March 7, 2013: PFW Louis Vuitton

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“Beautiful and dreamy” said Vogue’s International Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles, as he left the the Louis Vuitton at Carrousel de Louvre on Wednesday morning. He was echoing the sentiments of most of us present.

A great one for theatrics, this season Marc Jacobs had reconstructed the scene of a hotel — well, the hallways at least — with plush carpet, elaborate wallpaper, and 48 doors from which the models emerged before walking the runway (or corridor) and disappearing again. Once the doors were open, we saw inside the “rooms” and caught glimpses of Louis Vuitton monogrammed luggage; and black and white footage of men in various states of undress projected onto the walls.

The women were also somewhat deshabille, wearing lace slips and negligees that were covered up by coats — as if they’d had to go out to get something and didn’t feel the need to get dressed properly (as you do).

Even more titillating was the flash of silk French knickers and bra under fur a coat, and the sheer low-backed lace dresses towards the end. Jacobs’ good friend, Kate Moss, made an appearance (her first in a few seasons) in one such gown, but she didn’t seem to be in the best of moods. She was having trouble walking in her shoes and scowling, just a little. We saw her arrive late last night at the CR Fashion Booklaunch (looking incredible in those Saint Laurent crystal tights) so maybe this morning’s early start didn’t agree with her.

March 5, 2013: PFW Saint Laurent

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Models display creations for Saint Laurent during the Fall/Winter 2013-2014 ready-to-wear collection show, on March 4, 2013 in Paris. (Martin Bureau/Getty)

Hedi Slimane’s second women’s wear show for Saint Laurent showed in Paris on Monday night — and so far, the response is mixed. Industry commentary on Twitter is remarkably neutral, with most people referencing the soundtrack or celebrity attendance.

Derek Blasberg tweeted that the collection “made me nostalgic for my Kurt Cobain era flannels and sparkly tights the girls in my high school pom-pon [sic] wore” andBritish Vogue called it “Cool to the core.” Buzfeed’s Amy Odell, on the other hand, tweeted: “Who will dare to unleash their honest thoughts about Saint Laurent this season?”

To an extent, it was true: the fashion flock was cautious to share their honest opinions of Saint Laurent after Cathy Horyn’s negative review of the designer’s first show last season was met with an attack from the designer. (Needless to say, she wasn’t invited  for the second season either). On site post show, attendees did seem uncertain — perhaps worried — about offering an opinion too soon, or too publicly — lest they not be invited back.  Has Hedi Slimane created a culture of fear?

So what of the actual collection? Well, for fall, Slimane has moved on from last season’s 70s rock and roll muse to a 90s grunge girl — her hometown, however, is still very much LA (where Slimane is based). The models, with their dirty blond hair and frisky strut, looked like they’d thrown together an outfit last minute and toussled their hair in the hallway mirror just before leaving the house. They looked effortlessly sexy, and they knew it.

Although there was that grungy-vibe (flannel shirts and biker boots), it was girly, young even. There were peter pan collars, baby doll dresses, and hemlines reminiscent of Courtney Love – but, unfortunately, won’t be kind to anyone over the age of 30. It was cute, though, and easy to imagine babes like Erin Wasson and Sky Ferreira (who sat front row) making it their own. Less so the label’s long-time enthusiasts Catherine Deneuve and Betty Catroux (who were also present), but then, Slimane is a modern man and this is very much his vision. Given his experience no one can deny that he is exceptionally talented, but it will be interesting to see his version of Saint Laurent unfold further.

March 4, 2013: PFW Givenchy

Givenchy  Fall/Winter 2013

Givenchy Fall/Winter 2013 (Getty (3))

Critics are calling the Givenchy show the show of the season. Riccardo Tisci has long been a favourite of the industry and his shows are always highly anticipated, but Sunday night’s show was, as they say, truly next level.

