With Chris Isaak playing in the background, Sergio Leone's My Name is Nobody on TV, and scents of patchouli in the air, Léa Rostain knows how to receive guests. A model for Monnier Frères for several seasons now, face included for the Spring/Summer 2020 season, Léa has invited us into her lair - a little house with blue shutters nestled in the heart of Paris's 20th arrondissement. The interior has a very seventies feel, where she lives surrounded by memories of her travels - like mini altars hanging on every wall - and a whole host of objects, from a western piano and vintage horse saddle to Mexican hats, cowboy boots, guitars and animals: a cat, fish, a black panther cuddle toy, and Jackie, her snake who she takes everywhere with her.
MONNIER Frères: What place does fashion occupy in your life?
Léa Rostain: When I was younger, it wasn't particularly important to me, it didn't matter how I dressed. Inevitably, fashion took up more and more space from the time I started modelling, at the age of 11. My real passion is film. But my job has enabled me to discover this exciting world that I now love. I love the energy that emanates from a photo shoot, vintage clothing and period costumes that transport you somewhere else, like this 1895 theatre jacket that I am wearing this morning. I like this idea of constant renewal, a continuous loop, these trends that return, reconstructed and revamped. I am particularly interested in the current movement of designers who are encouraging people to reuse archives to create. Virgil Abloh, for example, recently spoke about this. I only buy vintage, I get second-hand clothes or I make them myself. I buy fabrics at Saint-Pierre market, I draw the patterns, then I make the clothes using a friend's sewing machine... And when I do buy, it's not just the brand that is of interest to me, but the piece itself, what's behind it.
M.F.: So your main passion is film?
L.R.: Yes, I've been passionate about cinema from a very young age, my father is a big movie buff. I was immersed in this world from early on, I watched film after film on the sofa with my dad. My grandmother was on the stage, she was an actress in La Rochelle and it always fascinated me. I walked around the theatre, I watched everything, I sometimes disturbed them, but I never thought about becoming an actress, I considered myself a model, that's all. I told myself that it was too crazy, that it was impossible. But one day I decided I had nothing to lose. I joined the Laboratoire de l’Acteur, a school in Paris, but I didn't like it at all. I didn't like the idea of learning a method for acting; but I did realise that this was really what I wanted to do, what really excited me. Waking up every morning and telling yourself that you can be absolutely anyone you want - I think that's great! And then, by chance, I happened to meet my agent at a party. I had already filmed À Cause des Filles (For the Ones We Loved) with Pascal Thomas. I had seen him once at the Café de Flore and had gone to sit down with him to speak to him. I left him my email and he contacted me a month later... I did a day's filming with him, it was my first role. Now, I'm about to join an improv group. I'm taking my time, I can be very selective as I have the modelling as a "back-up". More recently, I filmed Benjamin Parent Un Vrai Bonhomme (Man Up!), currently showing in French cinemas, and worked on a series for Canal Plus. I'm getting there little by little.
M.F.: How did you get into modelling?
L.R.: I grew up on Rue François-1er, in the 8th arrondissement. The little girl walking to school every morning with her dad was spotted - despite herself! When I was little, I wanted to be an animal trainer for the cinema... Very quickly, I started being photographed for Gap, Baby Dior... It became my job. I took the baccalaureate to please my parents and I studied at the Sorbonne but I always continued modelling, I knew very early on that I was going to take this route.
M.F.: Has your relationship with the camera changed over the years?
L.R.: Yes, of course. I started being photographed when I was very young and I always felt at ease. My father is also a photographer: I've been in front of the camera since I was born... The real change that I felt was when I went from being a child model to an adult model, I started to approach the profession differently and above all, people no longer saw me in the same way at all... I went from being a smiling little kid to a woman who can sell something sexy and I took a bit of time to assimilate that. It was a shoot with Ren Hang that really helped me with the switch, he was very raw... and then I felt like an adult, I was 17 years old.
M.F.: Do you think there's a difference between being photographed by a man or a woman?
L.R.: Not necessarily... That sensibility varies from one person to another rather than from woman to man. Some men can be much more sensitive than a woman, some women can be more sexual than men. I have realised that with some photographers I have a real connection, you can feel it during the shoot, but you really notice it just after, and then when you see the image.
M.F.: Do you feel Parisian? And what do you think of the clichés that surround the image of a Parisian woman?
L.R.: This myth is definitely being busted... To me, this image of the Parisian no longer really exists. Plus, we all come from everywhere, there are very few Parisians who were actually born in Paris. But if we have to talk about it, for me, the archetypal Parisian woman would be the girl who does loads of things, who lives a life of art in every sense, who is lucky enough to be able to visit 40,000 exhibitions at the drop of a hat, who has access to tons of shows, plays, etc. If I had to embody the Parisian woman, I would feel closer to this idea. But rather than for being from Paris, I'm often chosen for my very seventies vibe!
M.F.: What do you do in your free time?
L.R.: Horse riding. I've been riding since I was three years old. I worked as a groom for a stable of racing horses in Ireland, I've organised rides in Auvergne, in beautiful wild landscapes, I've also done a lot of cross-country rides... And my big thing is the relationship I have with the horse I bought two years ago. I've developed a special bond with him and, in fact, I now spend more time with him on foot than riding on him, he's my best friend. I also spend a lot of time playing the guitar and I travel a lot. I dream of galloping in Botswana, for example.
M.F.: What accessories do you always wear?
L.R.: My jewellery, especially my rings and pendants. I wear a lot of family jewellery like my signet ring. My family is descended from Bluebeard; the knight and lord Gilles de Rais, the first psychopath in France who raped and massacred more than 500 children, is therefore my ancestor... I hope I manage to let those children live through me in a cool way! The other pieces are gifts or bits and bobs I bring back from my travels. I never take them off and if I lose them, I can go crazy. Oh and I forgot my snake, Jackie. I take her out all the time, to the local café or to the Buttes Chaumont because she likes going to the park. People who are scared can just keep walking!
M.F.: Do you have any favourite fashion designers?
L.R.: Hedi Slimane, Anthony Vaccarello and John Galliano too, it's funny what he's doing at Margiela, I like him a lot and I have good memories of working with him on a fitting.