Family Tree

I never do much research on the girls I shoot. I’m content with a one-liner bio and a quick scan of their google images page. Yes, OK, they must look at least half decent, but I trust the taste and insight of the friends who recommend them and I’d rather ask my own questions instead of reading how other writers interpreted their information – it’s distracting and it becomes too factual. When it comes down to it only two or three criteria need to be fulfilled for a girl to become a Muse: Does she love/own/wear vintage? And is she aspirational? Do we care about what she wears or how she lives? And if I’m really pushing it I’d want her to have a nice house too, because lord knows y’all love a great interior!

Clotilde de Kersauson’s story came in bits and pieces, some of it not even true, but when I puzzled all the snippets together I got an interesting history, dating back nearly one thousand years. One, she’s NOT an actress! Who was the fool who told me that? “Have you seen my posing skills??” she laughs when I ask her. “Absolutely not! I turn a reddish color when I have to speak in front of an audience, even a very small one. That’s the reason I quit business school. I had good grades but hated doing presentations!” I notice no such shyness when she’s in front of my lens – she’s a natural, relaxed, French beauty with tousled dark hair and fair skin- but I digress. According to another source, Clotilde is also the niece of Ines de la Fressange, a former model and Chanel muse. “She is my stepmother,” I am corrected. “She was married to my father for fifteen years. Her two beautiful daughters are my two beautiful sisters. We are five girls in total. I am the eldest.”

Clotilde’s maiden name is d’Urso. She was born in London to a French mother and an Italian father and grew up in Paris. Then moved back to London to study textiles at Chelsea College of Art. That’s when she met the love her of life, Arthur de Kersauson, the son of a famous sailor and member of one of Brittany’s oldest noble families. (If you dare to google the name, beware of all the apostrophes, crusades and lower cases!) They got married in 2006 and moved to Australia – because it was the hip thing to do at the time; apparently Arthur wasn’t the most focused student either – and lived in Sydney for four years before settling into their new home by Gare de l’Est in Paris. Arthur is a video and documentary producer – he’s making a 6-episode TV series about the different winds in the world at the moment – and Clotilde makes knitwear for luxury brands and interior designers. She also started a blog with her sister “about good times in people’s kitchens, food and lifestyle.” Are you starting to see the picture?

Arthur doesn’t seem too pleased I am taking pictures of the house… The cleaning lady is on vacation, so is their 3-year old Iris – she’s skiing with Clotilde’s mom in the Alpes – and there have been way too many guests lately. He thinks it’s too messy for photos. “Can you be a bit more sympathique?” I hear Clotilde whispering when he rushes to the bedroom for cover. “Our apartment is what you would call a real ‘open house’ and we probably have at least one extra guest who stays every week,” smiles Clotilde, shaking her head as Arthur leaves “to get lunch”. “Today we are my husband and myself, my sister who has been living with us since September, my husband’s little brother since three weeks, and my English friend Robin who is putting on the Diesel event tonight – are you coming? The week before, two extra kids and their parents for four days… We reshuffle beds and own two extra mattresses. It’s messy but fun, une ‘maison du bonheur’! There is always an extra seat at the dinner table. Ours fits twelve!”

Plus, a lot of her vintage is in the country house – damn those country houses! – because most of the pieces she buys are “out of the ordinary, like colorful little 60s dresses and long 70s skirts. Paris doesn’t seem to be a city where you can go ‘wild´ in terms of dressing, I think. I used to have much more fun in london and Sydney.” But she’s a classic girl at heart, who doesn’t wear make-up – “I just discovered eye-liner!” – and chooses quality over quantity: “Old cashmere Scottish or Shetland sweaters, comfortable shirts, jeans or well-cut trousers, Converse, Positano sandals in the summer. Lately I have been shopping around for silk blouses and would love to find a net or silk embroidered 40s dress.” She appreciates the work of Giambattista Valli “because you always feel super chic in his creations and we share the same passion for the Amalfi Coast where my family still has a house” and she can’t live without her friend Alix Thomsen‘s day wear. “She has a beautiful little shop on Rue de Turenne. Her FW13 presentation was amazing! She decorated a lovely little hotel in the 9th, and showed her collection as a live play around the rooms with over thirty actors!”

The house is a whole other matter. I wasn’t quite sure where to ring the doorbell. From the outside it looks like an annex of the station, but inside is a giant court yard with a glass elevator and plants covering the entire opposite wall of the lofts. Clotilde tells me the building was constructed in 1871 and rehabilitated in 2005. It took four years to finish and Patrick Blanc added the vertical garden. It’s really dramatic and provides a damp, muted backdrop to an otherwise stark, concrete, urban living space. “There were some irrigation problems last summer so now they have to redo the whole thing!” she worries. “It is much more impressive over spring though. We do long banquet dinners on the overpass – it pays to be friends with your neighbors! You’ll have to come for an aperitivo on the terrace…” Or the country house, Clotilde!


March 8, 2013

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