'I have a very disturbing relationship with independence': a freewheeling chat with Chanel ambassador Caroline de Maigret

The model, musician and co-author of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are is a regular fixture on the fashion circuit and one of Karl Lagerfeld’s muses

Caroline de Maigret is the new face of Chanel's Gabrielle bag. Courtesy Chanel
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What is your most treasured possession?

My passport. I have a very disturbing relationship with freedom and with independence. Going to a wedding for a whole weekend can drive me crazyknowing people will be telling me where to have lunch, what I will be doing in the afternoon, and what I will be having for dinner. I usually never show up. I need independence. Work is different, but in the rest of my life, I have to have independence. It is quite neurotic.

Are you a collector? If so, what do you like to collect?

I am not a collector at all. I do buy a lot of photography, but I have no interest whatsoever in material things. My house could burn down and I really wouldn't mind. I could just walk away. It would not be a trauma at all, but sometimes it is hard for people around me. It makes it hard on them as I can be a bit selfish.

What is your favourite city?

Paris, because, to me, it is the essence of what I like. The architecture, the stories; when you walk around, you are amazed by the beauty. There is so much going on, so you can take your time and relax, if you want, but you can also be active. You can be both. I am from Paris and I lived in New York. Paris is the best balance for me. It gives me time to think. When it's all going too fast, I get very anxious.

What is the best journey you have ever undertaken?

Motherhood. I know to others it is boring and a cliché, but for me, I have this eternal flame in my stomach that drives me through the day. This incredible love that makes me able to breathe every day.

The Chanel Gabrielle bag - video

The Chanel Gabrielle bag - video

What is the greatest luxury in life?

Health. Definitely. It's the one thing you cannot buy. You can learn how to take care of yourself, and be as good as possible, but in the end it is so simple. Health. Your life depends on it.

What is the most important lesson that you have learnt?

The best lesson I learnt in life is not to be scared of failing. I love doing things and I do not mind if it is not successful. That's where I have the most fun, when I meet people and we say, let's try things. Most of the time, I have a huge stomach ache as there are so many things I don't know how to do, but I am just going to do anyway. You plant the seeds, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. Like when I did my music, it didn't work out in the end, but I had so much fun and learnt so much. It helped make me the woman I am now, so who cares if things don't work out? I think it is still a success if you learn things. It's more fun that way.

What is your favourite book?

I have a lot of favourite books, but I really love the story of Martin Eden by Jack London. It is a story of a sailor who falls in love with a very bourgeois woman. He decides to become an intellectual, and read books and fill himself with literature. He is such a good man, but so raw at the same time, and so not ready to go into those salons. It is very interesting to see how real grace comes from this man, rather than conformism. It really is a beautiful book.

Why did you agree to become a brand ambassador for Chanel?

I love Chanel because it has the same values that I cherish, which is a strong feminism and a way of living. Gabrielle Chanel freed women's bodies, and she believed life was to be lived. She believed in freedom of gesture, of mentality. She was brave and smart, and surrounded herself with artists, from Jean Cocteau to Igor Stravinsky. It is something I have really learnt from, and I want to live that life as well. I am lucky enough to have had an opportunity to come quite close. I particularly love Chanel's new Gabrielle bag, because it is made from vintage leather, which I love. It looks timeless, but like you have worn it forever. All the chains make it really rock and roll, which is what I like. It is classical yet modern, and full of paradoxes.


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