Virginie Mouzat: ‘I dread modernity for the sake of it’
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My personal style signifier is wearing sneakers almost every day. It began one year during Paris Fashion Week, before sneaker-mania hit. It was a Sunday morning ahead of a show, and I was tired and just didn’t feel like wearing heels. Suddenly everyone was looking at me saying: “Wow, it’s so refreshing, it makes you look younger, the way you walk is different.” And on top of that, sneakers were just so comfortable. So that was the start of a new way of life for me, and a way of saying, maybe femininity is not linked to high heels. Now I wear a lot of Adidas sneakers – I am addicted to the Cloudfoam soles – and also Balenciaga Speed Sock trainers.
The last thing I bought and loved was a lucky charm by Elie Top. I first discovered his designs when he was working with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. Then I got to know him as a person, and he’s just adorable – elegant, sensitive, a wonderful friend. He’s from another time, that dandified ’70s era of YSL. I adore this star charm, which has opals, diamonds and pearls, and features Top’s favourite technique of mixing silver and gold. La Dame du Lac star charm, €6,600
And on my wishlist is a shelving unit by Ignazio Gardella, who was an Italian furniture designer in the 20th century. I discovered him through my antique dealer, Galerie Le Studio in Paris. I love the elongated and pure lines of the shelves and the black high-gloss wood. It’s clean, bold and dramatic – a midcentury classic. galerielestudio-hp.com
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is lengths of silk naturally dyed with fruits and plants in the north of Thailand. The craftsmanship in the texture and the nuances of the shades and colours are amazing. I will probably use the fabric to cover chairs or cushions. I also have a Jizo god statue that I found in an antique shop in Kyoto. This god protects children and unborn babies. Not only is the statue beautiful, but when it came shipped from Japan the way it was wrapped, using a technique called furoshiki, made it a double joy to receive.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Fairyland by Alysia Abbott. It’s a story of survival, about going through an extremely difficult childhood; it made me reconsider my own childhood and how easy it was in comparison. I was totally taken by this book, by her voice, by the finesse she shows in her writing. It made me laugh and cry.
The fashion moment that changed everything was when Bernard Arnault bought Christian Dior; there was a before and an after in the fashion industry. He changed the scale of fashion businesses, the profile and job description of the fashion designer, the idea of fashion itself – that it can be a business and an industry beyond art. Also, I think the merging of Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada is really interesting. I’m not speaking so much about the results, but the combo and the idea behind it is quite daring.
One of my earliest fashion memories was doing a fitting with Karl Lagerfeld, when he was designing Chloé. I was just a nobody, an in-house model – not a star. Suddenly, one of his staff calls and says: “You have to put this dress on and come over, Karl would love to see you.” So I went over in bare feet with the dress and he adored it. He was, like: “No shoes, it’s fantastic, she looks like Françoise Dorléac”, who is the late sister of Catherine Deneuve. And I always loved that – The Young Girls of Rochefort, which they starred in together, was my favourite movie because I have a twin sister, and we’re Geminis. So when he said that, I thought, “Well, this is karma.”
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a navy-and-black puffer jacket by Sacaï. It’s a puzzle of different outfits put together, quite striking, and extremely warm. The play on volume is beautiful. It’s funny when you are wearing Sacaï around non-fashion people, and they ask, “Why are you missing half of your outfit? I don’t understand.”
When I need to feel inspired, I do my early-morning ritual: complete silence, alone with cigarettes, a coffee, a Diptyque candle and energy balls from Maisie café. That’s the only way I can write my books – there’s no magic. It’s really a rendezvous with my computer and myself.
A recent “find” is the JK Place hotel, which is in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. It’s very charming, and the decor is really nice. I dread modernity for the sake of it – this is the disease of the planet – and they don’t even try to go there, which I love.
I feel most comfortable when I’m wearing black. Sometimes I think life would be much easier if we wore uniforms. There’s a certain sense of equality in it – you can’t read people socially if everyone is wearing the same thing. Black, maybe because I’m blonde, works well on me. Although in summer I’ve been trying some other colours.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a voucher for a made-to-measure shirt from Charvet, which I gave to a friend. He was over the moon, so I got it right. Just going there is a trip into the past – the Egyptian cotton, the embroidery, the pyjamas, the bath robes. Everything is delightful.
In my fridge you’ll always find fermented Japanese prunes, called ume. They are very salty, so you have to have them on a neutral base – I just eat one with white rice and it’s fabulous. And also sake – I drink it cold, maybe with one ice cube, and I find it’s even better than champagne or wine. kinase-boutique.com
The first piece of clothing I ever bought myself was a blue YSL Rive Gauche evening jacket. It was in the second half of the ’80s, while I was the in-house model at the brand, and I had the opportunity to buy a press sample, because I couldn’t have afforded it in a shop. It was almost like a Spencer jacket, with jet-black buttons. I bought it for a ball I was going to, and I wore it with a long, tight black skirt.