With a red carpet to rival the Oscars, Tisci’s hip hop fan club (including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and Frank Ocean) were there to support, along with Hollywood heavyweights Jessica Chastain, Nicole Richie, and Amanda Seyfried — the stage was set for big things. But when Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons started singing accompanied by a string orchestra, and the collection appeared, all the flashiness was set aside.

This was a heartbreaking, and ultra feminine collection (particular for Tisci) and although his tougher trademarks were there — the sweatshirts (this season it was a Disney print of Bambi) and the requisite leather — the highlight of the collection was the chiffon, ruffled skirts that swirled around the ankles of the models as they stormed the runway.

There was a lot of black (what would a Givenchy collection be without black?), but there were also rich, warm colours of red and orange, and a mash up of plaid and floral prints. We saw this at Dries Van Noten last season, but the Givenchy woman next season is a much darker temptress.

March 3, 2013: PFW Kenzo

We’re halfway through Paris Fashion Week and feeling a little weary, so thank God for the Kenzo presentation that took place earlier this morning — one of the liveliest shows of the week. Staged at La Samaritaine (an empty building that used to be one of the finest department stores in Paris) guests were presented with a colourful and energetic collection of clothing with pop art prints, gold jacquard weaves and printed lamé.

Taking inspiration from the ancient temples around India, Nepal and China, this collection encompassed the brand’s reoccurring East meets West influences. The graphic wrap skirts, raglan sleeve bomber jackets, and coats with wide temple sleeves brought to mind the silhouettes of Asian warriors, albeit modern-day ones that live in the trendiest postcodes of New York, London and Paris.Karlie Kloss, Lindsey Wixson and Hanne Gaby all walked in the show, and Jessica Alba (representing in new season Kenzo and doing a fine job at it) was sitting front row, along with Robyn, The Misshapes’ Leigh Lezark, and New York-based DJ Vashtie.

As creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim continue to prove their worth as designers, but each season they also reinstate their ability to build a brand with a cult-like following, by drawing on all elements of popular culture. For this morning’s show, they had artist M.I.A write an exclusive track, ‘The Matangi MixCelebrity’ (it will be available to download from the Kenzo website later this month). The song was just as catchy as the collection and, both Alba, in the front row, and Gaby, on the catwalk, couldn’t stop bopping their heads along to the beat.

March 1, 2103: PFW Maison Martin Margiela

The word “wearable” is not often (OK, perhaps never) used to describe a Maison Martin Margiela collection. Though Spring 2013 almost went there, the Fall Winter 2013/2014 collection, which showed Friday night in Paris, saw the house getting back to its roots — experimental style.

Fabrics were hand painted, patch-worked together, and even embroidered in a scribbled patterns; it was like a high fashion craft corner moment.  And, judging by the loud cheers from audience — the front row of which included Grace Coddington, Frank Ocean (who is doing the rounds today) and Carine Roitfeld. (Sadly, Kanye did not make an appearance wearing his crystal gimp mask) — they managed to pull it off. Although, we are not sold on the oversized shirt cuffs: it should be made clear that only Julia Nobis could make these look cool.

February 28, 2013: PFW Alexander Wang Interview for Balenciaga

This morning Alexander Wang presented his debut collection for Balenciaga in the Parisian Maison’s grand salon on Avenue George V. It’s the very same building in which the label’s namesake, Cristóbal Balenciaga, once held his couture presentations, and it wasn’t the only tradition that was honored today.

Only a small selection of media was invited, and, although this presented a challenge for the press attaché—“Only 80 seats, can you imagine?” said one—it did mean that the focus for Wang’s debut was purely on the clothes. (A humble start given the star power and pull the native New Yorker has displayed for his own eponymous line).

“For this particular collection I really wanted to start with the product and have the product speak for itself,” Wang told The Daily Beast backstage. “I took this idea of a wardrobe, aligned it with what I thought were the codes and the DNA of the house, and pushed that into these modern staples: the peacoat, the shirt, the pencil skirt, the sweater, the pullover.”

