PARIS, France — Maria Luisa Poumaillou has passed away, having lost a long battle with cancer. The legendary buyer was renowned for her elegant taste and fierce championing of new ideas and fresh talent. In a 2013 interview with BoF, Poumaillou said, “I have only been interested, all my life, by whatever is different and attracts my eye, by talent that is out of the ordinary and by what is long lasting.”
Born in Venezuela in the 1950s, Poumaillou first made her name in 1988, when she launched the eponymous boutique Maria Luisa on the Rue Cambon in Paris, then one of the most important fashion boutiques in the world. Poumaillou pioneered the high-low mix that is now the norm in boutiques and was often at hand, helping her customers select pieces she had curated from established designers and young unknown talents. For a time in the 1990s, Maria Luisa was one of the few places where one could find the designs of Jean Paul Gaultier and Helmut Lang. Poumaillou would continue to champion new talent throughout her career, and the original Rue Cambon boutique became a destination for fashion pilgrims from around the world.
The store, which was famously messy and resembled the over-flowing wardrobe of a woman with incredibly good taste, spawned several offshoots around Paris over a 20 year period, before they were shuttered prior to Poumaillou incorporating her business into Paris’ Printemps department store, through shop-in-shops. The launch of her business with Printemps created an emotional moment that Poumaillou previously told BoF had topped every other in her career. “One of the most emotional moments I’ve had in my career is when we changed everything, closed down and went to Printemps. When we opened the [Maria Luisa] shop-in-shop we had a party and Nicolas Ghesquière, Rick Owens, the Proenza Schouler designers, Kane, Roland Mouret — they all showed up. I knew it was their way of saying thank you. I had goosebumps. It is the only day in my life that I’ve had goosebumps.”
In a previous interview, Poumaillou told BoF, “You’re only good at what you really love. So, be true to yourself. Be daring and keep a very open mind.”