An object I would never part with is a bronze planetaire, made by my uncle, who was an expert in astrolabes. It has all the planets of the solar system marked in semi-precious stones, and the astrological signs engraved on it. It’s signed and dated 1966, the year of my birth.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Victor Brauner, who was a Romanian sculptor and painter. He used the beautiful technique of waxed painting, and his work is a bit surreal, a bit abstract, very poetic, very strong. The paintings seem to fall somewhere between a dream and a nightmare – which is a good definition of life.
The beauty staple I’m never without is Youth Dew by Estée Lauder: it’s my secret weapon. I have lived with this perfume for so many years. You can still find the bath oil too; I put a few drops in boiling water and it perfumes the house. £44 for 67ml EDP
The accessory I’ll keep to pass on is a grey jersey Chanel 2.55 bag, which I will give to someone special – a friend probably, as I have no kids. I’ve never seen another jersey style like it, so it’s quite unique.
My beauty guru is Christophe Robin, who used to do the hair colour of everyone from Carla Bruni to Catherine Deneuve. He himself doesn’t colour my hair any more, but he has two women who have been working with him for years, Marie‑Soyeuse and Emilie, who are also fantastic. 16 Rue Bachaumont, 75002 Paris
I have a collection of coleoptera, given to me by my father. He was a pharmacist but his passion was entomology. Beetles are like beautiful objects with their polished coats and metallic colours. Mine come from all over the world – Borneo, Java, Mexico, New Zealand – because he had correspondence with collectors in different countries, and they would send each other different specimens. It’s a way of travelling without moving.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be either an architect or interior designer. It’s a bit like writing a novel, where you invent a life for the characters. If you are designing a house, you create a life for human beings and the way they move in the space, what they have to do. I wrote a book about Charlotte Perriand in 2019, and she was exactly like that – she designed based on measures of the hand, the arms, the eye level. I love this exercise – it’s like finding the right words when you’re trying to describe a character; in a house, you have to find the exact shade of colours, the exact proportions that will work for the owners.
My style icon is the late American model Tina Chow. The mix of her boyish allure, being a nightlife figure, her glamour and elegance. And [former model] Betty Catroux, whom I know well. I love the way she drinks white wine, the way she couldn’t care less about what’s happening around her or about her image. She’s quite boyish also – tiny ass, long legs, athletic and supremely elegant. I love the shades – she’s always wearing smoky glasses. It’s an attitude.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at the house of my friend François de Ricqlès, who is the former CEO of Christie’s. He has a beautiful apartment in the 7th arrondissement, and when he’s having guests for lunch or dinner, the food is always exceptional – very French, very classical, but so good, homemade by his chef. And beautiful silver, porcelain, crystal – everything is so sophisticated.
The place I can’t wait to return to is Bangkok. I am drawn to its highs and lows, the street culture and food vendors mixed with an extremely refined, stylised lifestyle. There’s the river district, where even though there are malls and luxury hotels and high-rise buildings, the life of the river pretty much hasn’t changed – there’s the floating market, and boats that people take to go from one point to another. I also love the heat of Bangkok, the tropical feel of the city.
The style advice I live by is don’t let your outfit speak louder than yourself. I’m a big believer in words, and to me the best outfit for a woman is her conversation.
My favourite app is Instagram, and my favourite account is by Olivier Gabet, the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He’s an avid reader, and he’s always posting books that I don’t know, so I follow him for recommendations. @olivier_gabet
An indulgence I would never forgo is buying antiques, everywhere I go. When I’m travelling, I don’t care about buying a new skirt or bag or whatever, I just always ask where the best antiques shops are. In Paris, anywhere around Rue de Lille, Rue de Beaune and Quai Voltaire, you have lots of dealers with beautiful pieces. And then in the flea market at St Ouen, one seller I love to visit is Nicolas Giovannoni, who specialises in porcelain and crystals.
The last music I downloaded was Dua Lipa, who I am obsessed with – her voice, her looks, she’s super talented. “Hallucinate”, “Levitating”, all these hits. Suddenly I am like a teenager again, dancing around my house with the music up loud.
The best gift I’ve received recently is a bronze and glass vase from Hervé van der Straeten, who is a friend. He has beautiful, flawless taste. The vase has black and tarnished-gold stripes, and the base is like big bubbles of glass. And even if it sits empty, it’s still beautiful, because it’s like a sculpture.
My favourite room in my house is my living room. I have sliding windows in the roof, and it’s wonderful to be able to open them and let the sky in. Even on the darkest day, the light in the room just heals me. I have two Abyssinian cats, Dune and Dust, and they love the windows too – they just sit and stare at birds that land on the glass.
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