After Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France last spring, renewed focus was cast on his relationship with his wife, Brigitte Macron, a former teacher 24 years his senior—who taught at a high school he attended. At the time, the president was quite vocal about the gendered double standard that made his relationship the topic of such discussion—“If I had been 20 years older, no one would have thought for a single second,” he told Le Parisien last year. (“Of course, we have breakfast together—me and my wrinkles, him with his youth—but it’s like that,” Brigitte told Elle in an interview last summer.)
Despite the intense scrutiny of the optics of their relationship early in his presidency, Brigitte Macron has been adamant that she is not simply an accessory to her husband’s tenure. She’s established herself as a social advocate, working in the arenas of education, physical handicaps, and sexual violence against young people: “The former French teacher would like to avoid appearing like a ‘flower pot,’ three steps behind her husband, during official ceremonies,” Le Monde described.
There’s one other area on which Macron has focused her attention: school bullying, the cause célèbre of one Melania Trump. Macron has been photographed with Trump on numerous occasions, ostensibly cultivating a friendship with the American first lady. (At least, their relationship appears markedly less ambivalent than that of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron on the heels of a recent state visit.) Macron pointed out the marked contrast between her own position and that of Melania Trump: “Melania can’t do anything—she can’t even open a window at the White House. She can’t step outside. Me, every day, I’m outside in Paris,” she said. “That is a woman who has so much character, but who hides it. She laughs easily, but she shows it less than me.” Still, when visiting the United States, Macron pointed out, she was obliged at times to similarly reduce herself: "I put myself where I had to put myself," she said, according to Vanity Fair's translation of the interview.
And while Macron must have intended her “flower pot” remark to mean that she’s not just sitting idly by while her husband makes policy, it’s also true that she doesn’t want to physically resemble one, either. French first ladies are consistently reserved a place of honor at Paris Fashion Week’s marquee shows and dressed by French fashion’s most hallowed names—think, for example, of Carla Bruni (herself a former model) walking, and then attending, Chanel; Claude Pompidou, garnished in Courrèges and Pierre Cardin—and Macron is no exception. She’s appeared front row at Dior, and she name-drops the Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière—but, according to the new Le Monde interview, she’s turned down requests for a major Vogue interview, stating that she’s adamantly “not a model.” (She describes the couture dresses she frequently dons for official occasions as “skin” that “helps her face the daylight.” Meanwhile, her husband's spending thousands of euros on his skincare regimen.)
Still, there are benefits to having the best of French fashion on speed dial: “I have no idea what to wear; Nicolas Ghesquière has made me a wardrobe for every circumstance. For Congress, he told me that black is the most adaptable.” And, you know, who ever heard of a flower pot in a black Louis Vuitton shift?