What do you buy the woman who has everything? It’s a question you might be asking yourself in the run-up to Christmas if you’re a friend or family member of Carla Bruni, the Italian-born supermodel, singer-songwriter and wife of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
“Something in cashmere,” she says, is on her gift wish list. “Warm, very soft and cosy. Or any of the large, gorgeous Burberry bags - I always carry a bunch of stuff around.”
Bruni has been immersed in the world of Riccardo Tisci’s Burberry lately: she’s one of a number of brand ambassadors to have been cast in its festive campaign, including fellow Nineties supermodel Cecilia Chancellor, today’s models-of-the-moment Fran Summers and Ikram Abdi Omar, singer Mahmood and footballer Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
If you’re not familiar with some of those names, don’t worry - neither was Bruni, who hadn’t heard of Loftus-Cheek before she met him on set. “I didn’t know about him,” she admits. “I actually don’t know much about football at all, which is an absolute disgrace for an Italian!”
The pair poses together in one of the campaign images, Bruni seated on Loftus-Cheek’s lap, her arms draped across his shoulders. She describes the England midfielder as “lovely” and the photoshoot as “super easy.” In another image, she wears a white evening gown, her favourite look from the shoot. “It's cut like magic,” she says. “It’s everything I like in one outfit. Riccardo has a perfect technique and a great sense of modernity, he really knows how to use the past to reinvent the future.”
It helps, of course, that at 51, she is still striking, with the same willowy frame that made her a catwalk favourite in the Nineties. It’s a period she remembers fondly. “It was all so much fun... I really enjoyed working with the photographers, the designers, chatting with the girls backstage, we all knew each other and lived together like a crazy travelling circus between Paris, Milan and New York.”
Bruni was thrust into the spotlight once again in 2008, when she married Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s then-President. Over the next four years, she lived at the Élysée Palace and accompanied her husband on his official duties, usually clad in custom-made suits and dresses from Christian Dior and Hermès.
She insists her style hasn’t changed much: she’s long been inspired by the likes of Patti Smith and Françoise Hardy, though it has evolved over the years. “I’ve always dressed quite simply, but there are some things I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing at my age, like miniskirts for example.” Not that she has much call for miniskirts these days - her life couldn’t be further removed from fashion. “Writing music is the opposite of living in the fashion world, it’s all about living inside of yourself. Fashion is all about exchanging [ideas] with other people,” she says. “I hardly ever wear a dress in my regular life. A nice pair of jeans with a fitted jacket and a good pair of flat boots is my daily uniform.”
These days, Bruni is also quite publicity-shy, rarely giving interviews, but it didn’t take much persuading to get her to take part in Burberry's campaign. “I've admired Riccardo’s work for a very long time and I love Mert and Marcus [the photography duo who shot the campaign] so I was thrilled, said yes and didn’t ask any questions,” she says. “The next thing I knew, I was on a train to London.”
The festive season for the Bruni-Sarkozy clan is usually spent outside of Paris - though where that may be this year remains undecided. “I could end up in snow boots as well as in a summer dress,” she says. “If we go to our house in the south of France, it’s all about wood fires.”
Bruni, who is mother to son Aurélien, 18, and daughter Giulia, eight, as well as stepmother to Sarkozy’s three adult sons, says whatever they end up doing, the children will be at the heart of it. “As with many large families, we always start celebrating beforehand,” she says. “Everybody gets to see each other and the kids can get spoiled.”