When did you first discover the Avenue Montaigne?
I lived in Casablanca until I was 18 years old. I came to Paris to study law to please my father, even if I had always wanted to be a writer. During my studies, I always worked. My first internship was in the design studio of Ungaro. I had met him at the wedding of a friend in Normandy. He offered to choose a dress for me for a ball. During the following year, when I wasn’t in school, I had access to the studio, behind the scenes, and I saw how fashion was made. My mission was to observe and give my opinions. I think the way I dressed interested him – for example, I mixed Yves Saint Laurent dresses with accessories from the souk – belts, necklaces or bracelets. I invented the expression “hippie chic”, I was a student, I discovered the lights of the Avenue and the marvellous strawberry shortcake at the Bar des Théâtres…
Clothing and fashion appear frequently in your books.
Fashion interests me. And also questions of appearance. In Fringues, (Clothes), my heroine uses clothing to supplement her personality, clothing like a band-aid. Clothing can help us to be noticed, but also to conceal ourselves. In my last book N’oublie pas d’être heureuse (“Don’t forget to be happy”), the first part takes place between the Atlantic and the country. At the beginning of the second part, the heroine comes to Paris. And the first question she is asked concerns her clothing: “Is that one of Yves’s dresses?” “ The top or the bottom?” Clothing like a code of entry. At times cruel. There are different ways to look at fashion, and not all of them superficial. If I had not been at the heart of the creative process at Emanuel Ungaro, who is someone profound and tormented, I would not have understood all of the sensibility, this sensual relationship with colors and fabrics.
Do you remember other exceptional moments on Avenue Montaigne?
Yes, for a rather exceptional occasion. I worked for a year in the office of the auctioneer Picard-Ader-Tajan. I “held the tags” during the auctions. This job consisted of calculating the price of the objects auctioned – adding a percentage for the fees – all this done without a calculator! I also informed visitors who came to look at the items exposed. For the sale of the letters of Paul Valéry, I met Jean Voilier. She was the young woman (also known by the name of Jeanne Loviton) to whom the poet, at the age of 70 or more, had written some extraordinary love letters. The auction went very well and Jean Voilier, by then an elderly, but still very elegant lady, invited me to her home on Avenue Montaigne. I was just a young student and to lunch with this lady, who had aroused such passion in Paul Valéry, was very moving.
Do you often come back to Avenue Montaigne?
I had another professional connection with the Avenue. I modeled for one or two fashion photos, notably for the perfume by Jean-Louis Scherrer. I don’t like professions in which judgement depends only on physical appearance. The firm was looking for someone with a long neck and a thin hand for a publicity shot. Since my face would not be in the photo, we came to an agreement, no waves at school, and I was able to buy my first car. Today, when I come to Avenue Montaigne, it’s often to go to Drouot-Montaigne or Artcurial for the sale of modern and contemporary art. I like to walk. I cross the Seine, taking the Alexandre III bridge. I also go to the Plaza Athénée three times a year for meetings of the Académie Grévin, for which I am on the committee presided over by Bernard Pivot. These are very joyful lunches. We decide what personalities will have the honor of being sculpted in wax for the Museum Grévin. There are always long discussions since the choice among personalities in political life, journalists, artists, sportsmen is difficult and since the realization is costly, we consider carefully….