Lessons from the stylish: Inès de la Fressange (An article in The Telegraph)
Not Inès. It's not that refusal is her form of elegance - she loves accessories. She gets the allure of too many shoes and although when we meet, it's barely been five minutes since she stepped off the Eurostar from Paris, she's somehow found time to nip into Topshop where she nabbed the pearl-smothered miniskirt I had spotted a few days earlier but reluctantly rejected as age-inappropriate. Her too, it turns out. She bought it for her younger daughter, Violette.
The point about DLF is that she's properly chic, with all the unexpected jolts that requires - an original mixture of rigorous French discrimination, British whimsy and Argentine, Polish, Colombian and Czech genes. Presumably that's why her book on Parisian chic has sold more than a million copies. Over tea in Mayfair, like the good Anglophile she is, she orders a plate of finger sandwiches and like the true Parisian, leaves them all. All the while her bangles are clinking, clattering and tinkling as she puffs on one of those electric cigarettes that have taken France by storm.
But this is far from another cruddy mash-up masquerading as edginess. DLF never teeters into the exhibitionist drag that engulfs some women with access to key catwalk pieces. Neither is her style ever dull. Take the tailored jacket she's wearing. DLF loves a tailored jacket. Last time I saw her she was wearing a tweed hunting coat. Hermès? Obviously not. It was a tweed hunting jacket.
Today's offering is double denim. The Boyfriend jeans are from J Crew. The dark jacket, vintage, is from 45RPM, a Japanese line that seems only to be available - in sparse quantities - on eBay. Bidding prices start at around £180 but Inès says she pays about €5 from a market stall in Paris. Typical.
She's wearing flat red patent Roger Vivier pumps. It's probably in her contract. The next bit most certainly isn't.
"What's this style called?" she asks the PR before launching into an off-message elegy to her favourite Manolo Blahnik shoes, as well as to Rene Mancini, an under-celebrated Italian designer. That too is typical - and why she was such a clever match for Vivier. She's not your average platitude-spouting muse. In fact she'd hate to be called a muse: she's more active than that. It was she who identified that Bruno Frisoni would be the ideal designer for the storied label that provided all Deneuve's buckled shoes in Belle de Jour, Buñuel's skilful 1967 blend of masochism and shift dresses. And so it proved.
Her pumps and jewellery (a pile-up of friendship bracelets and inherited antiques from the rich branch of the family) are the most expensive items she's wearing. She's really not crazy about the turn luxury prices have taken. "£1,000 for a T-shirt when you can get a similar one in H&M? It's boullesheet."
She loves navy sweaters and jackets but tries to restrain herself from repeat buying. "At Chanel [a year ago she and Karl Lagerfeld publicly buried their feud when she returned to the Chanel catwalk after a 20-year absence] or Vivier, they're always so generous. If I like something in two colours, they're always saying, 'Take them both.' But I never do because you're anguished if you have too many things. The best thing that could happen to me - and this is a very snobbish thing to say - is that I would lose my suitcase and start again."
Inès de la Fressange with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel spring/summer 2011 PHOTO: WIREIMAGE
Surprisingly, she doesn't think having the perfect piece is the be-all and end-all. "That's a mistake women make as they get older. They do too much. Too much Botox, too much blow-drying. They go to Prada to buy a sweater and end up walking out with The Total Look. Or they think they have to wear all the jewellery their husbands give them all the time. Style shouldn't be so unrelaxing. It needs to be more spontaneous."
Talking of spontaneity, she still hadn't sorted her outfits for the Cannes Film Festival when we met. She's there as part of her L'Oréal job (at 55 , she's the face of Revitalift, and luckily for the cosmetics giant, really thinks it seems to work). Lagerfeld naturally offered to dress her but she teased him by asking why he was so keen on dressing anorexic teenagers. She's still amazed some actresses demand money to wear designers' clothes on the red carpet. Not her. "I'd rather be poor, but chic."
Best wrinkle cure
What's wrong with wrinkles?
At the moment JCrew's Boyfriends
Every home should have…
A room of one's own. Virginia Woolf was right. I've turned mine into a boudoir
What makes a shoe chic?
One that makes your foot look narrow and feel comfortable
Not that "sexy" lingerie stuff from Agent Provocateur or Chantelle Thomass that women are supposed to go mad over . I like a Tshirt in bed. My boyfriend doesn't, though
Spotted any talent lately?
A jewellery designer called Emmanuelle Zysman ( ) She had this funny little stall in Pigalle, the red-light district, when I found her. Now she's just opened a shop by Louboutin. And I love the fine gold chains from HaGa ( )
A vintage Geiger
Article: Lisa Amstrong for The Telegraph, 20 May 2013