She left home at 16 for Paris, where she was swiftly discovered – and Farida Khelfa has been forging a bold path in the fashion industry ever since. The Algerian-French model has a long and rich history with haute couture over the decades, acting as a muse to designers such as Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaïa, among others. We caught up with the star, who appeared on the cover of Vogue Arabia in October, during Couture Week, to learn more about how she dresses for fashion weeks, how the industry has changed over the years, and who she counts among her style icons.
What is it about Couture Week that you love?
I love it because it’s very quiet. It’s very chic, and there are fewer people; you feel very privileged to be there, really. The ambience and atmosphere in Paris is very joyful, but also very light. I like the energy of Couture Week.
Can you tell us more about your Couture Week wardrobe; who you wore and why?
It’s always very difficult because I don’t have a stylist. I’m my own stylist, so I have to find something myself. Most of the time, it’s easier for me to wear suits – I love tuxedos, or really embroidered pieces by Schiaparelli. I love the tailoring, because that fits me very well. But if I can find a beautiful dress, I’ll wear that too. I love Alaïa dresses, of course.
What have been your favorite couture moments in fashion history?
Perhaps the relaunching of Schiaparelli, when we did our first show with Christian Lacroix. It was really amazing, because I had known Christian for many years, but we had never worked together. It was a reopening of a new house. And, sadly, the last show of Azzedine [Alaïa] was during Couture Week. That was also a very important moment, because it was like his testimony.
What are your best beauty and wellness tips for making it through a hectic schedule, such as a Fashion Week?
Drink lots of water, use the Seacret Moisture Face Cream, and have a makeup artist. That’s the only way to survive Couture. If you don’t have a makeup artist, you better quit the job, because for me it helps a lot.
How do you think haute couture has evolved over the years, and what do you think its future holds?
Everything has changed, it’s a totally different world. It’s not worse, but it’s not better either. It’s very business-minded today, with social media , and more fast-consuming. It’s not just about one beautiful piece. Things change very fast, and you have many, many designers nowadays. They’re doing a lot of different things, but I don’t see a real strong movement in fashion right now. But maybe it will happen.
You are a style icon for many, but who do you currently take sartorial inspiration from?
I love stylists, designers, artists. My friends inspire me too, such as Naomi [Campbell]. I’ve known her since she was 16, and in the past year we’ve grown very close, getting together for lunches and dinners. She’s very faithful, and a very strong woman, very strong. She’s also really dedicated to people. I am inspired by strong women in general, such as [French philosopher and political activist] Simone Weil. I love novelist Simone de Beauvoir, and French actress Simone Signoret, lots of Simones, it seems. Catherine Lebrun was, to me, very stylish also.
What is your best advice for women looking to add a little couture to their closets?
Have one thing, one beautiful thing, one expensive thing, like a beautiful jacket or a dress. Then you can mix it with cheaper items, but you have to have one strong element in your outfit. You can wear Zara, H&M and the like, but add a couture jacket or black tuxedo. Abayas are also very elegant, because you wear it on top of your jeans, for example, and it creates a very long, very elegant silhouette. I just came back from Saudi Arabia, where I saw so many women walking in the street with their abaya flowing behind them. It was so beautiful.
How do you think the industry has changed, since you first began modeling aged 16?
It has changed a lot, because there are so many girls from all over the world in the industry now, so beautiful, so impressive. We didn’t have so many models back then but today, we have a lot. It’s important for diversity. I think Vogue Arabia is very important. Finally women in the region have something dedicated to them, to only them.
You are a muse and an inspiration to so many. What would you like to tell emerging models and designers starting to carve their path in the industry today?
I’m not very good at giving advice, but there is something to be said for being quiet. Me, I was very noisy, I was very talkative. However, it depends what the designer is like. It’s more about friendship and growing up together. [Yves] Saint-Laurent and Betty [Catroux], you could tell they were together all the time. It’s like a little gang, you know, as a muse you have to be very close to designers.
Photography: Jacques Burga
Styling: Fay Has
Location: Le Consulat Paris
Hair: Eduardo Bravo
Makeup: Monique Brinkhorst
Production: Juliette Topalian
Interview: Farouk Chekoufi