Born in Britian in 1948 to a French aristocrat father and former Schiaparelli “muse” mother, Loulou de la Falaise was bound to make her mark in the fashion world.
Described as everything from an ambassador, friend and “party pal” of the iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, de la Falaise actually disliked most being described as his “muse”.
“To me a muse comes to have tea and cookies and a chat, and looks frightfully smart, then goes to a cocktail party. I didn’t see it as someone who worked as hard as I did,” she reported said in 2006. “But now that Saint Laurent is part of history, it makes me a part of history, so, yes, finally it’s not such a bad thing to have been a muse.”
After a peripatetic and fashionable childhood – after her parents divorced, de la Falaise’s mother hung out with Andy Warhol in New York and her uncle own legendary nightclubs Annabel’s and Tramp – de la Falaise went to school in England.
But she was a rebellious teenager and was repeated expelled before giving up studying for a life of partying on the burgeoning “Swinging 60s” London scene.
A short-lived marriage that saw her a divorcee at age 21, de la Falaise then met Yves Saint Laurent in Paris; he became obsessed with the long-legged beauty’s colourful style and asked her to work for him.
“When I joined YSL, I didn’t have a precise job. Saint Laurent is very shy, and he didn’t tell people what I was going to do,” de la Falaise has said about the early years of her position with the designer. Eventually she became the fashion label’s accessories and jewellery designer, later morphing into the designers’ general assistant.
According to an AFP report, de la Falaise once said: “Accessories have an important role in our stressful lives.” She was known for loving large, colourful semi-precious stones, rock crystal – which she considered her “lucky” material – and enamelled hearts and flowers.
“If you’re going out to dinner and you haven’t had the time to go home to change, you can take off your jacket and put on some jewellery,” she said.
“We exchange ideas a lot and it’s really exhilarating,” she once said of Saint Laurent. Although there was never any doubt the designer remained the force behind the brand, Saint Laurent reportedly also said: “Loulou’s true talent, other than her undeniable professional qualities, is her charm. Unique. Moving.”
“She has an extraordinary lightness of touch, along with a faultless critical view of fashion. Intuitive, innate, individual. Her presence at my side is a dream,” he said.
Being by the designer’s side meant being at the centre of the 1970s jet-setting, party world and necessarily a part of the drug-taking and heavy drinking of the time.
All the partying took its toll, with doctors reportedly advising de la Falaise many times to stop drinking but as her role at YSL continued, she also became involved in the ready-to-wear collections as well as continuing to design the jewellery lines.
With Saint Laurent’s retirement in 2002 – he became increasingly reclusive and died June 1, 2008 of brain cancer at his residence in Paris – de la Falaise opened and closed a number of fashion boutiques but reportedly thought running a business was “boring” and “not her forte”, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper.
Loulou de la Falaise is survived by a daughter from her second marriage to Thadee Klossowski de Rola, son of the painter Balthus, in 1977; Saint Laurent was her godfather. Her niece, model Lucie de la Falaise, has also walked for Yves Saint Laurent.