Fashion Heroes: LouLou De La Falaise

One cannot talk about the hedonistic Paris fashion scene of the 1970s and 1980s without talking about Loulou de la Falaise, the era's main star.

Tall, lithe and incredibly stylish, de la Falaise was a fixture of the fashion scene then. And, with her effortless style and larger-than-life character that defined the era, she was also a muse of the legendary Yves Saint Laurent. Together, the duo went on to create some of the most iconic accessories and jewellery pieces which the fashion house has come to be known for today. To put the power of her influence into perspective: she was the woman who inspired the late Saint Laurent to create the iconic Le Smoking suit as well as the see-through blouses in 1966.

The Iconic Le Smoking

The iconic Le Smoking women's tuxedo by Yves Saint Laurent was inspired by the unstudied style of LouLou de la Falaise

Born in England to an Anglo-Irish fashion model and a French marquis, de la Falaise was the epitome of a Saint Laurent woman - beautiful and boyishly slim. In the three decades that she spent working for Yves Saint Laurent, the fashion icon was always impeccably dressed whenever she arrived at the YSL couture studios.

So appealing was her sense of style that many heiresses, countesses, models, movie stars and scores of fashion editors wanted to look just like her. In a recent feature on the lvife of LouLou de la Falaise, T Magazine's Marian Miceroy described how de la Falaise "didn’t dress up to wow the paparazzi (although she was photographed countless times), but rather to delight herself, surprise her friends and, most crucially, impress Yves". Whether she was channeling an 18th-century Indian princess, a pre-Soviet Russian peasant or a 20th-century East Village flower child, Miceroy continued, her getups went beyond being just costumes. They looked fresh and very au courant. 

Her career in fashion began in the late 1960s when de la Falaise moved to New York City and briefly modeled for American Vogue. She left that behind to have a go at designing printed fabrics for the iconic American fashion house Halston. Later in the decade, she worked as a junior editor at the British society magazine Queen, during which time she met Saint Laurent. Eventually, she moved to Paris, where she joined his haute-couture firm in 1972.

At the fashion house, de la Falaise's official task was to bring her eccentric style to accessories and jewellery at Yves Saint Laurent. It was an easy enough task for her and throughout her time at the fashion house, de la Falaise came up with statement pieces, often incorporating large colourful stones, enamel and rock crystal. 

As for her relationship with the late Saint Laurent, de la Falaise often inspired the legendary designer with her inventive wardrobe. 

When Saint Laurent retired in 2002, de la Falaise took the opportunity to set out on her own. She launched her own fashion business designing ready-to-wear, costume-jewellery and accessories, which were sold in America, as well as two Loulou de La Falaise standalone stores in Paris.

In 2011, and at the age of 63, de la Falaise reportedly succumbed to Lung Cancer. Her inimitable style, however, forever remains to inspire the rest of the world. Last month, a book which chronicles the many facets of de la Falaise's life was released. It includes interviews with Christian Louboutin and Paloma Picasso.