Reviewing this year’s attendees at the Met Gala, one model in particular stood out (and continues to do so) – Aymeline Valade, who turned up in a striking coral blue Marni pantsuit styled brilliantly with an apple-green turtleneck layered under.
Much is often made of the French term of je ne sais quoi – it is one of those things that are difficult to translate, but loosely, it’s often taken to mean that a person has a certain offhandedly cool quality about them. You have the traditional models that this term is usually applied to, such as icons like Audrey Tautou and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The 32-year-old Valade, it would appear, has it in spades as well.
Here’s why you should pay attention to her:
#1: She played legendary French fashion icon Betty Catroux
Above: Valade as Betty Catroux in the 2015 film “Saint Laurent”, a biopic on the late Yves Saint Laurent
Betty Catroux is most famously known as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse and the designer was reportedly so enamoured with Catroux that he called her his twin. Qualities that Catroux and Valade both share? For starters, they’re both independent spirits, as can be seen in this excerpt from WWD:
“It’s a vibe,” Valade says. “Everyone was telling me she (Catroux) was a crazy girl, but being crazy just means she’s a free mind. She’s in her own world and reality. She doesn’t need others.” Says the real Catroux: “I live in my cloud and I am a free spirit. Like Yves, I hate normal life.”
Despite having no prior acting experience, Valade, like Catroux, embodies a certain willowy carefree elegance. Above, Valade rocking a tomboy-ish tuxedo at the 2014 edition of Cannes.
#2: She has seriously enviable personal style
While models may have great physiques, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re stylish – most models typically opt for one unimaginative, flesh-baring gowns after another at major events such as Cannes (see Bella Hadid) and the Met Gala (Kendall Jenner).
Not so the case for Valade. While it’s clear she favours trousers and pantsuits (I can practically see her outfits pinned on Pinterest already), Valade appears to be equally at ease with casual off-duty looks (brilliant electric-blue jumper under an oversized leather jacket in look 3) and more “traditionally” feminine looks such as in look 4.
But overall, Valade appears to rely on solid classic pieces such as turtlenecks, well-cut pieces and proportions to create time-proof looks. A sharp sense of colour helps as well, as evidenced in the blue-green embellished Marni suit she wore to the Met Gala, one of the most brilliant displays of colour-blocking I’ve seen in awhile.
#3: She’s a favourite with some of fashion’s most important designers
From top: Valade at the Balenciaga Spring 2011, The Row Fall 2017, Balenciaga Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 shows
Valade received her breakthrough in 2010 when Nicolas Ghesquiere, who was creative director of Balenciaga at the time, reserved her exclusively for his Spring 2011 show. Balenciaga, along with Prada, are two of the most coveted and prestigious shows for any aspiring models.
Despite Ghesquiere moving to Louis Vuitton in 2013 and Demna Gvasalia taking up the reins, Valade remains a favourite of the influential house, as evidenced by her appearance at Balenciaga’s latest shows.
#5: The girl’s got standards
In an interview with WWD, Valade stated that she didn’t start out wanting to be a model (okay, let’s not be cynical here). “I had this vision of dumbass model, just like, la la la la. I wanted to be taken seriously. I never wore makeup, I never wore dresses. I was a real tomboy. I wanted to be listened to for my opinion and not get attention for my butt.”
“I say no to a lot of jobs, even jobs that pay $250,000, $500,000, because I want to keep the standard of quality very high. Because what matters to me is not the money or being famous, because that is something that goes.”
While I do think it helps that she was a bit more mature than most models when she started out at 25 years old, Valade certainly encapsulates that French laissez faire attitude to an intoxicating T.
Like this? Check out fashion editor Imran Jalal’s picks for the 10 new classic items to add to your wardrobe, why our May 2017 cover model Sasha Belyaeva is the girl to know now and why editor Noelle Loh is celebrating the return of Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Main image: @lubakilubaki, @patrickhofficiel and @joshua_lau_fashion Instagram