First it’s her laugh. Strong, elegant and real. Then we see her as she enters the room, incredibly tall and beautiful. All smiles, Caroline de Maigret has been shooting all day and just got back from LA, but that doesn’t stop her from being friendly and enthusiastic. At 42, she seems to have lived a thousand lives. Model in New York City for the most renowned photographers, music producer, muse for Chanel, author of How to be Parisian and mother of a ten-year-old boy with the musician Yarol Poupaud.
She’s as famous for her androgynous figure as she is for her humour and self-mockery. Style wise Caroline likes to mix up her own authentic flair with Parisian clichés. “Fashion is, first of all, meant to be a pleasure”, she says, pretty aware of the fact that you shouldn’t take it too seriously, and yet very respectful of the precious lightness it allows, especially these days. Strong willed and cultured, Caroline de Maigret is a pure and free spirit who’s enjoying life every step of her way.
Semaine: You have so many different aspects to your career. What do you say when people ask you what you do?
Caroline: Usually, I answer that I’m a producer. Because I produce music, and I also produce ideas. In fashion for example, I write videos, as I do for Chanel.
Semaine: Was the CDM Diary the best way to reunite all the things you do and love?
Caroline: The idea was to create a whole digital platform about style, and explain that style also comes from everything that feeds oneself. It’s not only about fashion. It’s also your way of life, the movies you watch, the books you read, the way you behave. I couldn’t imagine talking about style without talking about all the rest. What I love is the image, and the moment of lightness that it can bring to a woman or a man’s life.
Semaine: What kind of education did you have?
Caroline: I studied literature at La Sorbonne. I thought that at least I would read books, but my real dream was to study art history to become a curator in a museum. But that’s not what was expected of me. I’ve had a very classic education and they wanted me to have a “real” job. It was a way of protecting us, I get it now.
Semaine: Was becoming a model a form of rebellion?
Caroline: People kept asking me in the streets of Paris if I wanted to be a model and I kept saying no, until I figured out it was the way for me to become financially independent. It wasn’t a rebellion, it’s just that I needed to do my own thing.
Semaine: What did you enjoy most during your years as a model?
Caroline: I was very lucky because I was successful straight away, and I quickly met extraordinary people that I would not have never met otherwise. I’ve had the chance to work with Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Karl Lagerfeld… only very talented, intelligent, and generous people. It’s crazy to live a life like that! They all told me amazing stories and I took notes every time I was on a shoot. They told me about books or movies, and when I came home, I read and watched them. Being next to them made me want to reach their level of knowledge, I wanted them to be proud of me. It was very rich, and that was the education I chose for myself. Maybe that was my kind of rebellion: to learn what I wanted to learn. It was passion and in that sense, modelling was a very positive experience. I decided to quit simply because I had the feeling that I had learned and grew enough, and that my wings were wide open to do everything I wanted to do. It’s quite a passive job, you have to wait for someone to choose you. That wasn’t enough for me. I needed to do something by myself.
Semaine: Like the videos?
Caroline: This is what I prefer to do right now. I love to write and produce. I also love that way of communicating with women who understand my humour. They like to be talked to this way. I mean I like it, so I believe that some others will like it as well. And I just like to laugh really, especially these days.
Semaine: And that sense of humour became your signature somehow…
Caroline: It’s a kind of an escape for me I believe, to create a distance. I certainly have to grow up some more to stop having to make jokes! (laughs). Humour allows me to say that fashion doesn’t change the world and that it does at the same time, because when you had a bad day at work, it brings this little bright fantasy that is so precious. Fashion is, first of all, meant to be a pleasure.
Semaine: What about becoming an actress since you like to act?
Caroline: I would love that, but the problem I have with it is once again this notion of passivity, or at least the need to answer to someone else’s desire. I don’t want to be confronted to that again. When someone asks me to do a short or long movie that I believe to be cool, I happily do it, but I wouldn’t fit in in the acting world. I don’t imagine myself doing castings or dinners with producers, because that’s not what I intend to do. I have plenty of friends who do that, and I see how difficult this can be.
Semaine: Let’s talk about fashion again. What is your definition of elegance?
Caroline: To me, it begins with respecting the other. Listening to them, letting them talk, paying attention. Elegance is about taking the time to listen and understand someone. Even an elegant gesture is a gesture that takes its time. When you see a woman who gently puts her hand on her neck for example, or gets inside a car… It’s often when you take the time, after which we all run, that a certain elegance is born.
