Since Carla Bruni-Sarkozy swept on to the world stage in Dior, France has been reinstated as global leader of all things cool. From fashion to film, the French are once more the flavour du jour. Lucie Greene takes a look at the crème de la crème
Oh la Carla!
But in recent years the je ne sais quoi faded and the nation simply lost its va-va-voom. Maybe it was the competition from our 1990s Brit-cool or the ascendancy of all things brash, bling and very un-Français – who knows?
And, quite frankly, in 2009 who cares, because France is back! In the past 12 months it has been reinstated as global leader of all things hot, and the fashion pack can’t get enough of it.
Following behind the kitten heels of First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy, a legion of pretty French actresses and models are now the ones to watch. Forget Nicole Kidman (and that expressionless forehead). Thanks to the wonderfully zeitgeisty film Coco Before Chanel (which will be out here later this month), Audrey Tautou bagged the latest Chanel No 5 ad campaign, while It-actress Clémence Poésy landed the Chloé fragrance contract and Charlotte Gainsbourg scooped best actress for the film Antichrist on home turf at Cannes.
Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and her handsome boyfriend Guillaume Canet have established themselves as worthy rivals to Brad and Angelina for the title of Hollywood’s most gorgeous couple.
What’s more, the French fashion houses were once again behind the most fêted collections on the 2009 catwalk. Lacroix, Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga all enjoyed critical adulation, while hot label Balmain with its iconic pointy-shoulder jackets is being paraded by every celebrity from Victoria Beckham to Kate Moss.
On the British high street, French boutique labels Charles Anastase, Maje, Isabel Marant and Zadig & Voltaire are lining the rails at department stores, and French chains such as Comptoir des Cotonniers are expanding rapidly.
The London and New York party scenes are throbbing with hip Parisians. No guest list is complete without the likes of Julia and Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld (children of Carine Roitfeld, editor of French Vogue, who is rumoured to be next in line for Anna Wintour’s job in New York) and Lou Doillon (daughter of style icon Jane Birkin).
Perhaps the reason we are so drawn to French talent just now is that it is more interesting, more mysterious and more of the moment than identikit Hollywood. The mood du jour favours dignity, class and character. And no one does that better than the French.
The film-star femmes
From left: Audrey Tautou, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sophie Marceau
From left: Marion Cotillard, Cécile Cassel
From left: Clémence Poésy, Mélanie Laurent
The fashion filles
From left: Lou Doillon, Carine Roitfeld and daughter Julia
Mode in heaven
From left: Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton, Balmain