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R: You once said, “Even though French women are less pretty than English women, the English are scared of them.”
L: “The English always think the French have more savoir faire and are cleverer with men and at dressing. It’s passed down from mother to daughter.”
R: How did your mother, Maxime, influence your look?
L: “Both my grandmother and mother were daring with fashion, like Irish gypsies. My mother always improvised her wardrobe by altering things and dyeing fabrics.”
R: Would you say you were one of fashion’s first flower children?
L: “Yes, I think I started in fashion quite early. I’ve always been a muse to others.”
R: How did you meet Yves Saint Laurent?
L: “We met at a party at my friend Fernando Sanchez’s home. I was a brand new English divorcee. We talked and became friends. He liked my style, and then six months later, he asked me to join him in business. We worked together for 34 years.”
R: What did you learn from him?
L: “I learned about proportions and the logic of clothes. He also taught me that clothes are not just intellectual exercises, they are also non-abstract — women actually have to wear them! For Saint Laurent, love, care and patience — as well as the importance of every person who is involved in a piece — were key.”
R: What did Saint Laurent learn from working with you?
L:“I gave him more extravagance, more naturalness and spontaneity. I gave him the Irish gypsy!”
R: When Saint Laurent closed his business in 2002, how did you feel?
L: “I knew I would not work for anyone else. I had worked with the greatest.”
Photo courtesy of Loulou de la FalaiseSo you decided to open your own shop?
L: “Yes. My brother, Alexis, who is now gone, helped me to design the store on Rue de Bourgogne. I always knew I wanted to be on the Left Bank, and I liked the building right away. It has three stories, so I can have my studio and office on two floors and the shop at street level. It’s a cozy space. When I opened it, everyone was doing these black, grey or silvery-blue spaces with one dress hanging on a hook. I wanted mine to be colourful — a place where people can walk in and have a cup of tea or a glass of champagne. I didn’t want to make a design statement for my ego.”
R: You used to say that you would never schedule an appointment before 11 a.m. Now you work all the time. Where do you go to relax?
L: “In Paris, I visit the Jardins des Plantes, and on weekends, I go to my country house.”
R: But being an Irish gypsy at heart, if you had to live on another planet, what five things would you bring?
L: “Well, my family! Then a T-shirt, a cashmere sweater, a pair of jeans and a book by Bruce Chatwin, because reading him is like travelling.”
Photo courtesy of Loulou de la Falaise