Actress and fashion plate Marisa Berenson with Loulou de la Falaise in 1974
Sad news to start the week - that YSL’s muse and close collaborator and Sixties and Seventies style icon, Loulou de la Falaise – has died aged 63. The news was made public by the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, who announced her passing ‘with immense sadness,’ referring to an unspecified ‘long illness’ as the cause of death. Bergé declined further comment.
Loulou was born in 1947 in England, to a British mother, Maxime Birley, a former model for Elsa Schiaparelli and French father Alain de la Falaise, a French count. After her education in England, Loulou worked in Fashion in London and in New York, where she modelled AND designed prints for NY designer, Halston. She found herself in Paris in 1972 where, she worked for Yves Saint Laurent together with her close friend, Betty Catroux, his other muse. Loulou designed jewellery and hats for the brand – as many as 2000 pieces of jewellery a year and she stayed loyally at the House until 2002.
The designer first met Loulou at a tea party 1968, and was captivated by her beauty and charisma as well as her flair for fashion. She was apparently great fun with an infectious laugh which appealed to Yves Saint Laurent, who hated being surrounded by boring fashion types. The pair were completely synchronised in terms of aesthetics, for example the way Yves mixed African influences with sleek tailoring to create that trademark Seventies glamour. Loulou de la Falaise liked nothing better than to jazz up a simple skirt and blouse with a nifty coloured silk headscarf and an armful of clackety coloured bracelets.
She eventually started her own line of accessories, in 2003 following the retirement of Saint Laurent.
‘If you've worked for Yves Saint Laurent, it's very difficult to work for another house,’ she told WWD at the time. ‘Plus I don't think anybody would have wanted me. It would be practically like hiring him: The eye one's got; the way we look at things.’ She collaborated with Oscar de la Renta on his jewellery collections in New York as well as, oddly for someone from the world of haute couture, sold a range of more affordable accessories and clothes on the US shopping channel; Home Shopping Network. Despite the way the fashion establishment would usually smirk at one of their number going down-market in this way, commenters merely asserted that this latest move was a sign of how lovely she was, and demonstrated her lack of snobbery.
Tributes to the late designer include from Ines de la Fressange, who lauded her friend's irrepressible sense of humor and irony. ‘She saw the funny part of things all the time,’ she said. ‘She loved to giggle.’
As well as Ariel de Ravenel, de la Falaise's longtime friend and business partner who said she was ‘so elegant and fun,’ She went on; ‘anything she touched became beautiful.’