Ahlan! Interview: Julia Restoin Roitfeld for H&M
We speak to the iconic style maven on her role as ambassador for H&M Conscious Exclusive
Julia, what led you to be the ambassador of the new Conscious Exclusive collection and how do you feel about this role?
I was chosen by H&M for this role, and I feel flattered and proud about it. I think it is a great idea to use fashion as a way to create awareness around the topic of sustainability. We all have to be more careful with the way we inhabit this world, and fashion can be part of the plan. Sustainable fashion is creative, inventive and responsible: as such, everybody can enjoy it while doing something good for the planet.
How much is sustainability important in your life?
Sustainability is more and more important, and not only in my own life. It's not simply a matter of how we deal with trash and recycling: sustainability is an all-surrounding lifestyle that encompasses the way we consume, the way we behave and also the way we dress.
Can sustainability be fashionable?
Yes, definitely. Sustainability is a creative way to make fashion and also to use fashion. Making new clothes from old ones, turning recycled glass into embroidery is wonderful, just like mixing and matching old with new and being responsible about what we buy and consume.
You come from a family with a deep involvement in fashion. You think that style is something you are born with or something you acquire?
I think that style is a little bit of both. For a large part it is innate, but it is also something you acquire as you grow up. Style is just like everything else in life, in fact: you learn from other people as well as from yourself, or from mistakes. As such, it is really a never-ending process.
How would you define your own style?
Defining one's own style is not an easy task. I'm very instinctive and I'd say that my own style is minimal and classic. I am certainly not as fashionable as my mom: I am quieter and less ahead. I never go for something over the top, I wear what I like and feel comfortable in.
What, in your opinion, has made French fashion so enduringly charming over the centuries?
The Conscious Exclusive collection is a fantastic journey through history held on a resolutely modern tone. As such, it captures the extravagance, flamboyancy and great sense of detail that have made French fashion enduringly relevant over the course of the last few centuries. Contemporary French fashion is probably a little less outré now than it was before, but we always keep having care for the little things that make a substantial difference.
How would you describe the Conscious Exclusive Collection?
The Conscious Exclusive Collection is a mix of historic feelings and modern shapes condensed into a wardrobe of separates that every woman can wear in her own way, making it truly unique. Old paintings and allover classical motifs are splashed onto clean-cut pieces, to striking effect. It makes for clothes that are fun to wear and different from everything else you see around, which is always another plus.
What are your favorite pieces from the collection, and why?
As I said, I'm not the most extravagant dresser, so I would go for the classic pieces. I like the white lace gown, which can also be worn as a wedding dress: it is totally worth of the red carpet, in an effortless kind of way. I also like the sleeveless top with the asymmetric marble print, and the blouses, either the poudre pink one or the painter's smock, because of their versatility and streamlined design. I chose these pieces because they are easy to wear and easy to interpret.
How would you wear them?
I'd keep the white lace gown shining by itself, with a minimum of accessories. As for the blouses, I'd mix them with a white skirt, or the black trousers or the deco skirt, which are also in the collection. As an approach to style, mix 'n match is totally sustainable: you expand the possibilities of your wardrobe without consuming more products.
You live a very hectic style and are also a mom. How do you manage to be always so stylish?
Being stylish is not my priority. I am simply being myself. I keep everything simple, and wear always the same clothes. I like black in the winter because it's perfect for the metropolitan environment, but feel more bohemian in the summer. Which is also why I like the collection so much: it matches my summer self.
What you cannot live without, style-wise?
A pair of black stiletto pumps, a perfectly-cut pair of jeans and a little black dress go a long way with me.
Does something like a French Touch truly exist? Do you think the Conscious Exclusive Collection has it?
A French Touch certainly exists and people keep talking about it, yet I think it is very hard to define. There is an effortless put-togetherness that is very French to my eyes: a trait that the Conscious Exclusive collection captures in the idea of the arty wardrobe.
Do you like the idea of affordable exclusivity?
Absolutely: style and fashion do not depend on how wealthy you are. It all comes from within. The collection is certainly affordable, but I like that it is limited edition, too: you won't end up seeing all your friends in it.
Do you have any sustainable style tips?
Washing is very important: detergents pollute a lot and washing machines consume tons of energy. I try as much as possible to wash my clothes in the sink, by hand, at night, and hang them to dry so that they are ready to be worn the next morning. Especially with wool and delicates as they last longer being handwashed. It's become part of my routine, just like brushing my teeth and washing my face before going to bed. Another sustainable style tip I'd give is to donate for recycling what you do not wear: there is no reason to keep occupying space in the closet, and donating will activate a virtuous cycle.