Presenting 34 looks in total, Wang deconstructed some of the signatures of the house, including Balenciaga’s own fascination with geometric shapes (see the triangle necklines) and the iconic petal-shaped hems, which were flipped so that the styles sat higher at the front of the body. There was also a clear emphasis on backless styles (another obsession of Balenciaga’s) with a series of knockout black dresses and tops with fabric that was folded open at the back.

“The first thing I did was spend time in the archives,” said Wang, who seemed both exuberant and a little overwhelmed when we spoke with him. “I haven’t gone through everything yet, because it’s so expansive, but this was a starting point. Cristóbal’s philosophy was always dynamic movement—all the skirts, the jackets swung forward. Then, I thought about contrasting that with something quite static and monolithic, like marble statues.”
Using marble as a reference point, Wang worked with a monochromatic color palette, and where he pushed the boundaries the most was with the fabrics—focusing on highlighting patterns through texture. Although it was difficult to see the details during the show, what looked like coated leather was actually wool that was hand-painted and then allowed to crack. Elsewhere, he employed an embossed pattern for other knitwear styles, and also used intricately embroidered leather and shaved mink.

The 29-year-old, whose appointment was met with a mixed response when it was announced last November, has some big boots to fill, but the collection he presented today was a promising start. “I woke up this morning and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh—I am showing Balenciaga’ … it hadn’t really hit me yet,” Wang said with a nervous laugh. “It’s all sinking in [though], and I am super excited.”

February 27, 2013: PFW Dries Van Noten

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Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter 2013. (Michel Dufour/WireImage, via Getty)

The Hotel de Ville, with its marble staircases and countless chandeliers (not to mention the security screening at the entrance that had the fashion crowd packed into a scrum), is one of the more formidable venues at Paris Fashion Week. This made it the perfect backdrop for Belgian designer Dries Van Noten’s Fall Winter 2013/2014 presentation that took place early Wednesday. Not one for austere minimalism, this season Van Noten celebrated fashion in all its finery, working with appliqué diamantes and embroidered motifs in addition to an abundance of feathers and fur.

It was a remarkably girlish collection (hello hot pink, feathered, and bejewelled dresses!) for a designer who usually prefers a tomboy aesthetic, but any frivolity was perfectly balanced by more mannish styles including charcoal pinstripe suits and what might be this season’s most perfect white shirt (so far).

January 2012: Cool Kids of Kenzo

On Jan. 10 in Florence, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim—the creative directors for the fashion brand Kenzo—presented their Fall 2013 men’s collection above the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo. In a testament to Kenzo’s rising star in the industry, the pair had been invited to Florence as special guests of Pitti Uomo, the fashion fair that kicks off men’s fashion month in 
Europe. As the sun set over the Renaissance city, an army of male models emerged through the flashing lights and smoke. The collection, with its focus on tailoring and sharp silhouettes, was subtler than the previous menswear season, though prints and bright colors—touchstones of the brand—featured prominently. For their Spring 2013 collection, presented last July, Leon and Lim took guests on a journey through the jungle. For their new collection, they looked to the skies: the central print featured powdery blue, cartoonlike clouds. “After last season we wanted to explore the idea of the jungle in the sky and the different elements—gods and goddesses, and the mythical elements,” Lim said post show. “So that was the beginning conversation.”

“We showed something for spring that was really fun and super-exciting and energetic,” added Leon. “So we wanted to show this other side of Kenzo that was romantic and all about tailoring and focusing on the details.”

As with everything Kenzo does, the concept was executed down to the very last detail, from the branded airplane blankets on seats to the choice of venue, with its view of the Tuscan sky. The San Lorenzo market “is a part of everyday life, and when we saw this space, it was like everything that the collection wanted to be,” said Leon. “I think [the venue and collection] both informed each other, and the space, and where we were with our minds—it all informed this new Kenzo man.”

