Ines de la Fressange: Secrets to a Stylish Reinvention
The 61-year-old supermodel on her newfound confidence, wisdom, and love for decorating
Model, designer, entrepreneur, author, mother. Ines de la Fressange, who launched her career as a model in Paris in the 1970s, embraces all these roles. Deploying her quintessential French je ne sais quoi, de la Fressange, now 61, has parlayed her style and energy into lots of ventures, including her new book, Maison: Parisian Chic at Home, with watercolor artist Marin Montagut. Out this month, this tome in the Parisian Chic series highlights 15 Paris apartments, including those of de la Fressange and Montagut, and illustrates with lush photos and joyful watercolors how contemporary furniture, art, and objects can be unexpectedly and elegantly mixed with vintage and other finds.
De la Fressange has spent most of her life in the fashion world. She’s the creative director for the Ines de la Fressange fashion label, relaunched under new ownership in 2015. She ran a signature business in the early 1990s but lost the rights to her name, went through legal hell to win it back but was unsuccessful. Fast-forward to 2016 and rue de Grenelle on Paris’ Left Bank, where she opened an emporium selling her signature clothing line alongside such non-fashion items as her favorite olive oil from Provence. The fashion is sold worldwide, including at The Webster stores in Miami, Bal Harbour, and Houston, and at French in Calabasas, California.
De la Fressange is also the brand ambassador for France’s legendary Roger Vivier shoe label, which was revived in the mid-2000s after being bought by Diego Della Valle (Tod’s). Working with former designer Bruno Frisoni, she did everything from launching a new collection of shoes and accessories and opening a Paris flagship store, to developing marketing and sales strategies. She continues to do much of this today. She has also designed a seasonal capsule fashion collection for Japan’s Uniqlo since 2014.
And yes, she still models. Nearly six feet tall, with impossibly long legs, a joyous and often mischievous smile, and a deep, raspy, seductive voice, de la Fressange personifies la Parisienne – that French woman who has an indescribable ability to always look chic. She knows how to mix luxe with simple, new with old. De la Fressange spoke with TheCovey about Parisian style and why you should “smile before you even have a reason to.”
TheCovey: What do you think is at the core of the American obsession with all things French? It has been going on for such a long time and continues today. Why?
Ines de la Fressange: Good question. Maybe it’s because in France we don’t think that much about “style.” So, free from preconceptions, brands take more risks. Maybe it’s because we are surrounded by so much culture — books, movies, accessories, centuries of architecture and history — so there’s so much inspiration to be creative. Maybe there is a feeling of effortless chic that is attractive to everyone. Maybe it’s because fashion is fed by frivolity, and France doesn’t give the impression that it’s very serious, even if it is! (laughs…)
TheCovey: Can you give us ideas of things an American can do to bring “Parisian Style” into her home?
De la Fressange: In France people make their homes to be lived in every day and for themselves, not to show off with a luxurious living room. Just like in fashion, people mix expensive items with simple, humble things. You’ll see flowers in simple vintage glass milk bottles placed next to a signed designer chair. If you think it’s nice and you love it, it will fit with the rest of your things.
TheCovey: Give us two or three unexpected resources for finding Parisian types of things in the US? Where do we go to shop or order that will deliver to us?
De la Fressange: In my shop! The best is to have a friend [in Paris or any city] who can show you where to discover nice little spots. For those who don’t, I published two guides filled with addresses I like (Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange and Parisian Chic City Guide). For my country house, I found furniture at Cosydar-Deco. In Marseille, Maison Empereur [has] things for the house that have existed forever but are new [reproductions]. I buy curtains at Couleur Chanvre. I love linens and pajamas from Scarlette Ateliers. [ED NOTE: All deliver worldwide including to the US.]
TheCovey: Can you talk a little about your own reinvention?
De la Fressange: I don’t think of it as a “reinvention” so much as an evolution. Evolution means that you listen to yourself more and are able to understand your real taste, talent, wishes. Every day we lose hair, skin, nails, neurons, so once we accept that, we also accept that we are in a perpetual state of evolution. Personally, I think there is one life and many transformations all the time.
My [entire] professional life has been centered around fashion and beauty, so whether I talk about it, design it, give advice about it, or take photos of it, it doesn’t matter; the idea is to work with creative and talented people and to enjoy it. I never think what is supposed to be my job, I just listen to propositions and accept things depending on my feelings and who is asking.
TheCovey: What has been the hardest part of each evolution for you?
De la Fressange: Being an entrepreneur in fashion nowadays is difficult because you are competing with famous brands that have huge advertising budgets and you have none. If [your] brand is successful you need to have financial liquidity to honor your orders. With no fashion shows, no magazine spreads, it’s not easy to make your products known. The only publicity is by word-of-mouth, thanks to the customers.
Also, my name is very linked to Chanel and Roger Vivier, two luxurious brands, so people expect the same quality and service but at lower prices [from my personal] brand. Sometimes people think I only make things for my own height and size! (laughs…)
Personally, people are more interested in asking about my past as a model than about what I am doing today; journalists want to know how it was to work with Karl Lagerfeld. That was more than 30 years ago!
TheCovey: What has been the biggest surprise about your evolution?
De la Fressange: I am a lot happier now than when I was 25! Today, I learned how to avoid stress [by] knowing many things are really not important. I learned how to rest without feeling guilty, how to refuse boring things, how to say “no.” With age, I don’t care about what people think about my outfit, my face, [how] my home is decorated. Being less self-conscious than you may have felt at 25 simply makes you happier. Having the wisdom to appreciate that everything is fine at this precise moment is something you get with age.
TheCovey: To women who are thinking of reinventing themselves, or making an evolution, what would your suggestions be on getting started?
De la Fressange:
1) Take time to breathe.
2) Think that now — at this precise moment — everything is fine, so don’t worry about the future.
3) Take time to wish what you wish for and write it down.
4) Help others and — at one moment in time — it will help you.
5) Smile, even before you have a reason to.
TheCovey: What is the ONE THING that was most difficult to overcome in your professional career and how did you push through it?
De la Fressange: Leaving my children when I had to travel for work. Today, now that they are grown-ups, I realize it wasn’t such a bad thing for them — they are independent, generous, brilliant, and, because I felt guilty, it meant that we always had nice, quiet, and harmonious moments together: we never fought. Having a mum who enjoyed her professional life and was beaming, rather than a frustrated mum, was, in the end, [setting] a good example.