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  • In conversation with

    Joséphine De La Baume

    When it comes to style aesthetics to aspire to, ‘the French look’ is one of the most coveted. For decades, the way in which French women dress has been a source of fascination and inspiration, from Brigitte Bardot’s bikini to Jane Birkin’s basket, Emmanuelle Alt’s blazers to Coco Chanel’s red lipstick. Joséphine de la Baume is no exception. Her uniquely Gallic personal style – an effortless mash-up of cool and vampy – has long captivated the fashion world and seen her cast as a muse for names including Dior and Agent Provocateur.

    Frankie Graddon

    Of course, Joséphine has many more strings to her bow than just great dress sense. The ultimate multi-hyphenate, she is also a talented film director, actor and musician. Front woman of Film Noir, the cult garage-rock band she founded with her brother, Alexandre, Joséphine has also garnered rave reviews for her most recent appearance as Delphine in the hotly anticipated return of British TV series, Top Boy.

    When we talk at the end of March, Joséphine is in a whirlwind of work. “I’m all over the place,” she tells me on the phone from Paris. As well as riding the wave of success from Top Boy, which aired on Netflix the week before – an experience she describes as “exciting but terrifying” – she has been shooting back-to-back music videos in preparation for Film Noir’s new album.

    Busy though Joséphine may be, she still managed to find half an hour to talk wardrobe treasures, make-up must-haves and why a ginger shot is her everyday ritual.

    You sum up that effortlessly cool ‘French look’. What is it about French style that’s so enduring? 

    It has to do with the nonchalant approach to dressing up, hair and make-up. In France, less is more, and it’s about having good accents: a great boot or a great bag. The idea of the ‘French girl’ comes from New Wave cinema and those actresses who were playing that slightly hesitant, moody, beautiful woman with a certain hairstyle. It’s male-built fantasy, and people got stuck on that. Today, there isn’t just one French woman, there are lots of different versions. But the ‘less is more’ is still relevant. French women look at the way English women are more daring in what they wear and have a more eccentric style. So there is a lot of curiosity and envy both ways.

    Does your career in film and music influence your style sense? 

    I keep a lot of clothes from my characters when they let me, or sometimes I buy clothes from my movies. I’m a bit of a hoarder in that way. I wanted to keep everything from my wardrobe in Kiss of the Damned [Joséphine played Djuna]. It’s a vampire movie directed by Xan Cassavetes, and there were a lot of amazing vintage pieces and Victorian dresses.

    When did you first realise your passion lay in performing? 

    As long ago as I can remember. I was the kind of kid who always put on shows with my friends – everything had to be a spectacle. I took theatre classes at a very young age – I think I was three when I went to my first theatre class, which was actually in English. I also started playing the piano when I was six. I always liked the idea of performing and entertaining. My parents let me watch movies at a very young age, and my dad worked in theatre, so I also fell in love with cinema at a young age.

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    Today, there isn’t just one French woman, there are lots of different versions. But the ‘less is more’ is still relevant.

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    You’re a master of the perfectly minimal beauty look. Can you talk us through your daily beauty routine?

    I wake up and apply very cold water on my face, then I use the foaming Oxygenation Mask from Shane Cooper. I change which cream I use, but I like the creams from French skincare brands Maison Flamel and Caudalie

    What are your make-up bag essentials? 

    I wear eyeliner every day. I use one from L’Oreal in brown/burgundy, as sometimes black can be a bit intense. I wear Bobbi Brown lip liner in mauve. On my brows I use a pencil; Lancôme does a good one specifically for dark blonde/red hair colour. I don’t put much on my skin, I’ll use a transparent powder, and if I need to use concealer, I like Hourglass

    What are your haircare secrets? 

    I mainly just brush it, but when I want to get my hair colour more vibrant I use the Soin Repigment nourishing conditioner by Leonor Greyl. I mix the Copper and Venetian Blonde tones together to boost the colour. For shine, I really like the Hair Elixir serum from Bleach London. 

    You do a great red lip. What is your favourite red lipstick and have you got any tips for making it last all day?

    My trick is that I only do lip liner, never lipstick, so that the colour sticks. You can drink, smoke, kiss – nothing happens. I love Dior lip liners and go for an orange-red colour. 

    What influences your personal style and how has it evolved as you’ve grown up?  

