Fashion (Canada) - - The Brief - Styling by Ju­liana Schi­av­inatto Cre­ative di­rec­tion by Brit­tany Ec­cles

While shoot­ing Char­lotte Cardin in the Canal Saint-Martin neigh­bour­hood of Paris, the FASH­ION team was treated to an im­promptu con­cert. “While we were wait­ing around, Char­lotte would sing—her voice is beau­ti­ful,” says cre­ative di­rec­tor Brit­tany Ec­cles. Photo shoots nor­mally hap­pen in swanky stu­dios or op­u­lent ho­tels, but for this is­sue, we shot our star in a slightly grungy Airbnb. ON THE COVER: Char­lotte is wear­ing a jacket, price upon re­quest, skirt, $3,875, and shoes, $1,025, Chanel. Top, Char­lotte’s own. Photography, Brent Gold­smith. Cre­ative di­rec­tion, Brit­tany Ec­cles. Styling, Ju­liana Schi­av­inatto. Hair, Peter Gray for Home Agency/Shu Ue­mura. Makeup, Julie Cus­son for Chanel. Fash­ion as­sis­tants, Cherry Wang and Gabriela Lima. Photography as­sis­tant, Flo­rian De­bray.

Char­lotte Cardin isn’t ly­ing when she talks about her love of Ra­dio­head. When you’re a fan, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean to talk about your idols all the time, but op­por­tu­ni­ties just seem to arise. It so hap­pens that, as a mu­si­cian, Cardin gets asked about mu­sic a lot. Con­se­quently, there’s a good chance you’ll hear her gush about Ra­dio­head.

Over the phone from Paris, where she is over­look­ing the artis­tic mecca of Mont­martre (tough work, right?), she’s talk­ing about one of their songs in par­tic­u­lar. “I al­ways give the ex­am­ple of ‘No Sur­prises’ by Ra­dio­head,” she says. “It’s prob­a­bly my favourite song in the world. It’s so sim­ple, and the melody is so beau­ti­ful. I like hear­ing some­thing that’s so good that it doesn’t need much—maybe they even un­der­did it, just be­cause your mind can com­plete the song a bit. I like hear­ing space in mu­sic.” Take note: Cardin is big on space. Imag­ine if she were a char­ac­ter in a novel about a beau­ti­ful singer-song­writer from Mon­treal who first earned ac­claim as a com­peti­tor on the Québé­cois ver­sion of The Voice (La Voix) but is now writ­ing mu­sic in Paris, for in­stance. It shouldn’t be much of a stretch. To con­tinue this pre­car­i­ous metaphor, let’s say this novel was as­signed in an English 101 class. You could write an es­say in said class about how Cardin rep­re­sents the con­cept of lim­i­nal­ity, of oc­cu­py­ing a space in be­tween. You would prob­a­bly get a pretty good grade. (I hope so, any­way, be­cause that’s es­sen­tially my an­gle for this piece.)

Right now, she ex­ists in a mo­ment just be­fore. Be­fore adult­hood, be­fore fame and celebrity, she sings her en­tranc­ing smoke-and-nos­tal­gia-scented pop some­where in be­tween real life and sto­ries.

Part of this am­bi­gu­ity is in­ten­tional. The songs she writes are con­fes­sional, some­times raw or sad or brim­ming with lust and long­ing. But that doesn’t mean they are true or even about her ex­actly. “I don’t only write about per­sonal heart­breaks,” she says. “I will write from my per­spec­tive, but a lot of my songs are fic­tional: things that a friend told me, some­thing I no­ticed or some­thing I ex­pe­ri­enced my­self.

“I love play­ing with the line be­tween fic­tion and re­al­ity,” she con­tin­ues. “If you start from a story that sort of af­fected you but isn’t cur­rently de­stroy­ing your life, there’s just more space to cre­ate around that event.”

Speak­ing of fic­tion and singers: Cast your mind back to 2002. That year, when she was 20, poet, per­for­mance artist and icon Brit­ney Spears sang her pow­er­ful trib­ute to lim­i­nal­ity. You’ll re­call that at the time, as she in­sisted in the song, she was not a girl any­more but nei­ther was she a woman. What she needed, she pro­claimed, was time—a mo­ment for her­self—while she was in be­tween. In terms of genre and brand­ing, Cardin doesn’t share many sim­i­lar­i­ties with Spears. (Stylis­ti­cally, and with good rea­son, she’s more of­ten com­pared to Amy Wine­house, although she doesn’t share her demons, thank­fully.) But that song could have been writ­ten by Cardin. Or, I sup­pose, by any woman in her early 20s. Lim­i­nal­ity is a uni­ver­sal ex­pe­ri­ence: when you are old enough to hang a de­gree on your wall but not old enough to rent a car. Cardin doesn’t sing about it in so many words, but she em­bod­ies it. For her, it has less to do with post-ado­les­cence and more to do with ex­pe­ri­ence and self-dis­cov­ery.

