She wore a loose, satiny blouse and what looked like crazy-lady plastic jewelry and blue polyester pants that seemed a tad too short.
Yet she carried herself with the long-limbed grace of a fashion model and clearly the eccentric bohemian look was working for her.
Loulou de la Falaise, who passed away in Paris this weekend after a reported “long illness,” was a muse and style icon before there was a name for people who inspired designers. She was among the few who dared to step out of the comfort zone of current trends.
I met Loulou for a minute at an event in San Francisco about four years ago. She was among several people being given an honorary degree by the Academy of Art University during the school’s annual graduate fashion show in 2007. Even with current designer darling Zac Posen and Pulitzer Prize winning fashion critic Robin Givhan in the room, I couldn’t take my eyes off Loulou who epitomized everything I loved about the way French women connect to fashion.
“Haphazard and randomness, like I made a mistake but a good mistake,” is how she once described her jewelry designs, a chunky, funky mix of big stones, flowers, quartz and crystals.
She’s best known for being a muse of Yves Saint Laurent, a friend who is said to have been inspired to design his famous smoking jacket with her in mind. She also worked for him in the early 1970s, designing accessories for the brand before branching off on her own. In an unexpected turn recently, she made accessories for the HSN shopping network and seemed vaguely uncomfortable hawking the line with the chatty hostesses.
Although her mother was British, she’s always been fully French when it comes to fashion. I never quite understood what it meant to dress like a French woman until I met one. Roya was chic and stylish, yet her tiny closet had plenty of room for oh so much more. How, I wondered, did she make a few shirts, skirts, jackets and pants stretch past Wednesday? She did, looking chic every day and making me vow to trim that my wardrobe at home, divided into spring and fall, and busting out of a walk-in closet, a second bedroom (smaller) closet and a hall closet. While I, like most Americans, tend to wear special clothes only for special occasions, I was inspired by French women who wear their Chanel jackets with a tank top, bare legs and flats, casually walking with a sandwich toward a park bench. In the time they took to finish their lunch, I would still be agonizing over which pair of heels to wear on the unpaved path that would go with the jacket.
When friends ask me what I want to do when I retire, I always say I want to live in Paris, a little old lady in a pied-a-terre steps away from the shops and cafes where I could be on a permanent, perfect vacation. If I were braver and bolder, it’s truly what I’d do.
I saw myself as another Loulou de la Falaise.
Even though I am far from tall, or blond, or reed thin, I somehow transform in someone who looks like her with an attitude to match.
Category: Fresh Style