The new Kenzo customer continues to evolve under the pair’s careful direction. Although Kenzo had its heyday in Paris during the ’70s and ’80s, the brand went slightly off track after its namesake, Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, departed in the late ’90s. It’s taken Leon and Lim just 18 months to bring it back on point—complete with spectacular presentations and a formidable consumer following.

Marrying the everyday with the fantastical has always been part of the Kenzo DNA. The brand was founded in 1970 by Takada, who opened a boutique called Jungle Jap in the heart of Paris’s second arrondissement. He had a boundless imagination and was famous for mixing cultural reference points, jumbling high fashion with street style, and working with clashing prints and bright colors.

Takada was part of a new generation of young designers, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Azzedine Alaïa, shaking up Paris in the ’70s. The intimate couture presentations of previous decades were no longer the heart of the industry, and Takada’s East-meets-West aesthetic and energetic approach garnered him a cult following. In her recent autobiography, Grace Coddington—the creative director of American Vogue—recalls that in the ’70s, when she was fashion editor at BritishVogue, she almost exclusively wore Kenzo and Saint Laurent.

In 1993 Kenzo was sold to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, but Takada remained at the house’s helm until 1999. After his departure, the brand floundered, lost in a no man’s land of licensing deals. By the early 2000s, it was recognizable mostly for its iconic prints and its Flower perfume. In 2003 Sardinian designer Antonio Marras was appointed womenswear designer, and in 2008 he was made creative director of the entire brand. During his tenure, Marras stayed true to Takada’s eclectic aesthetic, and his ready-to-wear presentations were often spectacular: for the brand’s 40th anniversary in 2010, he assembled 40 models wearing exotic fashions under a 19th-century circus big top. Despite reporting healthy retail figures, Marras’s contract with Kenzo was terminated prematurely­—evidently, LVMH felt a shake-up was needed.

Enter Leon and Lim. At the time, they were the retailers of Opening Ceremony, the lifestyle corporation that blossomed from a boutique in SoHo into an unchallenged curator of cool, championing designers such as Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte and Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler long before the mainstream fashion world bought their clothes. While the duo had fans in high places, they were still surprising candidates for a big Paris fashion house.

The pair interviewed with LVMH executive Pierre-Yves Roussel, up against 30 other hopefuls. In 2011 they landed the gig and were appointed creative directors. It proved to be a wise choice: after their first presentation in October 2011, Kenzo became one of the hottest shows on the Paris Fashion Week schedule. The buzz that the duo had generated in New York followed them across the Atlantic, and they quickly accrued an industry fan base. The fashion pack was photographed wearing Kenzo outside the shows­—an instant hit with street-style photographers. After just two seasons, Leon and Lim had truly put the label back on the map.

To follow their 18-month trajectory is a lesson in how to build a successful brand—or revive an existing one. “We always just go with what we love,” says Leon. “At the end of the day, yes, we are designing, but we are also the end consumer. When we are designing, we want to create things that we will look at and say, ‘I want that.’ I think the runway needs to present a fantasy, but it is a fantasy that you can actually grab.”

The ultimate tastemakers, Leon and Lim also believe in recruiting the right people as part of their magic formula. With Opening Ceremony, they learned this early on and set about launching collaborations with the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Spike Jonze, and Jason Schwartzman. Bringing this spirit to Kenzo, they tapped legendary French photographer and art director Jean-Paul Goude to shoot their two most recent campaigns and have an ongoing collaboration with the cult jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez. They also embarked on a popular project with sneaker brand Vans last year—a textbook marriage of designer and street wear.

It’s clever marketing, but it shouldn’t detract from their business prowess. Their strategy for Kenzo has been to stay true to the brand’s spirit but to make it more accessible, to appeal to slightly younger audiences. To achieve this, price points have been lowered, placing the brand in the contemporary-designer category, alongside fellow French brands like APC and Isabel Marant.

