Paris, July 2013
Sometimes connections are everything. Through a backstage connection at Dior, I managed to trade two Rihanna tickets for my own sought-after ticket – a seat beside Wallis Simpson at the couture show. The Duchess turned and barely smiled, but she immediately invited me back to her house outside Paris after the show. On the way back to Moulin, we made a quick stop at the Van Cleef showroom – if she has one weakness, its jewels, the bigger the better. I’m the same.
Back in the country, in the expensive living room that was a cross between British antiques and oversized florals we settled in with tea, and Wallis’s beloved pugs.
LULU: You’re a difficult person to track down Wallis. I was afraid after my fourth email wasn’t returned that you had really escaped to somewhere exotic, and without an internet signal…
Wallis: Forgive me for not writing but this man is exhausting.
LULU: You mean king Edward… or just Edward since her abdicated his throne before her could marry you – it seems like such an archaic tradition… but also romantic…
Wallis: You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.
LULU: You’re right, it’s one of the most talked about love stories – but ultimately he chose love over everything else…
Wallis: How can a woman be a whole empire to a man?
LULU: Gosh… I never thought about it that way… have you always felt such pressure?
Wallis: A woman’s life can really be a succession of lives, each revolving around some emotionally compelling situation or challenge, and each marked off by some intense experience.
LULU: Like a cat, I have always been fascinated by the idea of having nine lives… and always being able to reinvent yourself. If you weren’t Wallis Simpson, what would you be doing?
Wallis: I would like to be head of an advertising agency.
LULU: I can imagine that actually, you seem to have a few things in common with Don Draper… confidence especially… but I think you’re better dressed.
Wallis: I’m nothing to look at. So the only thing I can do is dress better than everyone else.
LULU: But Wallis, you captivated the world, everyone wanted to know who the American woman in London was, you were like an attractive dream, and the life of the party…
Wallis: Attractive, my dear, is a polite way of saying a woman’s made the most of what she’s got.
LULU: Well, you’ve got exquisite taste… you’re the woman who knows exactly what to wear all the time…
Wallis: All my friends know that I’d rather shop than eat.
LULU: Sometimes I simply can’t eat… because I have shopped so much… a journalist’s paycheck can’t keep up with Paris.
Wallis: If you can’t afford it, then there is no pleasure in buying it.
LULU: Where do you shop when you go back home to America? Ralph Lauren? Oscar de la Renta?
Wallis: I never make a trip to the United States without visiting a supermarket. To me they are more fascinating than any fashion salon.
LULU: You’re right. It’s amazing how much of a culture can be summed up in the weekly markets… or a trip to the grocery store.
Wallis: If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That’s my chief responsibility.
LULU: But Wallis, you seem more new age than that… isn’t it an old-fashioned idea to be a ‘trophy wife’?
Wallis: You can never be too rich or too thin.
LULU: It’s quite bold to say that, these days… especially in fashion, money and weight aren’t discussed often but then you’ve never been one to avoid controversy…
Wallis: Darling, they can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.
LULU: Sometimes it’s frightening to say or do what no one else is…
Wallis: Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.