Camille Bidault-Waddington, an elfin Parisienne who combines the sensual intellectualism of Simone de Beauvoir with old-school 1970s glamour, is a forthright personality. Cool to the core, she has precise tastes and provocative opinions.
“I don’t really do Christmas,” says the fashion stylist. “I send the two kids away. I avoid doing much. But this year I’m getting festive. I’m going to have some time off in the cold somewhere . . . See some friends.”
Bidault-Waddington is the woman least likely to fall for festive manipulation. “I don’t like being forced to give gifts. I have an aversion.” Lest we think she might be a Scrooge, she insists that she “loves giving gifts ordinarily”. It’s more Christmas she takes issue with.
Simone de Beauvoir, ‘L’invitée’, Folio, £11.75, amazon.co.uk
“All those things that nobody needs. So much crap in the stores, scented candles, stupid gadgets. All these weird objects that I don’t understand. When I give gifts, I like to give things that will disappear, like incense or truffles. I like to give people things that aren’t going to invade the house and take up room. I find it rather intrusive, don’t you, to give someone mugs? Even nice ones. Suddenly, you have 15 more things in your house that you don’t have room for. Or five copies of the same book.”
She sounds like a nightmare to buy presents for. “I am terrible,” she confesses. “I try not to be too disappointed. But it’s super difficult for my boyfriend so I try to be precise.”
Sophie Buhai Grandfather chain bracelet, $695, sophiebuhai.com
She’s not a big fan of surprises either. “I remember Jarvis [Cocker, her former husband] once got me a big necklace, from the 1930s, which had on it a painted nut, and a feather poking out of the nut.” Suffice to say, the nut failed to thrill. Neither was she too chuffed when, having asked her mother for a set of navy blue bathroom towels, she got a full set in beige. “It was the worst colour,” she says, “this dirty beige colour. I wanted to murder her.” The problem is when someone “thinks they know you better,” she says. In the case of Biddault-Waddington, this is never, ever true.
Perhaps that’s why, when asked to put together a list of things she would like, she wastes little time: a Franz West painting with collage, a Dave Heath print, and a painting by Toyin Ojih Odutola for starters. Also high on the list is a weekend in Bolinas, a small town just north of San Francisco.
Toyin Ojih Odutola, ‘Paris Apartment’, 2016-17, charcoal, pastel and pencil on paper, jackshainman.com
“It’s where the artists go,” she says of the coastal enclave, whose privacy is closely guarded by its residents. “It’s hidden. And small. I went there 15 years ago with some friends. It’s a nice little community that reminds me of America in the 1970s. It’s not especially expensive but it feels culturally rich. And a bit different.”
Jewellery also features. “I love getting jewellery because that has a sentimental value. And it’s small.” So, not too space invader-y.
Charlotte Chesnais, Halo necklace, €1,250, charlottechesnais.fr
If you’re less confident about a person’s taste, she suggests buying earrings rather than rings or anything that might represent too “symbolic” a purchase. “You take them off at the end of every day, and they seem slightly less serious,” says the stylist, who is wearing a large pair of JW Anderson earrings for her portrait. “Fashion earrings are good, because they’re playful. Even if you look weird and dodgy, you can go anywhere with an earring.”
While she would always recommend that partners shop for gifts together, if you really want to go it alone she recommends buying things that are “poetic” rather than expensive, like an old book or a letter.
Alighieri Flame earrings, £420, alighieri.co.uk
Cat Power, ‘Wanderer’, vinyl £17.99, catpower.dominomart.com
“I used to buy old love letters for my boyfriend,” she says. More recently, however, she has stuck to the traditional sweater. Records are good, too. Currently, Bidault-Waddington is listening to Lou Doillon and Cat Power, but she often buys vinyl because she likes the look of the sleeves. She suggests getting a little trio of records: “A couple of safe things, and then some of the more weird experimental stuff. Then you make a little music sandwich . . . ”
Craig Green, panelled sweater, £485, farfetch.com
As for clothes, Bidault-Waddington sticks to designers with whom she has a personal friendship and who she wants to support. Most of them are French. Currently on her shopping list: a trenchcoat and Rylee boots from Chloé; Atlein’s stretchy scuba trousers; a long black leather jumpsuit with studded collar and silk shirt by Hermès; and knitted tops by the British designer Craig Green. As with Bidault-Waddington’s natural style, the clothes mix classic designs with flashes of avant-gardism. And none are so trend sensitive they won’t work for the seasons to come.
Chloé, Rylee medium boot in shiny calfskin, £960, chloe.com
Hermès, calfskin jumpsuit, £10,000, hermes.com
More important than all of this, however, is the wrapping. Biddault-Waddington will often eliminate awkwardly shaped objects if it means the presentation looks unprofessional. “It’s difficult. You have that fight with the tape and the scissors. Your glasses are falling off your nose. Nothing is square. But it’s got to be done properly.” It’s another reason she likes to give people records. “Super-easy to wrap.”
Francesco Russo, classic pointed pumps, £645, farfetch.com
And what of her children? Surely they help lure her into the Christmas spirit? Not at all, she says. “They don’t want gifts either,” she says. “My kids are teenagers, they only want T-shirts.”
And what does she get in return? “Oh, they don’t give me anything,” she says, before remembering that, actually, her son gave her a piece of art last year. “He gave me a graphic design — a lithograph of something he had made. That was lovely.”
Otherwise, not really. “We’ve always been quite crap at it. But they’re very nice children,” she adds. “And that’s an all year thing . . . ” Precisely.
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