    The way I dressed as a teenager was highly influenced by the music I listened to. I went through a grunge period, then a hip hop period, then I wore a lot of leather and listened to rock bands. As a grown-up, it’s more of a mixture of influences from over the years. I dress quite tomboyish; I’ll wear men’s jackets and high-waist jeans during the day, then when it comes to events or a premiere, I let my feminine part take over. I feel less self-conscious in the UK than I do in Paris when I want to wear something a bit mad. No one makes any comments about it in London, so I can be more daring.

    How do you get dressed in the morning? 

    It doesn’t take me long to get ready, I know the things that work on me and I’ll wear them on a cycle. I’m a little bit of a monomaniac with clothes; I obsess over one thing. So, if I really like a pair of boots, I’ll wear them like there’s no tomorrow, or if I like a bag, I’ll have to wear it every day. At the moment, I am a little obsessed with Leith Clark’s bonnets designed in collaboration with Madeleine Thompson. I wear them every day, as my ears don’t stand the cold well. 

    Where are your favourite shopping destinations? 

    I love Relic in London. Each piece has a story attached to it and the lovely man who works there always tells you about it. In Paris, I like Pretty Box in the Marais. There’s a really beautiful selection of vintage pieces. I am sentimental towards clothes, rather than being interested in trends. A lot of my clothes have some kind of story behind them.

    Which brands will we find in your wardrobe?

    I follow the fashion designers I love and respect, almost like I follow the work of a film director. Simone Rocha creates such a magical and unique world and I like 16 Arlington. I wear a lot of Alexa Chung pieces, too. She’s a good friend and very talented.  

    Which new-season pieces are you investing in for spring? 

    I’ve just bought two full looks from Charlotte Knowles. One is a leopard-print top and trousers, the other is a purple printed two-piece. I like wearing prints and clashing them together. I really like the Danish brand Hofmann Copenhagen. I’ve got a coat with a floral print on it and I’ve been wearing lots of bodysuits in different colours and prints. I don’t buy that many clothes. I keep a lot of my pieces and revisit them when they come back around. For example, my ’90s collection is big right now. 

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    I am sentimental towards clothes, rather than being interested in trends. A lot of my clothes have some kind of story behind them.

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    Most recently, you’ve played Delphine in Top Boy. What drew you to the story and her character? 

    Originally, the character was quite different; she was English and called Poppy. Eventually she changed to being French, but it doesn’t really matter what nationality she is, it’s much more about what the character has gone through. She’s experienced grief and big life challenges. She’s had to start over again, I really related to that. I’ve had different things happen to me, but I can relate to having to grieve a past and move forward with my head held high, even though you’re broken and crumbling.

    How do you get into a role? 

    I don’t hide behind the character. In fact, I reveal more of myself through a character, so it becomes a very personal performance. The only way I can deliver a performance is to be as honest as possible, even if I have to dig in uncomfortable areas, as that’s often where you find the truth. In the case of Delphine, it was about being subtle and holding back a little, as opposed to playing ‘big’. Most of the time that’s more moving, especially with her character, where she’s trying to be brave and not let the past take over. 

    As your work is so personal, how do you navigate the attention once it is released to the public? 

    Top Boy was such an anticipated show in England, so that was a huge pressure. Usually, I don’t watch everything I’ve done – if it’s a film, I can watch the beginning, or if it’s a series, I’ll watch the first episode. However, I loved the show so much that I wanted to see the whole thing, even if it was painful watching myself. I think a lot of actors have that. You’d think that, as it’s their profession, they’d be comfortable with it, but often not. 

    You have a busy year ahead with a new ITV series launching and a new Film Noir album. What wellbeing rituals do you rely on to help give you headspace and keep you feeling relaxed? 

    I drink a ginger shot every day to stop me getting sick. I used to make them but now I buy them from Planet Organic. I’m also a fan of steaming. When I’m in Paris, I always go and get a scrub and a steam – it’s really good for my skin and makes me feel regenerated. I exercise quite a lot. I have a trainer and we do a lot of strengthening exercises, I also do boxing and I run. When I want to mix it up I’ll do hot yoga and Pilates. I love Soul Cycle, but I don’t have a Peloton bike in my house. I’m not sure I could stand looking at it in my living room all day long! 



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