This Actress Was the OG of French Girl Cool

The late Stéphane Audran rose to fame during the French New Wave movement and helped inspire Chloé's Fall 2018 collection.

Some might recall I recently discovered just how gorgeous French woman can be while in Paris for Fashion Week. I’m a closeted contrarian, and therefore  limited my French girl knowledge to Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Alt, Carole Laure and Vanessa Paradis (only a French woman could nab fallen-dreamboat Johnny Depp). But I never heard of Stéphane Audran, and I’m sure all the women above have heard of her.

Audran is a French actress who died March 27th, at her home in France after an undisclosed illness. She was 85. Her death was announced on Twitter by the French culture minister.

Audran came to prominence as a player in the French New Wave film movement. She was an up-and-coming actress known for her high cheekbones and detached, incisive stare when she married director Claude Chabrol, and became his cinematic muse. She starred in boundary pushing films like “La Femme Infidel,” (1969)  and “Les Biches,” (1968). Audran embraced sexually charged topics such as seduction, infidelity and bisexuality. She even appeared on-screen in a threesome with ex-husband, Jean-Louis Trintignant, while the second, Chabrol, directed! How French is that?

“She was the essence of the French woman.”

On home turf, Audran’s star power was bright but internationally she had a major breakthrough as Babette Hersant in the Oscar-winning Danish film Babette’s Feast (1983). Interestingly enough, the part was originally offered to Catherine Deneuve.

She was also closely associated with the brand Chloé and was seen in their clothes in the 1970s at the height of her fame. Earlier this year while previewing her Fall 2018 collection, Chloé’s Natasha Ramsay-Levi, a self-confessed film buff, cited Audran (along with actresses Angelica Huston, Sissy Spacek and Isabelle Huppert) as inspiration for the collection. She described their look as magnetic. Ramsay-Levi wanted the Chloé girl “to be very strong, but you can’t really reach her.” 

Back in 1994, when asked by the The Chicago Tribune how she prepares for a role Audran referenced the power of fashion. “It starts with the clothes,” she said. “It is the first thing you have to think of. It’s helpful because, if you notice, the way you wear your clothes is the way you are.”

On hearing of Audran’s death, Ramsay-Levi used Instagram to pay tribute, “Stephane Audran was one of my favourite French actresses. To me she was the essence of the French woman.” Similarly, former Roger Vivier designer Bruno Frisoni called her an “inspiration.”

Stéphane Audran # an inspiration # Bunüel #Chabrol #frenchmovie ?

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Audran’s death has me thinking about how, when we travel, we always want to find where the locals go and what the locals do. No one wants to be stuck in a tourist trap. And in some way, the same applies to icons of beauty and style. Technology has removed the physical borders we once took for granted. Today fashion and beauty icons seems more accessible than ever. But even if I do follow and admire from afar (for example) the Iranian expatriate and Chanel ambassador, Golshifteh Farahani, will she ever mean as much to me as someone who heard her perform live with her former band Koochneshin? No, probably not.

We can choose to know whatever we want about any man, woman, celebrity or  royal, but proximity connects us to our heroes in such an intimate way. And now I’m off to find Babette’s Feast.