"I admire people who have a travel suit and haven't forgotten where they put their earplugs because they've got everything stored in a little pouch - but I've never been organised on a plane, ever. I try and travel light. For in-flight luggage, the Burlington holdall is just the thing, or the Hermés bag I designed. Really, it's just about trying not to forget my toothbrush, not to forget the toothpaste - which I always seem to do - not to forget the earplugs (I use Idem Sleepers as they have to be the real thing), and the sleeping pills, and money, of course. I’ve started using the Panama Marshall travel wallet, after carrying my visa card for years just in my pocket before it broke.
After toiletries, I'm always wearing the same thing, so I pack a couple of shirts, a couple of pairs of trousers and that's it! I go to Agnès B - I always wear her silk tops, I have one that is 50 years old. She re-did one for me for the show. My daughter, Lou is a great person for fashion, she takes me to Isabel Marant and I go and pick up things from Hermès, because they let me. I like their men’s V-neck cashmere jerseys. I’ve always liked Dries Van Noten, and then there’s Saint Laurent, for the shirts and ties, and the eternal Le Smoking suit, which has gone on being wonderful for 50 years.
I've got a rather chic Hermés eye mask but I always forget to take it. I should be much more careful on aeroplanes and bring a really good scarf. You’re killed by the acclimatisation, even on the Eurostar – I don’t know what opera singers do! Hermès does a man’s zip-up jersey of very, very soft cashmere in black, with a hood on it. It’s perfect for travelling, I loved it so much I bought it for my daughters Charlotte and Lou."
On Getting There...
"I used to always take my Monkey [Birkin's childhood stuffed doll]. When Serge died, I put Monkey in his coffin. So now I know where he is - I was always afraid I'd lose him, he was with me for 50 years. I used to take photos of the children with me when I travelled, I'd have all their press cuttings in my diary.
I always travel with a book. But what I really love is buying trashy magazines as I'm getting onto an aeroplane. Normally I never buy them, but when I travel I buy every one and read them on the plane.
I go through Duty Free and I don't know how people manage to be so chic! I buy everything! I can't resist. Sisley – I pick that up in airports – there's a pump that's wonderful that you can use day and night. In Germany, if you can find Dr Hauschka it's a bit of a thrill. I love their rose deodorant and I love their lip balm, and they've got a rose cream that's quite nice to put on your legs. I use a MAC colour for my lips (it's called Soar, and I rub it on my cheeks), an eyebrow pencil, and a fluid foundation by Givenchy, Eclat Matissme to cover up blotches. I bought some shadow at the airport thinking I’ll wear it for the shows, Chanel’s Ombre Premiere 24 in Chocolate Brown, but I hate mascara. I always use Embryolisse on face and legs, and have it handy on-flight as well, and take it all in my Burlington washbag.
"I always travel with a book. But what I really love is buying trashy magazines as I'm getting onto an aeroplane"
To help recognise luggage at pick-up, I’ve tried putting a red ribbon around my case - though when I was at Tokyo airport I had to tie a plastic bag on the handle as I had nothing else. Now, I have the Panama luggage tag in red, which is very pretty. I carry my passport in my coat pocket, safely enclosed in the Panama passport cover."
On Settling In...
"I live in such clutter, so it's quite nice to go to these zen rooms where you've just got your laptop and your suitcase, but I make a mess of it in a relatively short time. I pull things out all over the bed, I'm not organised in any way. When I was with Serge, I used to take my own bed cover, my own cushion, my own light. All my own books, of course. Painting material. One was in the same hotel for weeks sometimes, but now I'm in and out. If I can beg a sheet from them to cover up their luxurious sofas so Dolly [Birkin's dog] doesn't dribble on them, I'm lucky.
In the old days I lived at L’Hôtel with Serge for about a year. I think we stayed in every room – I liked the little ones best. The walls were made of felt and the breakfast was so sweet because they always had silver coffee pots and croissants on silver plates – you felt very spoilt. I thought it was so expensive that Serge would ruin himself!
"I used to steal from Maxims, but all the waiters were in on it. I used to fill my basket with all their plates"
In terms of borrowing things from hotels, I’ve stolen a few cushions from Air France in the past. I used to steal from Maxims, but all the waiters were in on it. I used to fill my basket with all their plates. I even had the silverware under my shirt once, and when I went to sign autographs on the way out it all fell out.
I’ve learned that I constantly leave my things in the wardrobe that we're always chasing up after – so if you put anything into a wardrobe you're bound to leave it behind. I don’t bother anymore."
On Parisian Beauty And Style...
"The French are more sophisticated, but perhaps the English are more original. Though you couldn't get more original than Serge. Or Olivier Rolin. And Lou’s father, Jacques Doillon. Maybe the English are more eccentric. I came to Paris for the first time because I was sent to a finishing school. The French girls used to mock us in the Metro, they could see we were English because we were so badly dressed.
They were all impeccable but they were all quite the same. It wasn't yet the swinging Sixties, so the initial product was just as good, but we didn't know how to turn ourselves out. In 1968 it was our turn! Fashion was no longer for the chic 35-year-old Parisiennes, it was for the English just wearing a T-shirt on the King's Road that cost five quid. Or my basket that came from Soho that was Portuguese and cost a quid. That was what was so wonderful. In Paris, they thought you were very daring wearing such short skirts, but everybody did at home. It didn't worry me at all what people thought of me.
As everyone nowadays knows, French pharmacies are divine. Things like La Roche-Posay is good if you're allergic to things, and they’re always stocked in the pharmacies. Embryolisse as well, a wonderful cream. I was so flattered that Charlotte said she’d bought it recently because the smell reminded her of me when she was young – so I went back onto it again myself. I just couldn't be bothered with things that say are just for your neck or just for your face or just at night or in the morning or just around your eyes, you can wear Embyrolisse wherever you like."
And Finally, On The Art Of Travel...
"I love travelling. I stayed in this house for two years when my daughter Kate died, and then I got ill and I was in hospital all the time. Now that they've given me the OK, I realise how boring it is to stay at home. It's a luxury to be able to travel.
Every time I travel I get so excited about what I can buy from where I’m going. I go with a really big suitcase that’s half full and come back laden - when we were in Canada, I bought out all the bacon. Then there was a grill made out of iron in Rio – I bought it out of the restaurant. From Ramallah I bought a barbeque, and olive oil in Evian bottles that went into all the suitcases.
"Every time I travel I get so excited about what I can buy from where I’m going. I go with a really big suitcase that’s half full and come back laden"
When we were children, we never really left England. I went to the South of France once; everything was exciting, everything. The chocolate drink you had in the morning; the smell of Ambre Solaire on the beaches; the boy who put the beach things out, who was so gorgeous and didn't believe I was 15 and went off with a spotty girl who had enormous bosoms, and I thought, ‘Oh, it's just too unfair!’. I showed him my passport and everything to prove it. He was called Dada or Baba or something. He was gorgeous. My happiest memories were of childhood. It’s difficult to find something quite so good afterwards. Perhaps you shouldn’t have a happy childhood and then everything just gets better.
I always go back to places I’ve visited. If you discover something when you’re alone you just want to cry; you want someone else to discover it too. Travelling is never quite as fun as it is when you do a show because then you're with people who know the place and you can discover restaurants that aren't at all show-off, or touristy."
This article was posted by Scarlett Conlon on the 25th of September on Vogue.co.uk