caroline de maigret is the chanel muse and embodiment of eternal cool
With the Chanel Metiers d'Arts show hitting Salzburg, Austria tomorrow night, we catch up with Chanel ambassador and all round Parisian It-girl Caroline de Maigret to discuss the power of one of France's leading luxury brands...
"Shit! Did I just spill apple sauce on the carpet?" frets Caroline de Maigret as she devours a chausson aux pommes. It's 10am in Paris, the model, muse, record producer and IT femme is comfortably tucked up on a sofa in Coco Chanel's iconic headquarters on rue Cambon. Caroline has one distinctive skill: breaking down stereotypes, while simultaneously strengthening the myth of the French woman. Today, she is not wearing a hint of make-up. Her artfully messy coiffe is covering half of her face like a teenager "stuck in an adult's body", her shirt is striped, her Air Max trainers are battered, and her jeans are her boyfriend's. "I literally need three minutes to get ready in the morning. But that took ten years of practice," she confesses.
Caroline is one of the current faces of Lancôme ("A bold choice for them," she says referring to her age, 39) and an ambassador for Chanel: "Chanel's like a second home. I've grown close to the women who work here behind the scenes, as well as the edgier muses who cherish a rock'n'roll culture, like Alice Dellal." She also recently made headlines for a book she co-wrote with her three best friends, How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, instantly establishing herself as the new face of Parisian cool - a notion which, as Caroline would confirm, is undergoing major changes today, mastering a mix of high and low. And "Caro" embodies that to a T.
Of course, her social ease hasn't sprung out of nowhere. Born in the upper class suburb of Neuilly, she is the granddaughter of Prince Michel Poniatowski, a former minister, and the daughter of Count Bertrand de Maigret, also a politician. Nevertheless, as a teenager she felt utterly disinterested in glitz, instead she chose to experiment: "I decided I was a goth, so I dyed my hair black and wore a veil over everything." She also went through a "reggae queen" phase that came complete with "chain-smoking joints". Eager to gain independence, she started modelling at the age of 18 and was shocked to discover the pressure placed on women's aesthetics. "The agency asked me to get a nose job. That's the day I realised I had a big nose. I grew up before selfie culture and had spent little time looking in the mirror. I was horrified." Needless to say she didn't go near the knife. Luckily, the arrival of new faces such as Kate Moss marked a move away from the 90s hyper-beauties such as Linda and Naomi. "Suddenly there was room for awkwardness, which gave a new place to attitude and personality," Caroline remembers, and soon she was photographed by Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh and Terry Richardson, and walked for Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga. Caroline went on to co-found Track Records, with producer-musician Yarol Poupaud, with whom she now shares her life.
Nevertheless, there is more to Caroline than a picture-perfect bourgeois-bohemian life. She exemplifies what Sonia Rykiel once wrote about herself and Parisian women: "The more I unveil of myself, the more the mystery around me thickens." Although Miss Maigret's life and appearances are highly mediatised and her Instagram account is, by her own admission, "shameless self-promotion" that documents her daily moves (and lunches), a cryptic je-ne-sais quoi remains. Her sudden peak to worldwide fame, her flawless relationship, her calmness with regard to her age - these are what make her stand out, and they can't simply be boiled down to adroit Parisian-ness.
Most French women don't recall Caroline's modelling days; after years of being totally off the radar, she reached a sudden hype in her late thirties, an age when models traditionally find it harder to get work. "France loves ageing icons," says Laurence Vely, a chief-editor at Vanity Fair France. "But unlike Catherine Deneuve, the country didn't grow up with Caroline; she suddenly sprung into consciousness as an older beauty a few years ago. To women here, she is and will always be a sexy almost-forty-year-old." Indeed, Caroline de Maigret's comeback occurred with a Sandro campaign she shot in 2010 with Yarol and Anton - defining her as a modern French mother. "There is a move towards accepting women who are slightly older, and that's the reason I'm working so much today," Caroline points out. And that takes both acceptance and work. "One day you look in the mirror and realise your body has changed, but that's okay. Never try to imitate youth, but rather look the best you can at any given age." Caroline sees a personal trainer "once in a while", and has opted for "bangs instead of Botox". "It's all about improving your potential and cherishing what you have," she says.
Today, she upholds a tradition of French women whose beauty starts from within, like Barbara, Françoise Sagan, Loulou de la Falaise and many other fearless heroines before her. She emanates a timeless rock'n'roll attitude, a promise of eternal youth, thrill and sex appeal," adds Laurence Vely. Caroline seems to agree: "The message from my book is the philosophy I go by: cherish and work on what's on the inside, it will show on your face. Go see an exhibition instead of painting your face. There is plenty of time for that later."
Text Alice Pfeiffer
Photography Sean Thomas
Styling Julia Sarr-Jamois
Hair Seb Bascle at ArtList.
Make-up William Bartel at ArtList using Chanel Christmas 2014 and Chanel Body Excellence.
Nail technician Charlene Coquard at ArtList.
Photography assistance Paul Jedwab.
Styling assistance Hisato Tasaka.
Model Caroline de Maigret at Next London.
Caroline wears all clothing Chanel Resort 15.