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Loulou de la Falaise, YSL Collaborator, Dies at 63

A close collaborator of the late couturier Yves Saint Laurent for three decades, fashion figure was prized for her inimitable offhand chic.

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Loulou de la Falaise

Photo By Steve Eichner

Girard lauded her spontaneity, caring nature and cultural intelligence. "She read a lot. I remember a long conversation we had about Bruce Chatwin," he said.

Inès de la Fressange, no slouch in the je-ne-sais-quoi department, marveled how de la Falaise could assemble disparate and even humble items — ethnic jewelry or thrift-shop finds — and elevate them to the height of elegance and sophistication.

"It was not a question of looking wealthy, but just looking chic," she said. "She had it in her blood."

Paris-based designer Andrew Gn recounted with exacting detail what de la Falaise wore when he, fresh out of Milan's Domus Academy, first laid eyes on her: a skinny dark brown turtleneck tucked into gray flannel pajama pants, her waist encircled with a giant brown crocodile belt, her wrists jangling with bangles in wood and metal.

"She really exemplified what French chic is all about," Gn said. "She brought a lot of style to Saint Laurent."

In an interview in 2003, de la Falaise insisted her outfits were never studied.

"I never think ahead about what I'm going to wear," she said at the time. "I get out of my bath and then I dress. Sometimes, it's a new pair of shoes and I work around that. But sometimes it simply depends on what's at the cleaners and what's around.

"I never think in terms of what's fashionable or not," she continued. "It's totally instinctive. I'm actually terrible about thinking ahead. When people say, ‘What are you going to wear?' — that gets me very nervous. When I throw things together at the last minute, I'm happy."

Echoing other observers, de la Fressange also lauded her friend's irrepressible sense of humor and irony. "She saw the funny part of things all the time," she said. "She loved to giggle."

"So elegant and fun," said a rueful Ariel de Ravenel, de la Falaise's longtime friend and business partner. "Anything she touched became beautiful."

Semiprecious stones were among the designer's favorite materials, de Ravenel said, though she also got excited about wood, crystal, Moroccan beads — you name it. While de la Falaise designed cuffs, earrings and rings, "you always picture Loulou in a necklace."

Louise Vava Lucia Henriette de la Falaise was born in 1948 to an English mother and a French father, and first came to Saint Laurent's attention during the Swinging Sixties.

Then an editor for Queen magazine in London, she was famous for her outrageous, extravagant style. When Saint Laurent hired her in 1972, her role was not clearly defined. Certainly one of the glitziest members of his entourage, she was an ambassador, friend, confidante, party pal and a glamorous mascot for the house.

Her design responsibilities became formidable, however. She was involved in ready-to-wear and couture as well as directing accessories and jewelry. For the last 10 years of the couture house, she designed the couture jewelry collection. Counting the house's various in-house lines and licensed collections, de la Falaise designed more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry a year.

De la Falaise had a broad fashion appetite and wore brands including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Jil Sander, Martin Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto, in addition to YSL, though she never resembled a billboard for anyone's style.

"I'm not a very strict person. I'm more of an extravagant type of person," she once said. "I'll keep on mixing because it's more inspiring.…I think fashion goes through phases. I just wait for them to be over."

De la Falaise is survived by her husband, Thadée Klossowski, a son of the artist Balthus, and their daughter, Anna, an art historian specializing in contemporary art.

She is predeceased by her brother, Alexis, a furniture designer who had decorated her Rue de Bourgogne shop, and her mother, Maxime, a celebrated model, food writer and social maverick.

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