"I grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden. I got into fashion as a model—I was picked up by Elite Agency when I was very young and had a great career–almost 15 years–here in Paris. I was always into fashion because I liked to dress my girlfriends, but then of course it’s a very different thing to wear clothes than to actually create a whole collection...shoes, fabrics, colors and everything else. But when I was 33, in 2003, I had a huge revelation in my little head while walking, saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ I had great modeling years, and now I want to use my head in a different way and learn something. And I said to myself, I want to work for Zadig and Voltaire. Don’t ask me why—destiny, I guess?
They took me as an assistant and then three years later they made me Head of Design. I can say that was the biggest act of heroism in my life, actually. Because while I loved being an assistant, and even when I was a model I had such a great career and it was a beautiful life, but then starting work from 9-5 in say, an office, you have to really adapt because you are less free and you earn less money. But I really liked the idea of starting from scratch with no pressure on my shoulders, just going forward absorbing and observing. I felt very, very scared entering the office that Monday morning in January 2006. [It feels like] everybody is looking at you, and you have to give the tempo, and create the plan de collection. But I did it. I think now, I’m 45, and back then I was 36 and I still felt that naiveté of youth somehow at that age. Today with all the experience and how I’ve been living these 9-10 years I think, ‘Holy moly, how did I do it.’ Because it’s a dream, but it’s also an industry, so you have to be really clever. I did it and I’m sure I made mistakes, but nobody noticed because now here we are today, there are like 300 stores in the world, and we’ve gone in a good direction. It’s been a beautiful evolution. It’s not only about doing a great collection, but it’s about teamwork.
In my sense, in fashion and beauty, less is more. I really think that when a woman shows the least she becomes more mysterious and then sexier, so when I dress I always have a men’s piece on me because it reassures me and I need to always feel comfortable in my clothes. In my makeup too, I want to be natural and I want to be fresh. To be honest and to look natural, to play the card of freshness more than seduction is my motto.
I don’t have that much, it’s such a small, simple recipe. Maybe you need a concealer, but you should do it with your finger and tap it lightly, don’t cover up your whole face. These days I use RMS Un Cover-Up because their textures are amazing. The concealer gives you a glow and a shine, but it’s a natural shine. Just use it on your finger around your nose and under your eyes and when you have a spot. And then powder. I use Shu Uemura—it’s a light matte powder with a brush you use all over, but it also doesn’t dry out my face. And then I use a MAC Blush called Love Rock that was made for Zadig & Voltaire. My favorite things for lips is Chili from MAC because it looks red but it’s transparent, like someone bit me—only no one bit me! Maybelline Great Lash Mascara I’ve used since I was a model, too. For eyebrows, always brush them upwards—I think that’s something my mother taught me—I use a toothbrush just for that. I draw them in with Rubis Swiss-made pencil, which I always have with me. It’s a very reassuring feeling knowing I have that with me. For events I do have a brown glittery Shu Uemura Eyeshadow that I use with a thin brush around the eyes like an eyeliner, or I do a smoky eye on the eyelid and a bit more mascara.
I am 45 and I’m not hiding it. I've always had a problem with my skin and breaking out so I really know which products work for me at this point—there are a few that definitely saved me. Biologique Recherche is what I use to get my skin back on track. I’ll even go to their institute if I need serious help. Otherwise I do everything myself. I’ve used Clinique Daily Moisturizer since I was a model. It’s amazing how a product can be so light and still give your skin so much moisture. Recently I discovered a brand called Tata Harper and have her morning scrub to start my day. It wakes my skin up. Moving forward in age, I like to use serum—Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery or Clarins Blue Orchid. And I always pinch my face because I want it to have freshness and to look as red and fresh as possible. Oh, and I’ve started using the Clarins Sunscreen on my face so that I don’t get sunspots.
I use the Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco Shampoo and Conditioner, and then once a year I do a Brazilian straightener. I go to young guy, Damien, who has his own salon in the city called Hair Star. He has disco music on and it’s a great antidepressant. He’s dancing and talking and we’re there to solve the world. He knows exactly how to cut my hair. Many women want volume, but I don’t want volume. I want a flat head that makes me look younger. And then I just want to cut it short and to frame the face well. When I get out of the shower I always have to give it texture with oil or a serum. I use a brand I only buy in New York called Bain de Terre, which you can only find in certain Duane Reade drugstores. I always have a straightener... I straighten twice a week and use my fingers to give it texture and youth.
I have a woman named Laurence who does my nails. She’s as important as the President because you have to book her a month in advance. She performs miracles. She comes to my home and I have her do a simple manicure where she cleans up the skin and oils it and applies the shade. I like a lighter red from Chanel. I actually feel sexier with a light red instead of a dark red.
I use Zadig and Voltaire La Purete. It’s a mix of patchouli and milk. We did it all in-house at Zadig and Voltaire with Thierry, the founder, and with Eddie and Fabrice at Le Labo. We wondered how we could create a fragrance that is clean and mystic all at the same time. Otherwise I always use Le Labo.
I have the Biologique Recherche P50 for the body. It’s a body scrub that I use twice a week for dry skin. It comes in a tube and it has the perfect quantity. I like to mix it with a bit of La Roche-Posay or Avène. My luxury is the MSR-H Body Cream from Biologique Recherche. I’m not scared of the future, but I don’t want to go gray, and I still want to wear my denim shorts, you know? And all my friends are getting old with me, so I’m not the only one here!"
—as told to ITG
Cécilia Bönström photographed by Tom Newton at her home in Paris on March 9, 2016.
Brother Vellies Creative Director Aurora James starts the day with a cup of coffee (applied to her face) and Courrèges Style Director Lolita Jacobs swears by four makeup products—and only four—in The Top Shelf.