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Moulika Varango

How did you get into this line of work?
I grew up in Abidjan, in very intellectual surroundings, so I wasn’t necessarily destined for the fashion world, although Opium by Saint-Laurent was a big thing at the time. This background fuelled and continues to fuel my passion for detail and my definition of the sophisticated woman. Elegance is the essence of a figure that stretches beyond a given garment. It comes down to the gesture that enhances and transcends the clothing. It took a while for my parents to come to terms with my decision to go into retail, but I suppose I already had a reputation as a bit of an enfant terrible! I saw it as an intellectual challenge that would honour the upbringing they had given me. I scoured libraries and swotted up on fashion like a star pupil. I had to see how it all worked. All that was left then was to believe in every opportunity and take the plunge.

What inspires your style? 
My emotions, first and foremost. I’m a Leo, so my emotions are like a fire that I can feed off of. The emotion of the moment is crucial. My state of mind on waking up sets the tone for what follows. This morning, I was in a good mood, and that energy takes me somewhere, fills me with focus and a desire for detail. Some details become permanent fixtures, like the chain on my waist. 

Who do you look up to in the fashion world? 
Mélanie Huynh naturally springs to mind. Aside from the fact that she has become a friend, there is a stylistic bond between us. We are emotionally aligned. I really like her insistence on never wearing clothes just to please others; she wears what she wants. That is a rule from which you should never depart. Like her, I wear the clothes I like: conventions be damned. The way we dress expresses our identity, so I like to cultivate my androgyny. It is one of my trademarks. 

What kind of compliment would you like to hear (or hear again) in your line of work? 
“Thank you for sharing your passion,” from my team and my customers. I am fortunate to do a job I love and I believe passion is an inherent part of that. Without passion, there’s no stance, no stripping bare. Style without passion is pointless. I would even go as far as to say there is no such thing. Behind my style and behind every style lies a message. My femininity stretches beyond the boundaries of convention. My style stakes that claim.

Which city or destination inspires or resembles you? 
Paris, of course. That is the city I have chosen. It remains the world’s fashion capital, no matter what people say. It is home to the greatest designers, like Gaultier, Yamamoto, Saint-Laurent, Comme des Garçons and Balenciaga. Paris is a rich cultural melting pot. There’s no cradle of creativity like it. The city stimulates me on every level, whether though architecture, food or a glass of fine wine. And then there’s Los Angeles… I dream of living there. It’s a little Paris inside the United States. A bit like a recreation of Paris on an American scale. I’m picturing Rodeo Drive and Pretty Woman! I would like to help grow the ‘French touch’ over there, to reinvent French style and ceremony—an art we have to some extent lost and which includes the art of world-class hospitality. 

How would you define your approach and outlook on life? 
Authentic! It’s not about doing this differently for the sake of being different. It’s a lot more complex. First of all, there’s Anne-Laure (the name given to me at birth), my attachment to religion, to my family, to my values; then the outward expression of who I am is Moulika. I will never fit the mould. No one should. I like to play with established practices that at any rate are always changing. 

What are your favourite themes in your approach to fashion? 
I would say accessories, the colour black and jeans, but revamped. I can wear worn-out jeans with a satin jacket and details that change the rules of the game. I also make a point of never wearing more than three colours. Knowing how not to take yourself too seriously is also a real asset.

Who would you like to dress? 
That’s a hard one. There’s the sculpted perfection of Grace Jones, a true artist and woman of colour who embodies women’s independence and empowerment, a muse long before she was an inspiration to Alaïa. Charlize Theron also fires my imagination: a voluptuous blond, and South African to boot. And Angelina Jolie, who was absolutely insane in Tomb Raider. 

Do you have any everyday rituals? 
I say a prayer when I wake up. I believe in the law of attraction, so I picture my day. On a more practical level, I put on my rings and bracelets even before I get dressed, after stepping out of the shower and before putting on anything else, a bit like other people would get into their underwear. I’m never without my jewellery. 

Is there any particular style you don’t like? 
Anything that doesn’t fit the person’s image and ends up being worse than a costume to the point where it makes them look ridiculous. Some people see clothes as a means of validating themselves socially and end up achieving quite the opposite. They look for the ‘latest thing’ simply to own it in opportunistic fashion, void of any passion. There’s no play, no truth. 

Do you have a regular haunt?
If I’m out and about, you can find me on the terrace of the Westin drinking a mojito after work or at the Alcazar some evenings. Most of the time, however, I’m at the office or at home. I like to retreat to my den; that’s where I recharge my batteries.

What is your favourite possession?
My favourite possessions are my tattoos. I have several: a sleeve tattoo that runs from my shoulder to my wrist, Nefertiti, a Lion, goddesses hand in hand… And then there are my rings, which would be just as hard to remove as my tattoos. 

What carries the most weight in terms of importance in your life? 
God, family and my work. 

Which LE GRAMME pieces do you own?
A 33g in slick polished sterling silver and a 9g cable bracelet, also in polished silver. 

What would LE GRAMME be if it were a piece of clothing? 
A leather jacket. A wardrobe essential that is both rock & roll and timeless.

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