It is a melancholy day in Paris. Pedestrians bow their heads against the rain, and motorists convey impatience through insistent horns. Still, as I watch from one of the windows in the honeymoon suite at the Hôtel Le Bristol, the downcast faces snap up and the noise pollution mutes at the sight of a slender figure unfurling herself from a town car, walking gazelle-like towards the building's grand entrance.
My guest is one of the city’s newest yet already most famous inhabitants. Natalia Vodianova – supermodel, nascent actress, philanthropist and mother – has become a Gallic obsession, emblematic of the country’s prized characteristics: beauty, style and grace. She moved here to live with her partner, Antoine Arnault, CEO of French luxury menswear brand Berluti and son of LVMH's Bernard Arnault, and to her fellow Russians and now her French compatriots Vodianova represents the existence of a real-life fairy tale. Emerging from relative poverty in her hometown of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia – where her mother held
down four jobs while Natalia looked after her sister Oksana, who has cerebral palsy – she has reached fashion's highest echelons (Forbes currently ranks her the third most successful model in the world). Twelve years of success have done nothing to dim her love of the industry. "I love it deeply," she enthuses. "Seeing the creative processes of people like Stella [McCartney], Pat McGrath, Grace Coddington or Paolo [Roversi]. I transform, like Play-Doh, for them."
Spending time with supermodels is never the most ego-boosting of activities. Petty it may be, but it would be something of a relief to discover a flaw, however tiny. From the moment the 30-year-old enters the suite, however, it appears that I am out of luck. She is late, but I have had apologies,
“I LOVE fashion deeply; seeing the CREATIVE processes of designers. I TRANSFORM, like Play-Doh, for them”
Dress by Christopher Kane