Appearing in campaigns for both Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, we talk to the actress and singer about her effortless style
Dazed will be publishing a series of articles with Charlotte Gainsbourg throughout the day – head here to read more.
“I’m very difficult with clothes,” says actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg – despite admitting that for most her life her wardrobe has consisted of one unwavering classic combination: a t-shirt, jeans, and pair of tennis shoes. “Even if it’s something very simple it takes me time to find the right thing – I still haven’t found the perfect jeans.”
Although she was led into the hallowed showrooms of Saint Laurent as a teenage actress in need of clothes for awards ceremonies (unsurprisingly, this was at the direction of her mother, Jane Birkin) Gainsbourg’s first real engagement with the fashion industry came later, through designer Nicolas Ghesquière. He invited her to his debut show for Balenciaga back in 1997, and she was enthralled. “I think he had an enormous respect for women and for a very stylish woman,” she surmises, recalling his vision at the time. “Elegant and very simple yet modern in his way.”
A long relationship followed – Gainsbourg starred in Balenciaga fragrance and ready-to-wear campaigns and has since been photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton, where Ghesquière moved in 2013.
Today, she is the face of a different French house – the very one she found herself in as a teenager. Working with current Saint Laurent womenswear creative director Anthony Vaccarello, she has become a face of the brand – sitting on the front row with her famously fashionable mother and half sister Lou Doillon at his debut, and appearing in his signature brooding black and white visuals for AW17.
As part of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Dazed takeover ahead of her new album Rest, we caught up to talk about the role clothes and fashion have played in her life.
ON TEENAGE IDENTITY
“How did I use to dress as a 15-year-old? Oh, it was very bad taste. Really, really bad taste. When I started out I was influenced by my mother, so I was trying her jeans on but it didn't look that good. I did a period film based in the 50s in France and so I was very much influenced by that era and that style. I used to go to flea markets and find things but it felt a little like I was in disguise, it didn't feel authentic at all, I was pretending. Now that I look back I think it’s charming, but it was a little fake.”
ON THE FIRST FASHION SHOW THAT MEANT SOMETHING
“I never really cared for fashion shows. Then I was invited to Balenciaga by Nicolas and I went there not knowing what to expect – I made an effort because I was invited and I wanted to be nice. I wasn't really expecting to have any real reaction, but I loved every single thing. He asked me to do a photoshoot for that collection and we started very slowly to get to know each other and today he’s one of my best friends, which is very important. I don’t like the idea of collaborating with people I don’t know or to just wear clothes – of course, that’s the first step, but then I want to know more.”
ON THE CONCEPT OF A MUSE
“I always enjoy working with a stylist or a designer that I love, which was the case of me with Nicolas, and it’s the case now with Anthony – there’s a real relationship that’s growing which for me is the main thing. I don’t even know what the word ‘muse’ means really, it seems so stupid. I understand a muse for a painter a century ago, but for me I don’t see myself as a model of any kind. I tend to not take it very seriously, which is the way I like it. I love the idea that people – or for the moment Anthony – is inspired by me, but the term muse is a bit much.”
ON MEETING ANTHONY VACCARELLO
“I discovered what Anthony was doing for himself with his brand, and I thought it was wonderful. I had a big event in France called Le Cesar that I had to attend and he came to my house. He was so sweet and was a young designer then so it was wonderful to feel that it was so exciting for him. He made it fun for me – he wanted me to wear something really, really short! We very gradually got to know each other before he got hold of Saint Laurent which was incredible. I find it very, very intelligent what he’s doing – it is Saint Laurent but at the same time I can see the remains of what he has done for himself, his own image. There’s something exciting about wearing his clothes.”
ON WHAT HER PARENTS TAUGHT HER ABOUT CLOTHES
“I think I got the comfort of clothes from my mother because my father had this thing of wearing a uniform. He would wear the same thing every day because he had disguises. That was his image. I understand this because I find it so reassuring to not have to bother with what you’re going to wear – I got a bit of that from him but then at the same time my mother had a real relationship with clothes which was much more sensual. She used to destroy them – If she had a new t-shirt she would enlarge the collar and make it big, it was about this idea of second hand. That’s what I saw her do and that’s what I do now – that’s what she taught me.”
Rest is out November 17 via Because Music