Style | The Aesthete

Martine Assouline talks personal style: Part One

Martine Assouline founded her fashion and arts publishing house with her husband, Prosper, in 1994. She lives in New York and Paris.

December 01 2011
Avril Groom

My personal style signifier is my Balenciaga sunglasses – I have three pairs of the same style. They’re large, round and retro, perhaps inspired by the 1960s Balenciaga archives, yet very light and contemporary looking, like everything that [creative director Nicolas] Ghesquière does. They protect me from sun, light and cold, and hide the results of a late night. £179, www.balenciaga.com.

The last thing I bought and loved was a bronze head of Athena, which I found while checking out antiques shops in Naples – I do that everywhere I go. It’s beautifully sculpted, probably 19th century. I’m very into Greek mythology. Antichita Affaitati, Via Benedetto Croce 21, 80134 Naples (+39081-444 427).

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a library table by Le Corbusier. They’re very rare and expensive, so I’m having to think about it. And I’m not saying where it is.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Istanbul. I don’t know how it took so long for me to go there. We opened a boutique there under licence and I went for four days, which was like a dream. I was so inspired that we are already making two books about it, one just on the Grand Bazaar – another world. Each time I go back I’m bowled over by its cultural mix and energy. It’s like the New York of the near Orient.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jean-Michel Basquiat. I can’t analyse his appeal for me, but I do feel he was the last true artist of the 20th century, and his work seems revealing of his era and his troubled personality.

A recent “find” is the bar at Daniel, which is Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant. It has a fabulous French mixologist called Xavier Hérit, who creates amazing cocktails. My favourite is his White Cosmopolitan, which has an orchid ice ball that opens as the drink is poured over it. 60 East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065 (+1212-288 0033; www.danielnyc.com).

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the Marché Serpette area of the Clignancourt flea market in Paris. Going there early is part of my Paris routine, to see what’s new. It has the most sophisticated shops and stands in the whole market – great for collectors with taste. 110 Rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen, 93400 Paris (+331-4945 1710; www.paulbert-serpette.com).

The last music I downloaded was the “Va pensiero” chorus from Nabucco, conducted in March in Rome by Riccardo Muti. The chorus is a cry of freedom. Berlusconi was there, and the audience were invited to join in, which they did, really showing him what they thought. It was very emotional.

The books on my bedside table are Some of My Lives by Rosamond Bernier, who lived in Paris in the 1930s, was the European editor of Vogue, founded the influential arts magazine L’Oeil and knew everyone in the arts world; and Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius. I have no interest in Buddhism as such, but as a self-improvement manual it’s brilliant and I recommend it to everyone.

In my fridge you’ll always find at least one bottle of Meursault from Louis Latour. Burgundy is my favourite wine when I need a relaxing glass. From £25, www.louislatour.com.

The beauty staple I’m never without is Femme by Rochas, a wonderfully sophisticated, womanly perfume created for Hélène Rochas in the 1940s. It’s hard to find so I buy it whenever I see it.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Ferdi in Paris with my friend Azzedine Alaïa. It’s a tiny, laid-back place with exquisite tapas and cocktails. I had to ask for the recipe for the South American ceviche, it was so good. 32 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris (+331-4260 8252).

My favourite websites are Nowness, which is full of fascinating videos and ideas on fashion and arts; and the magazine area of the Ralph Lauren site. My 19-year-old son would like a Morgan car, and that’s where we learnt all about the family factory that makes them. www.nowness.com; www.ralphlauren.com.