HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHERE THE UNMISTAKABLY PARISIAN ‘EFFORTLESS CHIC’ ORIGINATED, THE VERY ESSENCE THAT IS PAINSTAKINGLY EXTRACTED AND REPLICATED IN ALL FORMS OF FASHION? WHO STARTED THIS CONFOUNDINGLY DIFFICULT-TO-DO DEMEANOR? INÈS DE LA FRESSANGE, THE ORIGINAL AND THE ONLY ONE WHO REALLY EVER PULLS IT OFF.
Inès may have many titles, designer, mother, model, director, ambassador, Aristocrat, but most people just mention ‘muse’, a title she finds hilarious. “I’m not a muse! Amusing but not a muse” one of many endearing Inès quotes. Her style is anything but funny, even if she approaches it without a speck of self-importance.
Born into a family of almost painful elegance- her mother an Argentinean model and Heiress, her Father a stockbroker with his own plane, and her haute couture clad, gold Rolls-Royce driving grandmother a direct line to the lazard banking fortune- conditions that may have helped with the high cheekbones, thigh-less long legs and a natural ability to look elegant at all times. But it would be too easy to make the assumption that these very conditions are the result of her particular line of allure, too simplified to underestimates the personality behind the woman.
THE PERSONALITY OF STYLE
After unsuccessfully trying to get into modeling - the look was Californian surfer girl at the time - Inès was introduced through a friend-of-a-friend to the owner of PaulinE, the best Model agency back then. Dior and Chanel said no to begin with, but with time, and a runway down with Kenzo, show after show is booked. In 1982 Inès had the destiny-changing introduction to Karl Lagerfeld and became the first model to sign an exclusive haute couture contract becoming - as we would describe today - the face of Chanel. It was in this era that Inès pioneered the idea of sporting a Chanel jacket with a pair of Levi 501’s, a look that is still very relevant. It was with this special touch of casual that turned fashion from the up tight to the relaxed and the slightly tousled into the hyper-chic.
“Fashion and good taste are made with a little bit of bad taste. It’s like perfume. To make a fantastic, mythical perfume, you need the most incredible flowers, the best quality of products. But you need another product that smells terrible to make the whole thing work. Fashion is like this. Somebody who looks totally perfect would be a little bit boring”. From her own lips a philosophy that eloquently explains the personality’s very ingredients.
LIFE IS MESSY
Inès and her two daughters live in an apartment on the left bank, her eldest daughter Nine was the face of Bottega Veneta’s first fragrance for women, and her youngest daughter is blooming into her own fashion aficionado, with friends with names like Karl Lagerfeld. Her late husband Luigi d’Urso passed away in 2006 of a heart attack, leaving Inès a single mother, a situation she describes with the same style of elegant humility that has made her name. “There is a moment when you decide if it is hard or not. If you come back home and it is messy and you decide everything is dramatic then it is dramatic. But if you decide, “ok, it is messy but it is better to laugh….”
As well as shining some honesty on the realities of life, Inès has proved that aging and its less than seen or talked about enigma is slowly turning around in the world of fashion - yet another thing we can thank the French for. Inès speaks candidly about her runway show back in 2011 for Chanel, at age 53, “Listen, it was a stupid idea of pure vanity. The thing the most difficult to get rid of is vanity. When somebody tells you, “You’re just gorgeous, you’re beautiful, I would like you to do my show,” how do you say, “Oh no no, thank you, not for me” You say, “Oh really? Thank you! And you do it. She goes on to mention that even Karl Lagerfeld himself can appreciate a woman that has a bit of a tummy, wrinkles, things that happen over time. Women such as Inès de la Fressange and Carine Roitfeld have pioneered this change in attitude, bringing sex appeal and glamour - as well as elegance - to women older than thirty. A gift we all owe a big thank you too.
INÈS DE LA NOW
Her recent contributions to the fashion eco-system came off the back of her supply-in-demand style, answering burning questions with ‘Parisian Chic’ a how-to guide to the very conundrum that is ‘effortless chic’. By its sale of over a million copies and its translation into 17 different languages, those questions obviously really needed answering. Her appointment at Roger Vivier as brand Ambassador has revitalized a historic luxury French house and has put her back at the forefront of fashion. Recent collaborations with Uniqlo have allured to her heading back to design, something she had already done for a decade under her own name, ‘Inès de La Fressange’.
Parisian Chic, is, quite literally hers. The men’s-as-women’s clothes, ballerina flats or flats in general and the roughly tied trench coat, are all her personal trademarks. When it comes to dressing Parisian, this one wrote the book.
High-low dressing is something of an Inès art. Her outfits are usually the back-up dancers letting her own beauty take center stage. She is not afraid of wearing an inexpensive piece with couture, or ruffling up the stiffness of tailoring, an element of her over-all effortless brand of chic.
At a private Chanel viewing, Inès de La Fressange greeted Anna Wintour by changing into the same red suit and big dark glasses, mimicking her to her face. Anna laughed. History was made.
Inès de La Fressange came into the world, more specifically in Gassin, Var, France in August 1957 to a rather glamorous and Aristocratic family.
Meeting Karl turns her into a French household name, becoming the first model to sign a exclusive haute couture contract.
Karl and Inès have a very public falling out, at the same time she is chosen to be Marianne, the face of France. A honor that has been shared with names such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.
Inès marries Italian businessman Luigi d’Urso in Tarascon France. They have two daughters together, Nine Marie d’Urso born in 1994 and Violette Marie d’Urso in 1999, with stepdaughters from d’Urso’s first wife Guendalina Levier, Clotilde and India.
Diego Della Valle, CEO of Tod’s group, purchases Roger Vivier and appoints Inès as brand ambassador, and although famous for wearing flat shoes, she takes reign of the company who invented the stiletto heel. A position she has successfully held.
At 51 she hits the runway again for Jean Paul Gaultier, to the delight of everyone, with Gaultier playfully tackling her on the runway to a roaring crowd.
‘Parisian Chic’ is published, a personal how-to and where-to-go style guide by Inès as a reaction to the constant questioning from women around the world.
Historic grievances are put aside between Karl and Inès and once again she graces the stage for Chanel. The audience put down their iphone’s to applaud a smiling flat-shoe wearing Inès
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