La Redoute rides to the rescue once again…
Well, how nice to be flicking through the latest La Redoute catalogue and, suddenly becoming aware of how nice the spread was, and how attractive the model, to find it entitled: "J’ai 40 ans, et alors?" (I’m 40, so what?). Six full pages of a slim, fit, long-haired woman in her 40s, wearing clothes that were modern, fashionable, sexy and ‘tendance’ as we say here in France. No bare midriffs (an issue for most of us), no silly teenage styles, but neither are the clothes businesswear that could only be worn by someone whose knees are welded together.
To be honest, though, La Redoute has never done badly by older women. Although 70 per cent of the fashions are stuff that no sane grown-up would be caught dead in, the firm’s Laura Clement, Best, Anna Weyburn and Essentials collections are always worth a look for streamlined, effortless style with a bit of a twist. Laura Clement is my favourite, for its lovely fabrics. This winter La Redoute has also done a double-act with Lou Doillon (a famous face on French telly) and her still-gorgeous mum Jane Birkin, to produce a range of very relaxed, loose, artistic clothes in neutral shades.
The choice of Birkin is a sound one. She epitomises a certain kind of French sexiness that is also seen on fellow Brits Kristin Scott-Thomas and Charlotte Rampling. All have France as their adopted home and seem to have adopted the elan that goes with it. The French don’t believe in teeth-whitening and nose jobs, and the concept of the ‘jolie laide’ – a woman who is not conventionally beautiful but has an allure entirely her own – is deep in the psyche, along with an appreciation of the older woman. Rake thin, carefully careless, French women are meant to be happy in their skin, happy with their looks, and to remain sexy whatever their age. Birkin, at 60, looks great in these pictures – shot, incidentally, by one of her other daughters, photographer Kate Barry.