There is a certain prejudice against flat shoes. Some women think they have to wear high heels to make themselves taller, but I fight against it. Shoes shouldn’t be seen as some kind of ladder and I’ve never met the man who says about a woman: “If she was 10cm taller she would look so much better.” This fashion for what I see as drag queen shoes is strong, though, and they just seem to get higher and higher. However, if you fall over it’s no more ankles for six months, so I’m happy to see flats back on the catwalk, from Chloé to Lanvin.
I think ridiculously high shoes are part of a clichéd “porno chic” idea. It’s the idea that sexy is a lot of red lipstick, huge breasts and giving the impression that you have some sort of crazy underwear on, but I think that concept is too simple. Sensuality is more interesting.
Last year I modelled in Chanel’s ready-to-wear show. To be polite I arrived at the fittings in huge heels, but I heard Karl Lagerfeld say: “She can stay in her flat shoes, because she always wears them.” I was the only one who could. With all the young models there it was like, “Here’s granny arriving in her slippers”, but everybody noticed that I was wearing flats. A lot of journalists wrote about it, saying I was the only model who walked in a normal way. Well, of course, the other models were suffering.
Shoes can absolutely transform you, and they don’t have to be high. I remember a woman coming to a Roger Vivier boutique. She was about 70 – certainly not a teenager – and looked wealthy, dressed in a black jacket and pants, but she was wearing these loafers with totally rotten heels that looked as if a dog had been chewing them. She tried a pair of elegant flats and then suddenly this woman who just had no style at all, looked like [Jackie Kennedy’s sister] Lee Radziwill. It was as if she suddenly had more personality, and became clever and bright. It was a total miracle. You know what though? She didn’t buy them. Sometimes people just don’t listen.
People are always asking me about Parisian women and the secrets of their style, so when I wrote my book I had to think about it because I would answer, “Oh but there’s lots of beautiful stylish women everywhere in the world” and actually everyone was very disappointed with that. There are things that stylish women do in Paris in terms of their wardrobes that they don’t do elsewhere, there’s a mentality and spirit.
Not that they’d let on. If you say, “What a nice jacket”, the Parisian woman will say “Oh, it’s an old thing, I bought it four years ago.” We don’t ask when she bought it or where. It’s like: “Don’t imagine I go shopping”. The Parisian woman isn’t bling, and there’s an opinion that simple is best. Take a pair of really chic black ballerinas and when you travel you won’t need to take tonnes of shoes that fit with everything.
As well as ballerinas I wear a lot of more masculine styles: classic loafers and flat brown brogues – we call them les derbys, like le smoking. Also if you put a chiffon dress with high heels and diamonds you look like a stiff old lady; if you add motorbike boots and a trench coat, you look modern.
Of course I do wear some high heels, but when I was 13, I wore platform shoes and this gorgeous boy named Philippe with blue eyes and dark hair said: “Don’t you think you’re tall enough?” After that I would hear this sentence every time I wore heels.
‘Parisian Chic: A Style Guide’ by Inès de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet is published by Flammarion