Semaine: Tell us about the Parisian girl
Caroline: I’ve had fun with the image of her in my book and at the same time I try to draw a true picture of her instead of the actual cliché of the perfect woman. My intention was to break the myth, to explain that it’s because she’s not perfect that people adore her. The impression she gives to be free, independent and do whatever she wants to do is quite exciting, and many foreigners envy that. I wanted to tell women: “Let go, because it’s when you let go that life becomes much more fun”.
Semaine: What about your own style?
Caroline: People say that it’s “effortless”, “cool”, or “androgynous”. But that really comes from my body, which implies that “girly” is not for me. When I was in college, I began to wear my brother’s trousers and people told me it was really cool, so I figured it suited me well. My style followed the music I listened to. I had a gothic phase, and then grunge with the rise of Nirvana. I listened to punk music very loud and went to Elysée Montmartre all the time for Alice In Chains or Fugazi gigs. I wore check shirts and too large ripped jeans. Now, I’m also a mix of all those musical experiences.
Semaine: What role does music play in your life?
Caroline: Music was my very first escape. When you’re a teenager, it’s the part of you that only belongs to you. And then, for me, musicians were the only people who had the same lifestyle as models. So, when I lived in New York, they were the guys we were hanging out with. They were cute, cool, going to bed late, wandering around… And they also liked to hang out with beautiful girls!
Semaine: And so now you’re living with a musician!
Caroline: I met Yarol when I moved back to Paris in 2005. I wanted to create a record company and I went to a concert he was playing in. It was really weird because it was everything I loved: a mix of old soul, delta blues and speed hard rock. So, first I fell in love with his music. We created Bonus Tracks Records, and three months later, I was in love with him.
Semaine: You said: “he represents the opposite of my education”. What did you mean by that?
Caroline: His brother (the actor Melvil Poupaud) and him had a very artistic education. Their mother was a PR in cinema. She listened to Bob Dylan and there was always Maria Schneider, Marguerite Duras or Isabelle Adjani at home. Nothing to do with my own education. I was raised in the fear of what people might think, whereas it was the opposite for him. To the point that it rushed me sometimes. But I thought it was so sincere and so true. It shakes my assets, but at the same time it’s exactly what I’m leaning towards.
Semaine: Do you think we need to find the opposite to achieve the perfect balance?
Caroline: We’ve been together for almost 13 years, and I truly believe this is one of the things that maintains our love. We enrich each other because we’re different. Also, we are lucky because our daily life is never boring. When I’m not on a shoot, and he’s not on stage, we spend a lot of time together with our son Anton. My family is all I’m interested in really.
Semaine: What do you want to convey to your son?
Caroline: I’ve always felt that I belonged anywhere I went, thanks to my education. And I know this is a luxury. I also want my son to feel good wherever he goes. I want him to be polite, respectful, and safe, but other than that, I will leave him be himself. My stepmother raised two talented, passionate and really good guys who are eager to learn. I would like my son to be that curious. We try to bring some fun into everything he learns at school, so in that way it becomes a pleasure. He’s also been taking piano lessons for two years now. Sometimes he loves it, sometimes he hates it, but we don’t want him to give up too easily. All my friends who are musicians were pushed by their parents in the first place. And I think what’s interesting is to go deep into everything you do.
Semaine: Is getting older something that scares you?
Caroline: It’s not the easiest thing in life, but the funny part is that, same as for maternity, the older you get, the less megalomaniac you are. You’re more interested in important things and less in your own little person. To be honest, I’m more scared of death than of getting old. I’m becoming a hypochondriac with the years (laughs)! And I feel it’s more real when you’re a mum because you’re afraid to leave your child, and most of all, you’re scared of losing him. Anguish I never had before, when I could be a little reckless.
Semaine: What are your next projects?
Caroline: Many things with Chanel! It’s still so exciting to work with them. They let me be 100% myself, they trust me. They take me as I am physically but also for the woman that I am with all the stories that I want to tell. It’s very satisfying and it makes me very happy. I’m also working on a new book with a friend of mine. Still about women, but not specifically about the Parisian girl. And I still want to laugh at myself. Always.
By Tiphaine Lévy-Frébault for Semaine.