bal harbour blog

French Twist

Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele.

By Lynn Yaeger

When I met French stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele for coffee, she was wearing jeans, a button-down shirt, a pair of flower festooned pink flip-flops and her trademark: cascades of gold chains around her neck and her wrists. The legendary stylist, who is known for her frank talk and her infallible eye, grew up in Saint-Tropez and began her career at French Elle in 1977. In 1985, de Dudzeele moved to New York to become the fashion director of Vogue, where she styled Anna Wintour’s first cover in 1988—model Michaela Bercu wore a Christian LaCroix couture top and stonewashed Guess jeans. De Dudzeele’s charming, if sometimes indecipherable accent, her lapse into cheerful profanity and her famously florid pronouncements makes for a one-of-a-kind interview.

After so many years in the business, what is most important to you about your job?
If it’s not fun I don’t do it! I hate all this brainstorming. “You think this? You think that?” I have to be inspired. Everything from the stomach! I am lucky I was born with this talent in me.

What is your process?
I have a passion. I start, and then I let it go. If you have a Porsche, you let the Porsche go. And I still work like this; I do everything myself. I don’t have 20 assistants. I never trust anyone. I see things they don’t see. I take things from the street, and I love to travel, too. My eyes are wide open—I watch everything!

What would you be doing if you didn’t have your current métier?
Something in music—I used to play piano. But it was always fashion, of course—and I didn’t want to study.

What was your first job?
Working with French Elle. At that time, everything was fake. Fake fur. Fake hair.

Did you like that?
Yes. But I always mixed everything. I don’t like copying. I always mixed fake with real. I did this all my life, and I was the first one to do it. I never do a Chanel look straight off the runway—I put it with jeans or a jean jacket. I do it for myself, too.

Who do you enjoy working with most?
Steven Meisel. He is the best photographer. He knows what a photograph is. He knows what makeup is. He can do everything. You learn from him.

Who else?
I loved working with Irving Penn. I am so happy to have known him. His studio was the smallest thing in the world. It was so simple. Simplicity is the chicest thing in the world.

What makes a woman chic?
It’s about personal style, not labels. It’s all about mixing to be glamorous and sexy. When I do my own “salad,” I always mix the white shirt—the classic thing—with jeans, a man’s Rolex with Manolos and a classic Hermès or Chanel bag, or a classic Louis Vuitton.

Is there a celebrity whose style you admire?
I love Miley Cyrus! I work with her a lot; she’s smart. She knows I love animals, so when we meet, she brings a pig!

What do you do when you are not working?
I watch TV—the news—and I cook. I go to the Union Square Greenmarket every Saturday at 7 a.m. I am obsessed!

Do you go to flea markets, too?
No. I have too many things now. I have collections. I have 20 pairs of the same shoes—I have Azzedines that are 30 years old. I keep everything.

Who are some of the designers you most admire?
I love the 1980s, especially Versace and my dear friend Azzedine Alaïa. And Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, because I think it’s classic. You can’t tell the difference with his clothes between the runway and life; and this is what a young girl likes. And I love the last Prada collection—the pink neoprene—and Ralph Lauren. I am obsessed with the Polo Ralph Lauren store on Fifth Avenue. I just bought the nylon jacket that comes in the little bag in eight colors. J’adore.

Are you ever without your jewelry?
No. I am still obsessed with jewelry. The noise it makes—the noise! The big Cartier Trinity bracelet—I have three—one new and two vintage. And I am obsessed with the Rolex President covered with diamonds. I go jewelry shopping with Victoire de Castellane, creative director of Christian Dior’s fine jewelry division. She has the passion, too.


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