country. So Covid was maybe a lesson for some, but there will always be some people who ruin things.
TheCovey: You suggest: “Turn your passion into a profession.” Is this an elite proposition?
De la Fressange: Having holidays or social security for everyone was utopia at [one time], so dreaming about an ideal is never bad! I just wish [that] the media would talk more about all kinds of jobs instead of [highlighting] acting, singing, being a star … so that young people could dream about a life without being an influencer…in Dubaï!
[We need to show] people who are cabinetmakers, cooks, or psychiatrists (or many other jobs) who are happy and flourishing. [Showing] their professional lives could help meet this goal.
TheCovey: Your suggestions for makeup and how to apply cosmetics for video conferencing even included suggesting that men use concealer to “look more efficient.” And that if you try and look your best for work, you should do the same on weekends. Why is this important?
De la Fressange: Putting on makeup and taking care of ourselves doesn’t mean looking like a dancer at the Rio carnival! I just notice that sometimes women put on makeup to go to work, and when they stay home on weekends with their family, friends — the people they love the most, they don’t care anymore — which is paradoxical!
Also, to have a great image of ourselves helps our mood. We [know] that in some psychiatric hospitals, if the medical patients had a haircut and some makeup — [leading to] a better [self image] — they actually got better. Same for men, why shouldn’t they take care of their skin? Don’t worry, you don’t have to transform your husband into a drag queen, but you will notice that if you offer him a hydrating cream and tell him he looks beautiful, he will be happy. Try it and tell me [what happens]!
This interview has been edited for clarity.