She is at the age when your iden­tity starts to co­a­lesce and you start ex­am­in­ing your life with a more crit­i­cal, in­formed eye. At 24, with two head­lin­ing tours un­der her belt, two suc­cess­ful EPs and an al­bum on the way, Cardin is learn­ing more about her­self. And what she has dis­cov­ered is that, like Spears, she needs some time. “I didn’t think I was a loner, but I re­al­ized I am a lit­tle bit,” she says. “I re­ally need some space, some per­sonal time just to do my shit with­out hav­ing peo­ple around. I tour with ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­si­cians, awe­some hu­man be­ings, and they’re re­ally good friends of mine, but I re­al­ized I do need some per­sonal space to be happy.”

But, Cardin says, this rev­e­la­tion doesn’t ex­tend to her ro­man­tic life. “In a re­la­tion­ship, I don’t feel the same way,” she ex­plains. “I think the best re­la­tion­ships are those where you can spend so much time with the other per­son but you never feel like you need to act a cer­tain way or do spe­cific things.”

Which, ac­tu­ally, sounds a lot like how she feels about her fam­ily. If we judge fan­dom by how read­ily, and how of­ten, a per­son men­tions his or her favourite band (or what­ever), then Ra­dio­head has noth­ing on Cardin’s fam­ily. That’s prob­a­bly how it should be. After all, Thom Yorke didn’t put her in singing lessons when she was eight, and he doesn’t travel to as many of her shows as he pos­si­bly can. Her par­ents do, al­ways full of pride for their daugh­ter, even when she sings about adult sit­u­a­tions. “It’s awk­ward some­times if they ask ex­actly what I meant by some­thing that I know is not some­thing I want to share with them,” she says. “But they’re open-minded. I’m glad I don’t have to feel ashamed, be­cause I know they un­der­stand. They were young once, too. They’re like, ‘We know that sex ex­ists.’” »

She’s safe is the point. But her fam­ily isn’t the only rea­son she can en­joy where she is now. There’s ex­cite­ment and free­dom when you’re in be­tween be­cause the world hasn’t as­signed you a dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive quite yet. Sure, there are com­par­isons to Wine­house— but that is as com­pli­men­tary as it is ac­cu­rate. She also tends to get asked about La Voix and about the time she spent modelling when she was 15. (She left the biz when she was 19 to fo­cus on her mu­sic.)

If “It girl” were still a ti­tle women wanted and the me­dia be­stowed, Cardin would be an ideal can­di­date. And the fact that she was a model is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in her It-ness. She’s so cool; she gave up what is a quintessen­tially cool ca­reer in favour of an even cooler one.

The other thing that makes her cool is the con­fi­dent way in which she trusts her in­stincts. “I’ve re­al­ized that when you be­lieve in some­thing, even if you have a cer­tain doubt, or a cer­tain fear, it’s nice to go with it be­cause you can never be mad at your­self for some­thing you be­lieved in,” ex­plains Cardin. “It’s when some­one im­poses some­thing on you—that’s when you’ll re­gret a song or do­ing some­thing. You might mess up a few times, but at least it’s your own fault.”

I can see her hang­ing out in that Paris apart­ment, writ­ing songs, on the edge of what­ever comes next, trust­ing her­self to fig­ure out what that is. In his novel

Ev­ery­thing Mat­ters!, Ron Cur­rie writes some­thing about mo­ments—mo­ments like the one Cardin has made for her­self: “...even in this last mo­ment there is still Ev­ery­thing, whole gal­ax­ies and eons, the sum to­tal of ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence across time, shrunk to the head of a pin, theirs for the ask­ing, right here, right now. And so any­thing, any­thing, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

If only that were in a Ra­dio­head song, then it might be Cardin’s favourite line be­cause it al­ready de­scribes her per­fectly.

Jacket, price upon re­quest, skirt, $3,875, and shoes, $1,025, Chanel. Top, Char­lotte’s own.

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