PARIS–This past weekend, France didn’t only elect socialist François Hollande as its new president; the country also welcomed a first lady diametrically opposed to Carla Bruni.
Please meet Valérie Trierweiler, described by the French press “a normal woman.” A 47-year-old journalist sans Botox, divorced with three children, she is not François’s new wife but long-term girlfriend–a definite novelty for the Elysée (France’s equivalent of the White House).
Valérie grew up in the provincial town of Angers. Her father passed away when she was young, and she was raised by her mother, a receptionist at the city’s ice-skating ring-–lightyears away from Carla’s upper class upbringing between Italy and Paris’s glitziest schools.
Carla astonished the world with her raunchy past, brief singing career, and radical makeover upon her engagement to Sarkozy (prior to which she claimed to be ‘forever left wing’). Her Chanel suits and Chaumet jewelry presented her to the world as the country’s ambassador of chic. But back in France, her popularity was plummeting–not only was she nicknamed ‘a wannabe Jackie Kennedy’, but her taste for luxury also received increasingly bitter reactions as her country fell deeper in a recession.
When her daughter Giulia was born a few months ago, Carla was strongly advised to tone down her look, to give off a maternal vibe, French magazine L’Express reveals–cream cashmere knits, UGG boots, slouchy cardigans became staple pieces in her new garde-robe.
But no one seemed impressed. The country felt tired of having “paparazzi pros” as a presidential couple, said Florence Willaert, editor-at-large at French Grazia, in a recent interview with Fashionista. “An ex-model? Seriously? Could you be any more cliché?” she said. “With Valérie, we’re turning the page on an era of incessant media-ization.”
Valérie’s clothes come from high-street shops and mid-range labels. Her trademark look consists of a trench-coat or a blazer, a simple shirt, ample trousers and small heels. Those are often accessorized by a Gérard Darel handback and a colorful silk scarf. Carla Bruni might have been voted one of the world’s best dressed women by Vanity Fair, but Valérie is the true mirror of French women’s almost unconscious chic. “She is discreet, real, and a lot easier to identity with. She embodies the same message as her husband: a new proximity to the people” Willaert added.
Indeed, the time of bling bling scandals–from the alleged Khadafi-funded campaign to Sarkozy supposedly flying his sick DJ son back from a gig in Ukraine using taxpayers money-–may well be over.