“She’s always between two sides: there’s a darkness and a chicness, you know?”
Doyenne of French cinema and sexagenarian fashion pin-up Isabelle Huppert has been described as many things—Balenciaga muse, bourgeois Celine model—but never, perhaps, a “sponge.” It is however, how her stylist Jonathan Huguet refers to the woman he has had the pleasure of dressing for six years. For him, Huppert is the quintessential creative—“The dream! A queen!”—whose artistic touchstones are as exhaustive as her collection of crisp blazers and pussy-bow blouses. She understands each niche reference Huguet throws her way and translates the nuances of the fashion language in a way that works for her wardrobe. That Isabelle is 70 next spring does not faze her.
“Age is not a subject in our conversations,” asserts Huguet, before conceding that his open-minded client has learnt to play the game a little more than previously. Check out Huppert on the Croisette at Cannes this summer—all Demna-designed second-skin stretch satin and power stances—and it’s clear that the red carpet is an extension of Isabelle’s character playing. “She’s elegant and timeless, but she’s always on the edge of something,” muses Jonathan. “She’s between two sides: there’s a darkness and a chicness, you know?”
Her chameleonic tendencies make defining Huppert’s achingly cool, age-defying strand of “French-girl style” equally hard to distil into a neat formula. “It’s about nonchalance…” says Huguet vaguely, in that infuriating and totally endearing way Parisians have. “And showing your true self without looking too built up. Balance is key.”
Jonathan, an editor and cinephile whose career changed directions when he met Juliette Binoche and other actors came knocking, will say that an Isabelle Huppert look is defined by “body.” Rather than brands (although that Balenciaga ambassadorship certainly helps), Huguet is guided by the pieces that will put her in “the best light.” Then comes that low-grade level of insouciant sass the star majors in. “A garment needs to be combined with an attitude to give us something to play with—it’s very important,” says Huguet, whose own poses are as impressive as his leading lady’s.
If this sounds contrived, their creative process is anything but. Take the recent duo of hauntingly beautiful black Dior red-carpet gowns at the Marrakech Film Festival: one Matrix-chic, the other an ethereal fairytale number that put a new spin on the hooded dress trend. “It was quite unexpected,” shares Huguet, who chose the looks based on his own love of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first haute couture collection for the house, not the impact it might have. “Whenever we work together, it’s not about projecting, but finding the right look, whether it’s dangerous or classic.” The artisanal trumps Instagram impressions every time.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.