When we meet Inès de la Fressange in her showroom in the 7th arrondissement, we immediately get affected by a very happy mood. Inès is the epicentre of that good vibe and you can see how she gets everyone to do their best. We chat in the back corner of the studio surrounded by French patisserie and crudités, arranged on a table next to us.
IRMA: Inès, I am so happy to meet you in your new showroom in Paris. I just heard, I am the first German journalist paying you a visit?
Inès de la Fressange: It’s the baby company, and we are just starting. The shop opened a year ago and it’s the first time that we receive the press and we did everything ourselves. And you are the first German media.
IRMA: Tell me, how did the idea start to do your own clothes?
I.F.: To make a long story short, when I was a teenager I always wanted clothes and things. I was knitting, trying to do things myself, tie-and-die things. And after, when I had been working with Karl Lagerfeld at the Chanel studio, sometimes he was asking me which fabric would you imagine, which color do you want this or that. And once he told me, One day you are going to do your own brand. And I said, listen, Karl, I don’t know, the only thing I could do are things that I wish I would wear myself, very simple. And then Karl said, maybe this is the concept. Karl gave me the idea. He was a good teacher, I must admit. I would say, Why don’t we make a coat like this, and he would tell me, Make a drawing and then I would do an awful drawing, and he would say: Not bad, but you have to put the pockets and buttons in. So he taught me how to do things, when I saw him working. And he was the best school that you can imagine. Even when we were choosing the fabrics, he would ask me, which one do you prefer best? And he would show me like two black crêpes. And for me it was nearly the same, you know, and I would say let’s say the right one. And then he would tell me, you’re right, it’s better quality. Because without knowing it, finally you learn. You learn how to recognize.
IRMA: But that was a long time ago when you first met Karl. So in between you’ve been doing a lot of things…
I.F.: I’ve been relaunching Roger Vivier and I did a collection for Uniqlo.
IRMA: Were the shoes and bags in your collection inspired by Roger Vivier?
I.F.: No, it’s two different stories. And then two years ago there was this guy who wanted to rebuy the name, the brand, and find some partners. And he said I can relaunch the brand but only if Ines is working with us. And now there is a designer that works there every day, because I keep working for Roger Vivier and L’Oreal and Uniqlo and I can’t be there every day. But I say what I want, what I wish, what I’m looking for. And then we have a shop, and inside the shop it’s like a bazaar or a hardware store. There’s shoes, bags, jewellery, tea, olive oil, brooms, bed linens, carpets – everything that I like. It’s like a small department store. Because I think on the same day you can buy a dress for you, a leash for your dog or a lamp for your house.
IRMA: And you feel good, because you are not only buying for yourself?
I.F.: That’s it, exactly!
IRMA: So you are working on all these different projects, they are all completely different. Do you learn from each other, does it all come together in your shop, like a melting pot?
I.F.: Yes. You know, for instance when it’s silk or cashmere or some shapes, quite sophisticated, it’s hard to make it with Uniqlo. Or embroideries. Even when the quality is fantastic and they can do really nice clothes that are not expensive, there is no purpose of doing it there. So instead of being frustrated, I can do it here. So it’s a very good balance, to have a whole line that everybody can buy and wear all over the world, and something more Parisian, more sophisticated, and a little more luxurious, it’s interesting to have two worlds like this, it’s really nice.
IRMA: Talking about your style, well everything has been said about your style already, but I don’t want to focus so much on the Parisian style. What is your signature look that you feel most comfortable in?
I.F.: Let’s see, sometimes when I have to pack a suitcase and I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, who I am going to see or even what would the weather be like, then I always have a navy blue jacket because I know in the evening with nice earrings it will be looking good, for an appointment in the morning with a t-shirt under it will be fine, and in all countries it will work If it is a good tailored jacket it will always help. A kind of crêpe or silk shirt, in any kind of situation or country will do when it fits.
I love white jeans or navy blue coats. If I feel bad or a bit tired, I will put these clothes on and I will feel more confident and better. It’s not a solution, but a help, really a help. It’s not good to be dressed up the same all the time. Everybody needs a bit of fantasy and a little bit of joy and surprise. However, it’s good to have a few clothes that you are quite sure about. When I was young, I would buy a lot of things cheap instead of just one good thing. I still buy junk things at the flea market or low-price t-shirts when I am traveling, but to have some important pieces, like a good coat and a good jacket, and shoes, bags and accessories.
IRMA: What’s your favourite accessory?
I.F.: Shoes! Because if I lose my case at the airport, I will always find something, I would manage to buy clothes, even if there is nothing, I could do a pareo and I will be fine. But nice shoes, I find them much more difficult to find. It’s like perfume. It has to be done by somebody very patient, except if it’s espadrilles or sandals or sneakers. When you have a beautiful shoe, it can save the whole look. It can change the look and it can save it.
IRMA: It all sounds so easy, but I know it’s not. You once said in an interview that Karl said to you, Never ever say that it was a lot of work, even when it looks like it. Always pretend it was easy. Is this the philosophy of your personal life also? Because you are doing so many things, you are writing a book, you are doing this store, and everything looks really well thought of. So does it come easily to you or are you a good pretender?
I.F.: I think everything comes from work. I am very well helped by very professional people. The people doing the clothes, they have worked at Givenchy, at Chanel etc., very very prestigious places, and you can feel the way the clothes are made. So to be surrounded by these very talented, very professional, very gifted people, it helps. However, you need a little bit of lightness, I think, you can’t be too heavy. I think after years of experience it helps you. But we also keep on doing these things because it’s never exactly perfect. When you are a designer, you have wishes all the time. You want to succeed and you always think you can do better.
IRMA: How do you get away when you need a break?
I.F.: When you love fashion, when you are a designer, you never stop being a designer because you have ideas all the time, you think about things. And at a certain point you just have to accept that this is your life, that there is work in a way and holidays in another way. It’s important to know how to be quiet in a certain moment of the day, do meditation if you can, or just take a breath and see how to relevate things, not be shocked by the stress. However, I know there are a lot of things that are going to be urgent or last minute, but then I keep in my agenda some free time for this, or I am really free or I am very happy to find this slot. And this also comes with the experience to avoid stress. Sometimes you arrive at home and you think, Oh it’s so messy, I should do this and this. But then to think it’s not that important, it can be done tomorrow. I think most of the women feel guilty because we think we didn’t do enough at work, or we didn’t so enough at home, and everything is for the others, and never for us. And if we are happy and and smiley. Other people around us feel better. A friend of mine told me if you are in an airplane and suddenly there is a change in air and the oxygen mask falls out and you are with your two children, what do you do? And I said give a mask to one and a mask to the other. And he said, you’re wrong, you should put the mask on yourself first and then the children. So when you are fine you can help the others. So I have always remembered that.
You know the women of the eighties, who were perfect everywhere or tried to be perfect, to succeed in everything and a workaholic, we understood that this doesn’t work. One has to accept that nobody is perfect, but there is nobody else like you or me and we are part of a group. And when you know that, everything will be fine.
IRMA: Thanks you so much, Inès.
I.F.: Thank you for coming!