A vintage pic of Yves Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Waiting in the lineup for the Saint Laurent show I recognized a familiar shock of white grey hair. I looked up and down the woman’s lanky frame and thought to myself: “This must be Betty Catroux.” She is without doubt one of the fashion world’s most iconic
. Yves Saint Laurent called her his female incarnation and muse. Even today, Marc Jacobs in his show notes for Louis Vuitton, listed her as one of the women who inspired him most. In Hedi Slimane’s Spring 2014 outing for the house, he presented his own updated take on the famous Le Smoking
that Ms. Catroux inspired—and immortalized—during her time with YSL. When Ms. Catroux was in Toronto a few years ago to celebrate the launch of the documentary,
, I had the chance to speak with her. Here’s an excerpt from our chat.
Our Q&A with Betty Catroux continues right after the break...
A Betty Catroux inspired look from Saint Laurent's Spring 2014 runway show. Photo courtesy of Imaxtree.com.
How did you meet Mr. Laurent?
“He picked me up in a nightclub back in 1967! That is the way it happened; he saw me, he is very shy and he sent a friend of his to ask me to come over. Which I did—and we never left each other. I was lucky enough to spend my whole life with him.”
Did he influence how you dressed?
“When I met him, I wasn’t even sure I was aware of YSL. I was in my own little cloud. I wasn’t interested in fashion at all. I’ve always dressed as a boy. I never dressed as a woman! But I certainly became more sophisticated wearing his
Do you enjoy fashion?
“No, I don’t like fashion. I liked his clothes because he was a genius. Of course I wore his dresses; I did it for him. I always hated classical feminine dress. I look ridiculous in it. I’ve always been like that since I was a child.”
Are you really the inspiration for YSL’s iconic Le Smoking Jacket?
“So I hear!”
What did he see in you?
“What is fascinating is that Yves had the nose to sense that we were the same kind of person. We even looked a little bit like one another. He was very skinny and always dressed in
and jeans. We were also people with problems of depression. He used to call me every day and say, “My life is so over, I want to die,” and I’d say, “You are so right…” then we’d laugh and make plans to have drinks. We loved having fun. We never wanted to grow up. We were lucky; he had Pierre [Bergé] and I had my husband, who treated us as children. We were all the time, scolded, but we liked to do naughty things.”
Hmm, like what? What was the naughtiest?
“Difficult to say! He took me on all kinds of voyages. I remember we risked our lives every night because Yves would drive us around after lavish parties.”
You mentioned he was lucky to have Pierre in his life. Tell me about their relationship?
“Yves and Pierre had the most beautiful love affair of the 20
century. It was perfection; so intelligent, so intense. It was never a problem [them being gay] because we lived with elites and artists, so a love between two men was never a problem.” I
n spite of that love, you’ve said that Mr. Laurent suffered with depression. Did he find happiness after he retired?
“No, it was the worst after he stopped. His work was the only thing that made him happy. He always lived in the past, which is dangerous. Pierre, however, was always living for the next day. It’s a terrible thing to live in the past.”
Where do you think Mr. Laurent developed his understanding of women?
“It’s difficult for me to explain. It’s kind of a mystery. Probably the mother; it’s always the mother, I hear. Not that he had much of a relationship with her. They really weren’t a connected family.”
You must miss him very much. How do you keep his memory alive?
“I still wear his clothes and I always talk about him. I want to prolong him as long as I can. He comes to me in my dreams, of course. I have a portrait of him by Andy Warhol, so I talk to that painting. I have my dream, my glass of white wine and I talk with him!”
Saint Laurent Spring 2014 collection reel...
For Spring 2014 Hedi Slimane offered up his own take on the famous Le Smoking jacket. I can see Betty in these pieces—even the
tight leather skirt
Look #14: The iconic Le Smoking jacket and tight leather skirt. Photo courtesy of Imaxtree.com.
Look #43: Saint Laurent's Le Smoking jacket and pants from the Spring 2014 runway presentation. Photo courtesy of Imaxtree.com.
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