Inner Chic | Farida Khelfa and Schiaparelli
— March 20, 2013 —
Written by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni and illustrated by Robert Beck, this column focuses on life in Paris, pepped up by the insiders who are steeped in chic
Farida Khelfa Illustration by Robert BeckAfter a joyless couture show in January, I ventured out into the snow and caught sight of Farida Khelfa. She was wearing a maxi-length Azzedine Alaïa coat, a dark mink scarf while her tapered trousers fell just above her sparrow-sized ankles. Her look - furthered by her wide, signature smile – was flawless and a pleasure to behold.
Khelfa is now the ambassadress of the house of Schiaparelli – relaunched last July by Diego della Valle of Tod’s – but like many Parisian style icons has led several lives. Since I met her with Christian Louboutin in 1991, I missed her Palace "club kid" years, her Mugler catwalk appearances and her key role as Jean-Paul Goude’s muse. However, I remember when Khelfa hit Jean Paul Gautier’s runway, hot-on-the heels of Madonna. While in the 1990s, I got to know Azzedine and a fleet of his fabulous frocks thanks to Khelfa who was working for him. Just as Alaïa is the fashion world’s practical joker (the list of those he’s stung merits another column!) the impish Tunisian never dared do anything to la Farida. He both respected and feared her. She, on the other hand, was protective and understood his genius: recognising that his “working, working and always working” was “his strength.”
"Azzedine Alaia, the fashion world’s practical joker, never dared do anything to la Farida: he both respected and feared her"
At my wedding party, Farida wore an enchanting Alaïa gown. Under certain lights, the dark fabric implied that it had been spun with gold. But it was heavy, she became hot, bothered and keen to dance. So she slunk off to the ladies room and returned, sporting jeans. Naturally, Khelfa pulled it off. Indeed, she’s at her best when behaving in an unconventional manner. And for that reason, she’s perfectly suited to Schiaparelli.
Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni is a Paris-based British writer who covers fashion and lifestyle as well as being the author of Sam Spiegel – The Biography of A Hollywood Legend, Understanding Chic, an essay from the Paris Was Ours anthology, the soon-to-be released Tino Zervudachi – A Portfolio – as well as the Chanel book, for Assouline's fashion series.
Robert Beck is former New Yorker currently based in Paris. Also known as C.J. Rabbitt, he is the author and illustrator of several children's books, including The Tale of Rabbitt in Paradise, Un Lapin à Paris and the soon-to-be-published A Bunny in the Ballet.