″Million-Dollar Baby” Tells All
PARIS (AP) _ She looks like a million dollars, and may earn that much. When Ines de la Fressange sashays down runways modeling Chanel clothes with a wicked glint in her eye and her winning smile, audiences cheer.
Chanel’s top model has the personality and class to win hearts, even in the blase world of fashion.
″But glamour?″ said Ines in an interview. ″Forget it. Modeling isn’t glamorous. It’s hard work. You’re alone in airports. You’re waiting for the sun to rise at 6 a.m. or worried about whether your hairdo will last until the right light at sunset. You’re nagged by doubts. A hairdresser who remarks that you look tired can ruin your day.″
But with a contract with Chanel to promote clothes and Coco perfume rumored at around $1 million a year, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman can afford to buy her own hair salon. The song ″Million Dollar Baby″ was played as she waltzed down a fashion show runway recently.
Ines smiles sweetly and is not telling how much she’s making. But her face is becoming as familiar as superstar model Lauren Hutton with her reported multimillion dollar exclusive contract with Revlon.
Ines looks right at home lounging back on Mademoiselle Chanel’s famous velvet couch in the antique-filled ″interview″ apartment the couturier used in her rue Cambon building until her death in 1971.
″She slept at the Ritz across the street but kept her wardrobe here,″ said Ines, dressed in a snappy navy Chanel couture jacket and black ready-to- wear Chanel pants.
″But I’m no reincarnation of Chanel. I’m neither a couturier nor a creator.″
Chosen and launched as the Chanel symbol by Karl Lagerfeld, who started designing for Chanel four years ago, Ines takes her new public relations role in leggy stride.
″I appeared on the Merv Griffin show, which I’d never heard of,″ she giggled, describing a recent American tour. ″I couldn’t believe all those people in stores would ask me for an autograph. But they seemed to know who I was.″
Her ideal mannequin size of 5-foot-10 and 120 pounds and a pretty face are not her only reasons for success. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, which makes her popular with everybody from executives to fashion photographers.
″I’m too thin,″ she frets. ″Even though I dote on sweets like jellybeans. I eat all I want, and I don’t do any sports except for skiing. Jogging would be a terrible bore.″
She smokes, but doesn’t drink. ″Nightclubs are out. They’re too noisy for talking, and I’d be too tired to work if I stayed up late.″
Raised in the country outside Paris, Ines’ comes from a family of aristocrats and bankers. ″But we’re not rich,″ she says.
In France, most top models are not French, and most come from simpler backgrounds.
Ines’ mother modeled briefly in the 1960s, and even tried out for Chanel. But she refused to cut off her hair for Chanel, and went to work for Guy Laroche. ″I didn’t meet Chanel,″ said Ines.
Her father is a free-lance broker and Ines says, smiling, ″He’s too generous with his clients to get rich.″
At 19, Ines took up modeling as a lark but soon realized how hard the work was. ″My image then was not glamorous,″ she says. ″Punky hairdo, tomboy clothes ... I had to please or lose out.″
Then both Dior and the French magazine Marie-Claire transformed her into the very model of sophistication with new make-up, grown-up clothes.
″Until just a few years ago, I was happy to have jobs paying something like $1,500 for three days’ hard work in Germany. Some top models earn that in an hour. But when Karl noticed me, I knew my life had changed.″
She says of Lagerfeld, ″I adore him, he’s a genius. But he’s almost too good. I have to tell him sometimes to calm down, not add too many ideas to an outfit. Women want to dress simply.″
Ines has apartments in Paris and London and travels often. ″I kind of dread Japan,″ she said. ″It’s far away, and they’re so earnest out there. There are so many of them; it’s overwhelming.″
In Paris she spends her spare time reading, dining out and walking her caramel brown mutt, Jimmy.
The dog became a star in his own right at the latest Chanel show when Ines promenaded Jimmy wearing his quilted Chanel saddlebag and chain leash.
Ines says she would recommend modeling as a career to women with the right looks and the right stuff.
″It gives you a lot of experience of different kinds of worlds and people, new insights ... You’ve got to have stamina and work hard. But it can be a good life.″
She recommends planning for the future, but is vague about her own. ″I do plan to marry and have children someday.
″I don’t think I’m an actress ... That’s a serious profession. But if I did try a film, I’d hope it would be a funny one.″