And yet Kenzo stands apart from its contemporaries—perhaps because, just as Takada’s own heritage influenced his designs, Lim and Leon have successfully brought their American influence to the Parisian house (they even flew in Magnolia Bakery cupcakes for the fall 2012 womenswear show). So far so good: the fan culture, the fast collections, and the knack for pop branding have all been a breath of fresh air for the ultra traditional Parisian industry.

The designers will present their women’s Fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection next month in Paris, and there can be little doubt that the momentum they’ve had so far will continue to build. “What we’ve done so far is just the beginning,” says Leon. “What we want to do is to highlight the influence that Kenzo Takada has had on the fashion industry and continue that legacy.”

October 2012: Reviving the House of Schiaparelli

The legendary house is primed for a splashy return, with the recent takeover by Diego Della Valle and the effects of its famed designer sprinkled all over this season’s runways. Alice Cavanagh on the relaunch of the storied brand.

Much of the buzz at Paris Fashion Week this season surrounded the debut ready-to-wear collections of the new creative directors at Dior and Yves Saint Laurent: Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane, respectively. But another prestigious fashion house is waiting in the wings for its own decisive moment: Italian businessman Diego Della Valle (of Tod’s and Roger Vivier) is in the process of reviving Schiaparelli, the namesake house of the iconoclastic Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli. In Paris this week, a lucky few were given a preview of her world. Della Valle has restored the grande maison at 21 Place Vendôme (the address of the original Schiaparelli atelier) to its former glory, complete with gilded mirrors, quilted sofas in Schiaparelli pink, and the works of Cocteau and Picasso hanging on the walls. The former house of Schiaparelli closed its doors in 1954.

Farida Khelfa, longtime muse of Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier and now the glamorous spokesperson for this new venture, has been put in charge of educating people on the significance of the brand. “Not everyone knows the history: who she was, how important she was, what she did, and the spirit of the house,” she says of Schiaparelli, settling on the sofa. And “this is the best place to do that: we are at Place Vendôme, in the historical building. Diego waited until he had the whole building (expect the second floor) to relaunch the house.”

The announcement of the launch was made in May, but Della Valle has still yet to announce a creative director. As such, it’s likely the first collection won’t be presented until spring 2013 couture week next June. Inès de la Fressange was reported to be involved, though Khlefa seems unaware of this detail. “She works with him on Vivier, so perhaps she is consulting a little on this as well.”

Whoever is appointed will have a challenging task ahead of them. Schiaparelli was a true artiste of her time; she collaborated with the likes of Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí, and her legacy is insurmountable, even today. “I worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, and he of course knows a lot about Schiaparelli,” says Khelfa. “He was always saying this is very Schiap [gesturing] and this is Schiap … And when you see the Cocteau drawing for Yves Saint Laurent, that was actually very Schiap … the newspaper print that John Galliano did … Everybody took a piece of her and reinterpreted it.”

In May, Schiaparelli was the subject of Impossible Conversations, a conveniently timed exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute that put the designer in conversation with Miuccia Prada. It was well received—it had 339,838 visitors, making it the fourth-most-visited Costume Institute exhibition in the past 10 years—and it certainly ignited new discourse on Schiaparelli. “We could not have hoped for more or for better timing,” Khelfa acknowledges of the exhibition. “It was very interesting to see what she did and what she designed—nearly a century ago now.”

More recently Schiaparelli’s influence can be seen in elements of Lanvin’s fall 2012 collection—a surrealist brooch in the shape of hands—and even at Céline, whopresented a heel this season that featured painted toenails on the toe.

So what is the modern-day vision for Schiaparelli? “It will be demicouture, and we have to make it very now,” she says. “We want to keep the spirit alive and the dream alive, but we have to find a new way. She had Dalí do the windows of her stores, so maybe we can find a new Dalí? That’s the designer who is going to decide that, because he is going to be in charge.” He? “He, or she,” she says quickly, insisting that she doesn’t know when an announcement will be made, or if Della Valle has even appointed someone. “He doesn’t tell me things.”

