The Other Man in Kristen's Life
She's the Hollywood rebel du jour, he's Balenciaga's fashion maestro. Now old friends Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Ghesquiere are working together on their first collaboration.
Kristen Stewart isn't one of those girls who sprays perfume in the air and then spins around in its mist. The world's favorite vampire has too much bite for the softly, softly approach to applying scent. "Fragrance is feral," she says, rubbing her chest provocatively. "It's sexual, it's about your skin."
In real life, Stewart is a world away from the gawky teenager that Twilight fans have come to know and love. Stewart seems to have a highly developed rebellious streak.
Considering the amount of waiting around and general celeb revenrence that has been involved in getting my dictaphone in front of her, I'm pretty surprised Stewart is talking about being sexual at all. If that wasn't enough, she says 'f***' and 'c***' all the time, too. Inside, I'm rubbing my hands with glee ('She swears!'), but I remain poker-faced. In the sweltering Parisian heat, on a plush couch, in the plushes suite of the city's plushest hotel, I am not going to be the one who loses her cool factor.
Stewart and her expletives aside, there is someone else in the room making up this rather fabulous tête a-trois: Nicholas Ghesquiere. Better known as Mr. Balenciaga, he also happens to be my fashion hero and, if I'm going to keep my cool in front of anyone, it's going to be him. To be clear, I'm not usually so hung up on the notion of 'cool', but it becomes a recurring theme during our chat about the new Balenciaga fragrance, Florabotanica, to which Stewart has lent her face.
For the record, both agree that fearlessness is the key to cool. "It's about being on the edge of something-about not taking the easy route," says Stewart, the girl who found international mega-fame as a teenager. "To be cool is not to be crippled by yourself," she adds, lest anyone dare assume that her brisk confidence isn't the genuine article.
As for Ghesquiere, well, he's so cool he is able to pay a compliment and talk definitions. "What's cool is bravery and to be very fashionable - and that is very Kristen." I quickly realise two things: 1) I am not very cool; 2) despite the oppressive heat, the temperature in the room (myself excluded) is sub-zero.
Not only are Stewart and Ghesquiere untouchably (sorry to be repetitive) cool, they share the same piercing eyes ( hers emerald, his sea blue) and are also proper friends. Genuine, real-life friendship is a rarity in the world of celebrity match-ups, so the conversation flows easily. They finish each other's sentences, they have in-jokes and they giggle like a pair of carefree lovers.
The pair met on a Bruce Weber shoot in 2004, "It was a journey," says Ghesquiere of their first conversation. "Ever since that first moment I have never forgotten her. It was a curiosity to interact with Kristen. You can't imagine anyone would ever forget her - she has a strong tendency to dominate the room."
"You meet someone and you recognise them. you f****** recognise them," says Stewart. Observing them interact is like watching an extremely stylish version of Tom and Jerry. And from what I can gather, it's this Jerry-like fight, the rebellion I talked about earlier, that made Stewart the perfect new Balenciaga muse.
The fact that she had no idea about the house's heritage (Cristobal Balenciaga was Spain's answer to Christian Dior) was rather unexpected but, in the context of its futuristic place in today's fashion world, hardly surprising.
Ghesquiere approached the process of perfume-making in the same way he does his mainline collections. Old meets new, "a hybrid," he says. "I tries not to try too hard. Fragrance is an emotion," he adds with conviction. "It's a smell, it's skin.You can remember someone from smelling them. I wanted it to stay emotional. When you try to control it too much, one thing will take over everything."
This is where he and Stewart differ completely. He holds something back; he lets silence, clothes, fragrance do his talking. The actress is all too aware that she is on show, and the 'on-show' Stewart can be brash and provocative. I mean, if I was the new face of Balenciaga and had the pick of the latest collection to wear, I wouldn't have chosen a neoprene vest and grubby-looking jeans for the interview.
But that's just me. The fans love her, and the brains at Balenciaga certainly aren't stupid. They want their beautiful new rose scent, in its minimalist, Mondrian-inspired bottle, to sell, and I'm guessing their target market is those savvy girls who know the brand's name, but perhaps aren't rich enough to afford one of its capacious handbags.
Stewart, therefore, is their ticket to ride, and she's happy to oblige. Because Balenciaga is cool. Seriously cool. And that's all that really matters.
When Nicholas Met Kristen
Nicholas Ghesquiere: Do you and Bella [Stewart's character in the Twilight series] dress the same?
Kristen Stewart: I always wanted Bella to be practical and unassuming, yet cooler than everyone else. We both wear lots of casual clothes. But her actual style is very far away from mine. After I'd been playing a stripper [in Welcome to the Rileys], I was definitely not wearing enough clothing. I looked back and thought, 'That's so not me,' but it was fun.
NG: What is it that you love about Balenciaga?
KS: I had seen the clothes first in fittings and gone, 'Wow', but I wasn't ready for your stuff. I especially loved the outfit I wore to the German Twilight premiere: a see-through panelled skirt over tiny shorts. I was unbelievably cool. You could literally see f****** everything.
NG: Who is stylish?
KS: A combination of Patti Smith and Brigitte Bardot.
NG: Who do you admire?
KS: I'm going to keep it personal. I'm not kissing your ass, but you, Walter Salles and Sean Penn - he has done remarkable things on and off screen.
NG: What makes you happy?
KS: I'm a miserable c***! I'm not sure if I'm most happy when I'm comfortable and content or when I'm pushing myself to the limits There are such different versions of happy. And I really appreciate both.
NG: If you weren't an actress, what would you be?
KS: I'd probably go back to school, read a lot and figure out what I should do.
Thanks to malenacasey