Debra Scherer remembers Yves Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise — once called “the quintessential Rive Gauche haute bohémienne” by The New Yorker — who passed away on Saturday at the age of 63 in Paris.
PARIS, France — The last time I saw Loulou de la Falaise was on American television. Yet, as a muse to the legendary Yves Saint Laurent, she will always be remembered as one of the most influential women from a magical time in Paris fashion. She had the ability to take a printed chiffon blouse and a khaki A-line skirt, add a twist of unexpected colour, a scarf tied around her head, arms stacked with beautiful bangles… et voila!
There was Betty Catroux; there was Marina Schiano; there was Catherine Denueve; each one epitomised the Saint Laurent aesthetic. But at its core, it was all about the remarkable ease with which Loulou de la Falaise could put together Saint Laurent’s pieces without it ever seeming like a ‘total look.’
For her part in inspiring YSL’s ‘Rive Gauche’ revolution, Loulou de la Falaise will be remembered as an important figure in the history of fashion. It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time, the very idea of buying YSL straight off the rack, as ready-to-wear, was a risky and revolutionary idea. It was the ‘fast fashion’ of its time and raised many an eyebrow.
But this revolution had little to do with the price; rather it was all about the idea of ease. It brought iconic pieces, like Le Smoking and Le Saharienne, along with beautiful jeweled coloured silks and khaki trench coats to “the rack.” You could walk out of the store with them right away, rather than endure a series of appointments at the haute couture salon, with all of its formality.
So when did I last see Loulou on television? I was flipping channels one day and discovered her on The Home Shopping Network (HSN). I almost couldn’t believe my eyes and had to stop and see what she was doing. What could a woman with such a tremendous and innate sense of style – an authentic Parisienne – have to say to the women of Middle America?
She was fabulous! The items for sale were simpler versions of her famous bangles. Now, this was revolutionary ready-to-wear for the 21st century. Once again, she was doing something that may have been risky. But what the inimitable Loulou de la Falaise really brought to fashion, whether on HSN or in the haute couture salon, was to underline, as only she could, that style can come with ease.
Debra Scherer is founder of The Little Squares.