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The Fabulous Clarins Girls

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The Clarins’ 2011


Jenna loves her bedroom. She loves her Missoni curtains and bedspread. She loves her Bauhaus-y armchair by Norman Cherner, the rolls of film littered across the desk amid a tangle of Acne labels. “Four of the cupboards are for shoes,” she said. “There are two of us, and we have two feet each. That’s a lot of shoes.”

Beside Jenna’s bed lay a copy of Wilhelm Reich’s The Sexual Revolution, halfway read. Jenna loves designer Thierry Mugler, whose perfume Alien is owned by Clarins and worn by each of the girls. A tan-colored Mugler trouser suit with revealing wrap top was spread over the bed. Jenna is friends with Nicola Fomechetti, the new designer for Mugler, and the top looks like it was invented for her. She wore it with tan Mugler spiked heels—weapons of minor destruction—and immediately worried about making a hole in the floor. To top it off, she donned a light-brown leather coat that had been sent over by Tod’s.

Prisca spends a lot of her time thinking about elegance, what it means, how to maintain it, how to spread it. I had gone to one of her nail salons earlier that day, and she spoke to me there of her determination to make the business work. “I love fashion, but it is not my life,” she said. “This is my life. I have raised the money for this business myself through the banks. I wanted to be independent by creating my own company, starting from nothing. I wanted to prove myself and show that I could do it without the help of my family. Every day I learn more and that experience is priceless, with all the difficulties that everyone knows who builds a company.”

But you will always be part of Clarins, I told her.

“Clarins is in my DNA since I was born,” she said. “Beauty and skin care is my domain. And I’m sure this entrepreneurial experience will prove essential when eventually I can bring something new and modern to Clarins.”

She is clearly very proud of her nail salons. She made me have a manicure when I was there, saying one is obliged to make an effort to achieve elegance. “Hands are the first thing that I look at,” she said. “They are always visible. For me, you always get to know about the person by looking at their nails and hand. A woman has to take good care of her nails; it’s a priority just like skin and hair, just an absolutely certain sign of elegance.”

In the car crossing Paris to the party, Prisca’s phone kept ringing. It was the PR guy from Tod’s, making sure they were coming, asking how far away they were. Prisca was wearing a leather-and-suede coat from Tod’s with a gray felt bodice, and she rested her phone on a Céline purse and smiled through her eyes. “This hotel where they are having the party,” she said, “it is one of those places in Paris that used to be a … what you say, brothel.”

“It will be superfun,” said Jenna.

When they arrived at the party, every head turned toward them. They saw some friends, but they couldn’t get to them instantly, as photographers lined up to flash their cameras at them. They lost the flashing cameras as they climbed the stairs to look at the rooms, but a video camera was at the rear, and it stayed with them. The music was loud, and the atmosphere suitably sleazy; Saint Etienne’s nineties classic “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” was mixed in with a series of arias from Madama Butterfly. In one room, a boy and a girl wearing Tod’s—they were all wearing Tod’s—fooled around on a bed with a Polaroid camera, the bed surrounded with giant teddy bears’ heads. Jenna sat on the bed playfully in another room where a model was being painted.

“He’s cute,” she said of the boy on the bed with the Polaroid camera.

They swept from room to room, laughing and enjoying everything and swaying to the music. One room: A girl was being massaged on a table while a boy sat by and a bicycle was propped against a wall. In another: A guy with long hair sat alone playing a guitar in a Bollywood room with an empty bath in pink light. “I really love it,” said Prisca of the party. “I think it’s really good for Tod’s because it will modernize their image.” All over the hotel, people were using the words creative and artistic with gayer and gayer abandon.

“It’s not like New York here,” said Jenna, a little bit missing the number of looks she was attracting. “It’s not like all eyes are on you in Paris. When I was in New York, I thought, Oh my God, I haven’t looked, maybe I have something in my teeth.” The girls had to shout at each other to be heard over the soundtrack, being looked after by a fortysomething female D.J. wearing cerise leather trousers. Jenna spoke to someone who she thought might be the boy who worked for Acne who’s much fancied by her friend, Clemande. A friend of the girls appeared. “All the designers want them,” she said. “Because they’re beautiful and they represent the Clarins family, they’re admired. The girls don’t go to all the parties because they want to be billboards. They came because they like ­fashion and they are nice girls.”


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