When it comes to fashion, 26-year-old American actress Kristen Stewart likes to set her own rules. At the opening night gala dinner at the 69th Cannes Film Festival last May, Stewart made her entrance in an elegant filmy black and white Chanel dress. But once the the deluge of popping flashbulbs was over, she kicked off her heels, slipped on a pair of checkerboard sneakers and wore them the rest of the evening.
Kristen Stewart in the movie Personal Shopper
“What you wear should make you feel strong, sturdy, and like yourself,“ the actress said. “A garment can age you or seriously harm you, if you don’t feel good in it."
Stewart, whose star role in The Twilight (2008) saga catapulted her into the international limelight at the age of 17, knows all about creating an image for the media. “I have a stylist whom I’ve worked with since I was 13,“ the actress said. “She knows me really well and tries to highlight who I am. All the clothes that we wear – on press junkets and the red carpet – are lent to us, but they can still feel authentic.“
In French director Olivier Assayas’ new ghost-story-meets-fashion-underworld thriller set in Paris, Personal Shopper, awarded in Cannes, Stewart plays the role of Maureen, a young American in Paris whose savvy understanding of haute couture lands her a job with a demanding high-profile jet-set client. But selecting the wardrobe and accessories – Louboutin shoes, Cartier jewellery – for her often-absent celebrity boss Kyra, turns out to be less glamorous than it might sound.
Stewart in her role as Maureen
In the film, you see a stressed-out Stewart (who appears in every scene of the film) speeding around the traffic-clogged Paris streets on a Vespa, laden with shopping bags, or toting cumbersome garment bags on the metro. As it turns out, the supernatural forces in the plot dictate the outcome: the real reason Stewart’s character, Maureen, has come to the city is to try and make contact with her late twin brother who formerly lived in a sprawling country house in the outskirts of Paris.
“I didn’t really have to prepare for the part,“ said Stewart. “I know how people shop for actresses, and what matters. You’re always asking questions like, ‘can we cut these pants, they’re too long. Are they couture? Can you reproduce them?’ Lots of times, people will try to keep the clothes they are lent and claim that they got lost.“
And she should know. As Karl Lagerfeld’s muse, Kristen Stewart has been working in between shoots as a Chanel model for the past three years, and has seen a darker side of the world of Paris couture. “The fashion industry is chock-a-block with superficial vapid weirdos,” she shrugged. “There are people who are drawn to that world for the attention, not because they appreciate fashion as an art form.“
Stewart with French director, Olivier Assayas
Though Kristen Stewart’s performance in Personal Shopper sparked mixed praise and boos from Cannes’ international press, the French laud her as a serious actress who is capable of working with brainy directors like Assayas. In 2015, she was first American to win a prestigious French César award for best supporting role in Sils Maria, where Stewart co-starred alongside Juliette Binoche in Assayas’ previous film.
“I wouldn’t have written Personal Shopper if I hadn’t known Kristen,“ said Assayas. “She’s the only actress who could have played it. She’s a free spirit – she doesn’t bend to the Hollywood rules. She chooses what she likes, what stimulates her.“
And these days, her recent career moves reflect the actress’ close ties to France.
“I love Paris because it’s where I really come alive,“ Stewart said with a smile. “I feel visible there, but people don’t look at me in a weird way.“ She pauses, then glances at her personal assistant, who is waiting discreetly for the interview to end, holding a pair of sneakers.