At one point, rumors circulated that John Galliano might have his comeback via the new vision of Schiaparelli (a rebirth in every sense), but both parties have denied this. Galliano obviously has the theatrical chops and the couture experience to tackle this project, although dramatic design is not on trend at the moment: key players Simons and Phoebe Philo are leading the charge with a simpler aesthetic.

“Schiap’s designs were not overdone, though,” says Khelfa. “When you see the clothes, everything was very simple, very well cut, and suddenly you have just some embroidery or just one detail—a long white dress perfectly done in organza, with a print. Of course we are not going to do the same as Schiap—maybe we can take some of her spirit, but the idea is going to be quite different. We are in the 21st century, it’s another millennium, and the world has changed.”

December 2011: William Eggleston,Chromes

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It’s logical that William Eggleston should be a man of few words. The 72-year-old speaks in a laconic southern drawl, and more often than not (in our interview at least) he says very little; though he often mumbles in agreement, “You said it.” That’s not to say he isn’t charming—when I met with him he was wearing a sharp suit and he bowed when we were introduced—it’s that perhaps he thinks it’s all been said before. After all, if a picture speaks a thousand words, then he’s certainly covered his bases.

Eggleston’s famous point-and-shoot approach to photography— “I just walk by and take the picture, very quickly”—has produced a prodigious amount of work. His latest book release, a collector’s trilogy titledChromes (out December 16 through Steidl) showcases 364 images, selected from a catalogue of thousands of transparencies that are housed in the Eggleston Artistic Trust in Memphis, where he lives. Travelling to Memphis is the only sure way to secure an interview with him nowadays, but he made a rare trip to Paris Photo in November, where I sat down with him.

Chromes documents a very important era of Eggleston’s career: a time from 1969 to 1974 when he started experimenting with composition and color film. “The main film I used is called Kodachromes, which is why the book is calledChromes,” he says. “At that time the negative (well, it was later improved tremendously) but at that time the best color was with chromes, not negatives.” Most of these images have never been seen before.

Although Eggleston initially shot on black and white film, it was this work in color — oversaturated color — that has defined his career. In the late 1960s, the dye-transfer process he used to achieve such vividness in his images was primarily reserved for advertising and fashion photography, not art. Eggleston was one of the first to challenge this idea, and it resulted in his ++iconoclastic exhibition of color photographs++ (link= http://www.egglestontrust.com/moma76.html) at MOMA in 1976. The exhibition polarized critics at the time.William Eggleston; Courtesy of Steidl

Much like most of Eggleston’s work, Chromes acts as a record of a particular place and time: the road signs, the cars, the gas stations, and the people, are all part of a chapter in American history, particularly that of the south. Eggleston insists, however, that being a documentarian was never his intention. “[I just photograph] whatever’s there … It’s difficult for me to tell the difference between a picture taken many years back and one taken yesterday, the style is so similar.” Looking through some of the images in Chromes he remarks, “I can’t remember where or when. I’m sure I took it though.” I point to naked man sitting on a couch in one photograph and ask who he is. “If that’s the man I think it is, he is a very close friend. It’s not [taken] in his house [though] it’s somewhere else. I don’t know why he has no clothes on, but he doesn’t,” he says laughing.

As a child, Eggleston was always interested in the arts, particularly painting and music. He didn’t pick up a camera, though, until he was in university. “I had this friend that I went to boarding school—prep school—with who was always interested in photography. We both went from there as freshman into Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and once we arrived he talked me into buying a camera … that was beginning.”

“There was no art department at Vanderbilt and really nowhere photography was taught; at least the kind of photography I wanted to do. One could study—there were a few schools—one could study fashion photography or advertising. Neither interested me.”

