Rive Gauche Haute Bohémienne


Perhaps it started with the mother, the exquisitely beautiful Maxime de la Falaise (1922 – 2009). In 2004, The Independent of London called Ms. de la Falaise “one of the greatest living style icons.” The photographer Cecil Beaton praised her as the only truly chic Englishwoman of her generation.


Maxime was not only a celebrated fashion model and artists’ muse of the mid-20th century, but later developed into a designer, a food writer and the matriarch of a three-generation clan of international couture models including her famed daughter, Louise (best known as Loulou).


Like mother, like daughter, Loulou traveled to Paris and befriended the celebrated fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, becoming his muse and life collaborator inspiring such innovative fashions as my personal favorite, the notorious Le Smoking collection. Stunning in that tuxedo, no?


If history demonstrates anything, it rewards those who understand the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Paris in the 70’s was that place, a mix of heady and self indulgent pursuits. And Loulou was in the thick of it. “There is nothing more hypnotically compelling to the fashion tribe than its own reflection in the glass,” quoted Alicia Drake in her brilliant book “The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970’s Paris.”


Enchanted by a world of surface and illusion, the players would dance into the night in front of walls of mirrors at Le Sept, the Parisian club of the hour, “watching others watch themselves,” undistracted even as Pat Cleveland, the rubber-limbed star of the French runways, performed a striptease on the bar.


This mythical world described as a time of “sex-fueled nights, tormented love and shameless self-invention,” was Loulou’s studio where she documented every gesture and artful pose translating her impressions into what would, ultimately, become her signature style.


It was a look, style and attitude she embraced that would come to be known as the quintessential Rive Gauche haute bohémienne.


Electric and exuberant in manner and in dress, ‘Loulou arrived and the pastry became light,’ noted one insider.


There was a fantasy and colour and daring to her style that was totally original. She came along bearing both the lineage of the old world so dear to every  couturier and, crucially, the cool swing of London.


Everybody adored her. Who, after all, could hold a candle to a woman who dressed for her wedding celebration in a jeweled crescent moon she made herself out of cardboard, glue and diamanté? Loulou told friends she wanted to look like a summer’s night sky in Marrakech.


The wedding party hosted by the omnipotent one himself, Saint Laurent, at the Chalet des Îles in the Bois de Boulogn in 1977, was, according to society watchers of the day, the first great social stir-fry of “punks and baronesses.”

Loulou in all her ravishing glory greeted guests alongside her husband, Thadee Klossowski (the younger son of Balthus), who was equally resplendent in a Gatsbyesque white suit. “They were an incredibly glamorous couple,” Madison Cox, a friend of the pair, reported.

Just what was it they personified at that moment that Paris found so thrilling? Just about every Parisian fantasy of the late 1970s — artistic, aristocratic, fashion and elegance, beauty, youth and excess — all distilled in one couple. A lot to live up to.




~ by eaesthete on 09/09/09.

4 Responses to “Rive Gauche Haute Bohémienne”

  1. What unbelievable images! I can never get over how beautiful those old Laurent suits are…

  2. Enjoyed this!

  3. Stunning, yes! Even in that first photo.

    We need more “shameless self-invention.” I’m working on it right now.

  4. These images remind me of why I became a designer. Loulou ranks up there with Marisa Berenson, Diane von Furstenberg, Paloma Picasso among many others as incredible examples of 70’s style. She was polished, exotic, dramatic, yet always a lady (with a decadent spirit and a whiff of bohemian patchouli to boot!) Thanks for the lovely post.

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