Anxiously anticipating the release of Christopher Petkanas's book LOULOU & YVES next week! The author has graciously given my readers a peek at what promises to be an extraordinary book.
LOULOU One fine day in 1972 . . . I got a call from Clara Saint, who said that Yves wanted me to come and work for him . . . I was on holiday at Diane von Furstenberg’s in Sardinia, and since I was in Europe, I went to see them in Paris . . .
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG Loulou arrived in Costa Smeralda with a tiny, tiny wooden suitcase and a few scarves. They were all she wore, folded in different ways to make a top, a dress . .
MONIQUE VAN VOOREN I was in Marbella on my way to Mykonos. A Swiss friend with a big yacht was sailing to Casablanca, so she said, “Come with me, you can take a plane from there.” But when we got to Casablanca the airport was closed—there’d been a coup against Hassan II. I was like Sophia Loren in one of her tragedy films, waiting day after day in the airport. Finally, my friend with the yacht went to play backgammon with General Oufkir, the one who was accused of trying to kill the king, and right after the backgammon party Oufkir was murdered. The only flight leaving for anywhere was Rome, so that’s where we went. It was the middle of summer and we thought, What are we going to do in Rome? Let’s get a car and drive to Sardinia, Diane and Egon are there.
They had one of the houses the Aga Khan, Karim, had given to people like Diane to attract the right kind of people to this unknown region he was developing. Loulou and Marisa were staying with Diane, also Bettina Graziani. Bettina and I wound up with houses in Sardinia, too. Bettina had been a model at Fath, then the girlfriend of Aly Khan, Karim’s father, after he divorced Rita Hayworth. Bettina and Aly were in a terrible car crash, he died and she lost the baby she was carrying, so the family gave Bettina her house. Which was fabulous.
Loulou’d had a lot to contend with in her life. There was her mother, her self-esteem—she had none. She felt she was in Maxime’s shadow. Maxime and I were both Warhol actresses. I made Flesh for Frankenstein, and she did Blood for Dracula.
JOHN STEFANIDIS Pierre and Yves were after Loulou for a long time. They wooed her and dressed her and eventually got her. She didn’t think it would be full-time. Her influence was felt overnight. The Saint Laurent catwalk was very evocative of what she’d been wearing in Patmos the summer before, which was whatever she could pull together, having lost her suitcase. A certain sophistication was attained thanks to Loulou that wasn’t in the making of a Paris couture house. However elegant and beautifully made the clothes were, they could be boring. Loulou did away with that. She was too modest to get her due. She never once in all the years said a word against Yves, being absolutely true-blue, and that very old-fashioned thing, a lady. In the fashion world, I’ve only known two real ladies: Loulou and Carolina Herrera.
MIN HOGG I remember being at John’s in London, with Loulou waiting to hear if she’d got the job. Saint Laurent pursuing her doesn’t figure in my memory. I saw it much more as she had sent drawings and was hoping. But everybody’s memory is wrong, isn’t it? We’re all selective.
LOULOU All I had done were a few prints for Halston. But Yves has an instinct for the people who can help him . . . He suddenly decided with the house getting bigger, that there was more work and that he needed someone to help him . . . No one in the studio, not even [studio director] Anne-Marie Muñoz, knew I’d been hired. They found out the day I started. As I was a bit panicked, I dressed super-classic, gray skirt etc., a bit like I was going to the Lycée Français! At the last minute Yves told his staff, “Get ready, I have this really wild friend coming in.” Instead of someone wild, they saw this sort of schoolgirl . . . He was vague about [my job], he didn’t specify what I was supposed to do . . . When I joined I was interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily. They asked me which colors I liked and which I didn’t, and I said I couldn’t stand black or navy blue, which shows the extent to which I didn’t know what I’d let myself in for . . . At first I just sort of walked around the design area a lot and said, “Oh, that’s pretty” . . . I used to dress up in the way that I thought fashion should go, and then while [Yves] was designing I would sit next to him and mainly I would talk. During the fittings I would say, “Oh, that’s a nice sleeve; why don’t you make it more like this?” . . . I drew like a dog. [But] I had spunk and ideas . . . I never thought it would be permanent . . . I suggest things. I sort of help him make things come alive. I do little scratches, mood things, very vague. I always think I’m perfectly useless . . .
[Yves and I] got on as friends. I mean, if he found someone who was very talented but who he didn’t know at all, he couldn’t work. You know he is very shy, very strange like that. He needs to have people he likes, who are friends, who he’s intimate with, with whom he can relax and carry on his usual work.
INÈS DE LA FRESSANGE Karl is probably the last person today who can hire someone the way Yves hired Loulou, meeting the daughter of a friend, say, and bringing her to work at Chanel. Far better nowadays to have a degree from Saint Martins* and a portfolio if you want to work in a fashion studio.
MONIQUE VAN VOOREN Loulou was in awe and unsure and thought the job would restrict her freedom, that she’d be unable to live up to what was demanded of her and what could she possibly contribute. But she quickly realized that she was everything they expected of her, and more. She thought it would be a nine-to-five job, but it turned out to be her life. When you have a mother like Maxime, it’s very hard to supersede her, but Loulou did. She became Loulou de La Falaise, not just a pretty young girl around Paris. She became an icon.
STEPHEN BURROWS It was a big, quick jump. When you thought of Saint Laurent, the next name you thought of was Pierre Bergé, and the name after that, Loulou. She went straight to the top.
*Central Saint Martins, London art school