Eggleston had to teach himself and he remembers Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book, The Decisive Moment, being a starting point for inspiration. “I think it was the only book of quite serious photography. There were many photo books around they were pretty bad.”

Unique in his approach to composition, many of Eggleston’s pictures have “empty centers,” as he often works with the negative spaces around his subject. He focuses his lens on the ordinary, even the mundane, moments in life: a stocked pantry cupboard, a couple eating in a diner, an empty gas station. Eggleston sees beauty where others see banality.

In this he is like another great American artist, Andy Warhol. Both were fascinated with everyday objects and created iconic American imagery. Eggleston knew Warhol well, although he’s adamant they did not influence each other. “Andy and I were both seeing the same things. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a sign—maybe Coca-Cola, maybe something else—but we saw them in different ways.”

November 2011: Remembering Loulou de la Falaise

Loulou de la Falaise

Loulou de la Falaise, right, with Yves Saint Laurent, center, and Betty Catroux outside YSL’s Rive Gauche boutique in London, England, on Sept. 10, 1969., AP Photo

One of the great ladies in fashion, Loulou de la Falaise, died on Saturday morning in Paris at the age of 63. De la Falaise was a close companion and collaborator of the late Yves Saint Laurent, working by his side from the early 1970s until his retirement in 2002. Many have used the term “muse” to describe her relationship with Saint Laurent, and indeed she was, although she was also much more than that. As she explained toVogue Italia last year: “For me, a muse is someone who looks glamorous but is quite passive, whereas I was very hard-working. I worked from 9am to sometimes 9pm, or even 2am. I certainly wasn’t passive.”

Passive or not, there is no doubt that her daring personal style—she was not one to shy away from brocade pants, even in her 60s—was a source of great inspiration for the couturier. When it came to all things sartorial, de la Falaise—with her dark blond, curly bob and generous smile—favored eclecticism and liked to wear an unexpected clash of color and print, always with a tumbling mass of necklaces adorning her neck. In this she was the opposite of Saint Laurent’s other, more masculine muse, the equally inimitable Betty Catroux. Someone once said that every man needs a muse; it makes sense that a man of his talent had two.

Louise Vava Lucia Henriette de la Falaise was born in Britain. Her mother, Maxime de la Falaise, was a great beauty and modeled for the likes of Schiaparelli. She was also a food writer for Vogue and an actress in one of Andy Warhol’s films (not to mention, at one point, a diagnosed kleptomaniac). But the photographer Cecil Beaton said Maxime was the only truly chic Englishwoman of her generation. Loulou’s father, Comte Alain de la Falaise, seems to have led a somewhat less eventful existence but was a French aristocrat nonetheless. Rumor has it that the de la Falaises christened their only daughter using Schiaparelli’s perfume Shocking instead of holy water. Loulou was, without doubt, always destined for Saint Laurent’s eccentric circle of friends.

Saint Laurent was at his best a genius, and at his worst a manic-depressive genius. He surrounded himself with inspiring and supportive people, many of whom, de la Falaise included, were ardent friends and confidants for decades. She once said of their working relationship and his delicate disposition: “He never did anything without me, but I kept the atmosphere light. If he acted neurotic, I’d say, ‘Don’t be so silly.’ I thought, ‘Nobody’s going to have fun in clothes if you don’t enjoy making them.’” Part of her role at YSL included designing jewelry, which was a success. When she left YSL, she launched her own line, which she worked on until she died.

It’s been said that we have de la Falaise to thank for “Le Smoking,” YSL’s famous tuxedo that revolutionized eveningwear for women when he presented it in the late 1960s. Its silhouette is de la Falaise to a T: though her style was feminine, she knew how to wear a pantsuit and rarely wore skirts. In fact, the model in Helmut Newton’s iconic 1975 photo of Le Smoking embodies de la Falaise’s appeal: slim, elegant, with that enviable air of je ne sais quoi.

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