Paris fashion has been on the back foot recently with Tom Ford championing British eccentricity in London and Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane leading a style renaissance in Los Angeles.
Cue ex-supermodel Ines de La Fressange with a collection restating the case for her own personal brand of classic Parisian chic.
The one-time muse of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld whose book on how to dress like a real Parisian was a best-seller has just completed a collaboration with Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo that had shoppers queuing in the rain in Tokyo.
Belted shirt and wrap dresses, versatile shirts and narrow trousers accessorised with caps and spotted scarves for spring/summer 2014 were snapped up in minutes when they went on sale in the Japanese capital last month with some items already sold out online.
De La Fressange and Uniqlo creative director Naoki Takizawa said they knew each other only by reputation before they embarked on their collaboration but quickly discovered they shared very similar tastes.
Since taking the helm at Uniqlo in 2012, Takizawa, a protege and long-time collaborator of Japanese designer Issey Miyake, has overseen a transformation of the utilitarian brand with an injection of luxurious but simple fashion with mass appeal.
“It was fun because after ten minutes we were friends and wanted to work together,” said De La Fressange, 56, a firm enthusiast of mixing and matching high-fashion with low-cost basics, in an interview in Paris.
“We both came from the luxury and creative world and we wanted more or less the same kind of things. I had the impression that he was showing me the fabrics and things I wanted to have before I even said it,” she said.
They shared an admiration not just for Miyake but also other Japanese designers such Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, which made working together “very easy”, she said.
De La Fressange famously set out her personal style philosophy in her 2010 book La Parisienne.
‘Everything is possible’
The daughter of a French aristocrat and Argentinian model, the 1980s Chanel couture model advised readers to mix styles, experiment with new labels and men’s clothing and invest in a good trenchcoat, blazer and little black dress.
Her “don’ts” included steering clear of bling, coordinating shoes and bags, and fur for anyone over 50 wanting to avoid the “wrinkled trophy wife” look.
Translated into at least 17 languages and with the English title Parisian Chic, the book has sold over a million copies worldwide.
Uniqlo global marketing chief Jorgen Andersson said De La Fressange, who is a brand ambassador for L’Oreal and recently returned to her eponymous label, was an inspiration for his brand’s customers.
“She has a great sense of taste. She has that magic that every woman wants,” he said.
“How do you put pieces together? Because that’s really what fashion is all about, not buying everything from one brand but picking up things and mixing it with what you already have in your wardrobe to create an appealing look.”
Little known outside Japan only a decade ago, the Uniqlo brand created by Tadashi Yanai, one of Japan’s richest men, has in recent years pursued an aggressive international expansion strategy.
As well as stores all over Asia, it now has outlets worldwide in cities such as New York, Paris, London and Moscow.
In another highly publicity-conscious collaboration this year, it has teamed up with US musician Pharrell Williams to produce a range of T-shirts and caps due to go on sale from mid-April.
De La Fressange and Takizawa, meanwhile, have also completed a second collection for autumn/winter 2014/15 and no one is ruling out a third.
“Everything is possible,” she said.