We all went to a room where everyone was smiling and standing against the wall drinking cocktails and watching episodes, against a blaring blues soundtrack, of the seventies American TV crime drama The Manhunter. “We’re putting on Planet of the Apes next,” said a teenage boy with wildly pomaded hair.
Christian and Olivier, the two Courtin-Clarins fathers, met us one day in the restaurant of the Hotel Royal Monceau. The girls were fresh as anything. They looked like gazelles moving in some equatorial region that is all light, all shine. Jenna was wearing a dogtooth-pattern full-length dress by Acne and a dark sheepskin biker’s jacket also by Acne and Jil Sander boots. Prisca was in an Isabel Marant dress and a Mugler fur. Claire and Virginie were dressed to the nines too, and their father, Christian, wore a perfect dark suit and a sky-blue tie, a tie to match, one suspects, his thinking as well as his eyes. Olivier was more silent at the table and possibly the family’s deep thinker, as behooves his medical background.
They all have a family-firm attitude about promoting the brand, which is how the girls understand their usefulness. Virginie and Prisca are business-minded,” said Christian, “and the other two are artistic. Our daughters are giving us the new trends. What is glamour to them is not always glamour in my eyes, but that is a good thing. My father believed in communication, listening, authenticity, respect, innovation, natural products, and service. These things spell out the word Clarins.”
Christian Courtin-Clarins is even entertained by the fuss the girls seem to be causing in New York City. “ ‘Yourself Only Better’: That has always been this company’s motto,” he said. “But I have a new one.” He leaned down to look at his agneau with rosemary. “When it comes to food, the thing that really matters is the knife. You must have a good knife, not a serrated edge, the right knife, so that you can feel the sensuality of the meat.”
Is it possible I was in France?
The Prada party during Paris couture week is said to be a bit of a destination. Claire and Virginie arrived late and were having a great time amid the faux-Classical sculptures, complete with paste-on heads by the artist Francesco Vezzoli, who, at Prada’s behest, had turned the Conseil Économique, Social et Environnemental on the Place d’Iéna into a 24-hour pop-up museum.
Even among the models and fashionistas, the girls looked Amazonian. They were last seen disappearing onto the dance floor trailing choice pieces of clothing by Alexander Wang and Rodarte, getting down with Vogue’s international editor-at-large, Hamish Bowles. Kate Moss had D.J.-ed for a while, but the girls were happy when the cameras stopped popping and they got to dance next to the speakers to some epic techno tune.
To Claire and Virginie, as with their cousins, there are no fashion mistakes: There are only mistakes in attitude. “It’s cool to have a 24-hour museum, good for Prada,” said Claire. And Virginie offered, smiling on the heaving dance floor, that good times make sense of hard work, just as fashion makes sense of beauty. Virginie’s bag was full of Clarins products, next to a copy of a book she was reading called Une Bonne Raison de Se Tuer, or A Good Reason to Kill Yourself, by Philippe Besson. “My dream is to have a huge library,” she said. “I love Mario Vargas Llosa. Gabriel García Márquez. I can cry at these books. When Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize, I was so happy. Almost as happy as I will be back in New York. Such fun. Such fun you wouldn’t believe it.”