Point the finger at Lou Doillon's pedigree for her abyssal doe eyes and henna waves, but this 25-year-old ingénue was bestowed with much more than a pretty face. The daughter of actress Jane Birkin and director Jacques Doillon, and sister to chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg, Doillon was seduced by French film when she was just six. She grew to be the face of Givenchy, was featured in 2007's infamous Pirelli calendar, is on a performance art tour at the moment, hopes to record an album in May, and has recently added designing for iconic denim brand Lee Cooper to her repertoire. One drizzly afternoon in Paris, Doillon reveals how she sold her soul to the devil for style.
Your mother and grandmother [Judy Campbell] were known for their great style. Did they inspire you to enter the fashion world?
When I was a little girl, my mother really wanted to get me into acting in my father's films. So it was film before anything. I always had a taste for fashion but my mother has never bought a fashion magazine ever. I always saw her mashing up her own clothes and having a very definite style. My grandmother got very annoyed by that because she was very classical. So I had the two generations, in a very interesting way, kind of battling and I found a place in the middle. Because I didn't like what my mother was wearing. She was only wearing jeans and T-shirts when I was born because it was in the '80s. I didn't know the fashionable Jane Birkin in the '70s. She has a wonderful casual style, and that she gave to me. In a way, I was a daughter of a bourgeoisie family, and was kind of ashamed of it I guess when I was a teenager. I had dreadlocks and pretended I had no money. I was full on thrift shops and would do patchworks all over my trousers. You know, I was the hippy teenager. At that moment I would have spat on a girl who was buying Yves Saint Laurent. I always laugh today thinking if I ran into myself when I was 15, the other one would slap me. I sold my soul to the devil.
What inspires your style now?
I guess I always wanted to move more than be sexy. I always wanted to look like a little animal that you wanted to take home more than the super beautiful girl who's not moving. It's not about impressing people, it's about moving them. I always found my mother extremely moving because she had no boobs. The girl who has the perfect body, like Betty Paige, freaks me out. My son writes on my jeans with big markers; I'm always writing poems on my arms with black pen and cutting my hair very short on the sideburns to have a profile like Napoleon. I like having those weird, tweaky things. It's a stupid girl thing, but it's better to not look your best so that people can imagine that the best is really much better [laughing].
Why did you decide to collaborate with Lee Cooper?
Well, it was a brand that was French and English, with a kind of double passport like me. On the other side, I discovered that compared to American jeans that were made for cowboys, these were made for workers, which I loved. They were also the first brand to have the guts to be fun. I started looking on YouTube for their old ads from the '70s and they're extremely funny. The Lee Cooper thing was to slap your butt. They had the Bottom Inspector that would come and check if your butt was nice in the Lee Coopers! And they are super into rock and roll—they have the Lee Cooper [Dubai Desert] rock festival in India. And I love music; half of the meetings are in a pub!
What inspired the current collection?
I'm obsessed with history, and was thinking that liberation for women always came through clothes—wearing trousers was an enormous statement. I started researching the shape of the first trousers and discovering that girls didn't want to show their tummy because it's a very precious thing. Then suddenly those tiny details were so much more beautiful. Then I thought of the fun aspect. In French there is a nuance between the words “dress up” for Carnaval and “dressing up” with your clothes. I thought, I only know girls who dress up in the sense that they become someone. It was the Artful Dodger of Oliver Twist because the kids were trying to pretend they were tough. I made trousers that were high-waisted, that had loads of little buttons so that you took time to dress up and protect yourself. Then it was tiny jackets that made you feel like you had armor on. It was trying to find a kooky version of the girl dressing up like a boy, in a way.
In addition to designing, you're also on tour right now.
It's called Lettre Intimes which I started with Michel Didym about a year and a half ago. It's a one-woman show where I read love letters from famous French authors or musicians, Edith Piaf, etc., and improvise explaining where they come from. I was lucky it's been quite successful. They wanted me to tour with it, which in fact, the idea was more fun than actually doing it because it's absolutely exhausting, half because it was just too much going on at one time. I have my little boy, and I'm by myself. Sometimes I really want to slam the door and be like “Fuck I'm 25 years old!” But hey I wanted it and here I am.
What don't people know about you?
I guess something that always makes me laugh is that my image is so very far from what I am, actually. Most of the time I'm seen as a party girl who's in fashion and who lives half in NY, half in Paris, half in London or whatever. No, in fact I have a house that's just filled with books and paints and instruments. It's a kind of strange lab, and I'm mostly locked in with people coming over because I'm very shy. I get a bit angry when I talk about history for four hours, and people say, “Oh we didn't know you read books.” I wanna say, “Fuck what did you think?!”