In a small but exquisite 19th century building, in the very large Parisian district of Passy, Mathilde Favier opens the door of her recently redesigned apartment, which is like her effervescent, original and almost absurdly chic. Her hair is a dark pixie blonde, her eyes sparkle and her smile could fuel a good part of the French capital. Favier comes from a family with deep roots in fashion: his sister Victoire de Castellane designs fine jewelry at Christian Dior, and his uncle Gilles Dufour, Karl Lagerfeld’s long-time right-hand man at Chanel, is a designer and a city man. After working in public relations for Prada, Favier has, for the past decade, managed famous clients at Christian Dior.
She is now an empty nest, with her two children from her marriage to financier Robert Agostinelli living abroad. “And I’m in love with the man I want to spend the rest of my life with,” she says of her fiancé, film producer Nicolas Altmayer.
Inspiration for her apartment interior began with Christian Dior’s Spring 2020 haute couture show, when artist Judy Chicago collaborated with Christian Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri on a presentation titled Female Divine. Held in the gardens of the Rodin Museum, the show was staged in a massive white structure in the shape of an elongated goddess, featuring 21 hand-embroidered banners with a series of hard-hitting statements, including the central query, “What if the women ruled the world? ” The runway was covered with a lilac carpet with a millefleur pattern, which Favier reused for the staircase in his apartment.
William Middleton: Was the floral carpet your starting point?
Mathilde Favier: Everything about this house came from this design. The Dior presentation took place in January 2020, just before the world changed. I saw it, I loved it, and I said, “OK, I’m redoing my apartment.
WM: You redecorated during the city’s many lockdowns. How difficult was that?
MF: In some ways I didn’t mind because I was in my shoes, all alone, just me and my fiance. And having a little solitude is when ideas can come. I understood more than ever that an interior should be a refuge.
WM: What were your goals with the new decor?
MF: Much like the way you wake up in the morning and dress yourself, the way you furnish a house is a reflection of who you are at any given point in time. I used to have things here that were pretty simple, but it felt a bit like a hotel. So now it’s something of a happy mess, but it’s my happy mess.
WM: What elements are most meaningful to you?
MF: I love all the designs, many of which come from the Simrane boutique on rue Bonaparte, this beautiful place that has fabrics and prints from India. I’ve always loved traveling, and one of the first things I do in a foreign country is try to meet artisans and craftspeople. It is the culture of a country that I find fascinating. So in my place there are fabrics that were woven in Spain, prints and patterns from Rajasthan, and a rug from Romania. It’s a mix that could be overwhelming, but taken together I kind of find a basis.
WM: You oversaw the decoration of your space with the help of an interior designer, Brenda Altmayer, who is your partner’s sister-in-law, Nicolas. Have you ever worked with decorators?
MF: I was lucky to have three apartments designed by Jacques Grange. I have always been sure of my tastes, but Jacques helped me avoid falling into any trap. A lot of times I would say, ‘Oh, I love this’, and he would say,’ You’re right, it’s adorable, but what if we do that instead? And it was always something a little more fearless and interesting.
WM: You are often described as the Parisian par excellence, how would you characterize the Parisian?
MF: She dares! She indulges in a certain daring. I would say I’m not afraid, or no longer afraid, of making a mistake – in fact, I even like to do it. And the Parisian that I would like to be also has an appetite for life, it’s super important. You see young, attractive, well-dressed people who seem to be completely bored. We must cultivate the joy of living. I also think that the notion of charm is very important. It makes others want to be with you, stay awhile, and talk a little more. And finally, it is about this French art to live, knowing how to receive someone, how to put someone at ease. For me, this seems particularly urgent to me at the moment.
This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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