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30th April 2016 / Style

Fashion Heroes: Emmanuelle Alt

With her penchant for trousers, high heels and a crisp white shirt (or a basic T-shirt), Emmanuelle Alt is the woman every girl wants to be. She is, without a doubt, the personification of effortless chic. While she also happens to be the editor of Vogue Paris, the French stylelite ranks as one of the most approachable editors among her various international counterparts.

 

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Her brand of “cool-girl” chic, often captured on style blogs after fashion shows, makes her relatable to any woman who wants to look and dress stylish, without going over-the-top. Her sense of style is revered so much so that the popular Tumblr blog I Want To Be A Roitfeld, has now branched out to include a specific blog on Alt, called I Want To Be an Alt.

I’ve always been a fan of Alt, ever since her days as the fashion editor of Vogue Paris. To me, she is a stylist with a strong point of view and is not afraid to go against trends or seasonal key pieces. It’s as if Emmanuelle Alt is the anti-thesis to what her former boss Carine Roitfeld was. While Roitfeld was known for showing her well-toned legs, Alt is famous for only wearing pants. Where Roitfeld was provocative and favoured highly sexualised visuals, Alt is a little more relaxed and favours a chic look that exudes that je ne sais qoui quality.

In a sense, Alt’s dressing and vision for editorial shoots were aimed at the streets. She told The New York Times: “I think the street now takes its influence from the Internet and music — more than what designers do. I would love to recreate this impact in the magazine.”

The Alt Touch

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This street-luxe aesthetic took centerstage long before she became a fashion editor. When Christophe Decarnin took over Balmain in the 2006, Alt was instrumental in helping to build the brand that it became famous for. Together with Decarnin, Alt transformed the label from an off-radar traditional couture house to the toast of the French Vogue set.

Alt was also the mastermind behind the success of another designer, Isabel Marant. Though the French label had traction from the beginning, things really took off in the 2007, when Marant asked Alt to style her shows and consult for her brand. The Isabel Marant achingly cool French look became the go-to vibe for many in the fashion jet set.

VOGUE PARIS UNDER EMMANUELLE ALT

Since taking over Vogue Paris in 2011, Alt has redefined the magazine’s style trajectory. When you flip through the magazine now, it is more feminine in terms of the visuals – not feminine in a girly way, but more empowering and decisive rather than sexually charged.

“I don’t want the French Vogue girl to be a sexual object or a fantasy. I want her to be as perfect as possible but not merely an image. I want to keep the connection with reality somewhere. When people read magazines they project themselves in the dream of a place or a dress or a situation, so you have to show them the best but with something they can believe in,” she once said.

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One of my favourite covers on French Vogue is that of the Beauty Issue in 2010, where Lauren Hutton, Stephanie Seymour and Daria Werbowy, 20 years between each woman, posed for the cover. The fact that a woman who was in her 60s was featured on the cover, speaks volume about her stand on empowering women through fashion (and learning to accept the inevitability of ageing).

Another iconic cover that caught my attention was the May 2014 issue cover, which featured 46-year-old Sophie Marceau, one of France’s most-loved actresses. What struck me the most about the cover was not the bold and bright colour scheme, a sort of pop art-ish background but that Marceau was styled wearing a pair of black La Perla underwear and a black Ralph Lauren sweater.

Why did this stand out, you ask? Basically, none of these pieces were key pieces for the season and it was certainly not a trendy “summer” look, as the season dictates. Apart from it being a gorgeous cover picture of a gorgeous 46-year-old woman, what this picture signifies is Alt’s determination to pursue her vision and imbue her subject with personality and mystery.

This article originally appeared in The Fifth Collection, issue 80