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Loulou & Yves

Loulou & Yves

The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent

Christopher Petkanas

St. Martin's Press

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No one interested in fashion, style, or the high-flying intrigues of café society will want to miss the exuberantly entertaining oral biography Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent, by Christopher Petkanas.

Dauntless,“in the bone” style made Loulou de La Falaise one of the great fashion firebrands of the twentieth century. Descending in a direct line from Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, she was celebrated at her death in 2011, aged just sixty-four, as the “highest of haute bohemia,” a feckless adventuress in the art of living—and the one person Yves Saint Laurent could not live without.

Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) was the most influential designer of his times; possibly also the most neurasthenic. In an exquisitely intimate, sometimes painful personal and professional relationship, Loulou de La Falaise was his creative right hand, muse, alter ego and the virtuoso behind all the devastatingly flamboyant accessories that were a crucial component of the YSL “look.” For thirty years, until his retirement in 2002, Yves relied on Loulou to inspire him with the tilt of her hat, make him laugh and talk him off the ledge—the enchanted formula that brought him from one historic collection to the next.

Her presence at my side is a dream,” Yves declares in Loulou & Yves. “I trust her reactions. Sometimes they are violent but always positive... I bounce ideas off her and they come back clearer and things begin to happen.”

Yves’s many tr… More…

No one interested in fashion, style, or the high-flying intrigues of café society will want to miss the exuberantly entertaining oral biography Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent, by Christopher Petkanas.

Dauntless,“in the bone” style made Loulou de La Falaise one of the great fashion firebrands of the twentieth century. Descending in a direct line from Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, she was celebrated at her death in 2011, aged just sixty-four, as the “highest of haute bohemia,” a feckless adventuress in the art of living—and the one person Yves Saint Laurent could not live without.

Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) was the most influential designer of his times; possibly also the most neurasthenic. In an exquisitely intimate, sometimes painful personal and professional relationship, Loulou de La Falaise was his creative right hand, muse, alter ego and the virtuoso behind all the devastatingly flamboyant accessories that were a crucial component of the YSL “look.” For thirty years, until his retirement in 2002, Yves relied on Loulou to inspire him with the tilt of her hat, make him laugh and talk him off the ledge—the enchanted formula that brought him from one historic collection to the next.

Her presence at my side is a dream,” Yves declares in Loulou & Yves. “I trust her reactions. Sometimes they are violent but always positive... I bounce ideas off her and they come back clearer and things begin to happen.”

Yves’s many tributes shape Loulou’s memory, as if everything there was to know about this fugitive, Giacometti-like figure could be told by her clanking bronze cuffs, towering fur toques, the turquoise boulders on her fingers and her working friendship with the man who put women in pants. But parallel to this storyline runs another, darker one, lifting the veil on Loulou, a classic “number two” with a contempt for convention, and exposing the underbelly of fashion at its highest level. Behind Yves’s encomiums are a pair of aristocrat parents—Loulou’s shiftless French father and menacingly chic English mother—who abandoned her to a childhood of foster care and sexual abuse straight out of “Les Misérables”; Loulou’s recurring desperation to leave Yves and go out on her own; and the grandiose myths surrounding her family. Loulou felt that her life had been kidnapped by the operatic workings of the House of Saint Laurent, and in her last years danced with financial ruin. Delving beyond the “official” version of her life, Loulou & Yves unspools an elusive fashion idol—nymphomaniacal, heedless and up to her bracelets in coke and Boizel champagne—at the core of what used to be called “le beau monde.”

On the theory that everyone loves a cocktail party, Loulou & Yves traces her life chronologically through the charming literary device of oral biography, in which the spoken memories of more than two hundred “voices”—husbands, lovers, extended family, friends, enemies, slightly less bitter detractors, colleagues, groupies, pundits, and hangers-on—are seamlessly interwoven with those of Yves and Loulou themselves. Readers mingle at the party as invited guests, listening in on Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfeld and collecting clues from Mick Jagger and Tom Ford as the narrative unfolds. Topping the A-list of figures who tell Loulou’s story in their own words, uncensored, are Cecil Beaton, Diana Vreeland, Thadée Klossowski, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Hubert de Givenchy, Manolo Blahnik, Diane von Furstenberg, Elsa Peretti, Betty Catroux, John Richardson, Alber Elbaz, Christian Louboutin, Grace Coddington, Ben Brantley, Bruce Chatwin, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, André Leon Talley, and Pierre Bergé. In a fluent round of sparkling conversation, author Christopher Petkanas brings them all together for a party that swirls around one of the most scintillating women the fashion world has ever known.

“She’s the sounding board,” Yves rhapsodizes of his second self in Loulou & Yves, a sweeping, waspish work of fashion and social history. “She’s never wrong.”

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Praise for Loulou & Yves

"... the high-fashion world of yesteryear... has been brought back to life in a compulsively readable oral history, Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent—though that tome likewise has some lessons we might all take on board.

"The book, written by Christopher Petkanas, is full of juicy gossip about the super-decadent fashion scene in the 1970s and ’80s. His subject, for those who don’t know, was Yves Saint Laurent’s incredibly glamorous 'muse.' And in telling her story, Mr. Petkanas raises some pretty serious questions about that bizarre job title, which exists as far as I can tell in no other industry, and provides great perks but no professional security.

"So what does it really mean to be a designer’s 'muse'? Read the book and find out. It’s great information in the guise of nonfiction escapism. Though, honestly, afterward you may think you couldn’t make it up it you’d tried."—Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times



"The legendary LouLou de la Falaise and Thadee Klossowski... Paloma Picasso and Bianca Jagger... the late Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent... Baronne Guy de Rothschild, social queen of Paris! Read all about these sacred monsters in Christopher Petkanas['s] LouLou and Yves. This book is an oral biography of Paris fashion between the glittering years when LouLou was the light between all the characters! It's a modern Balzac history! You will wa… More…



"... the high-fashion world of yesteryear... has been brought back to life in a compulsively readable oral history, Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent—though that tome likewise has some lessons we might all take on board.

"The book, written by Christopher Petkanas, is full of juicy gossip about the super-decadent fashion scene in the 1970s and ’80s. His subject, for those who don’t know, was Yves Saint Laurent’s incredibly glamorous 'muse.' And in telling her story, Mr. Petkanas raises some pretty serious questions about that bizarre job title, which exists as far as I can tell in no other industry, and provides great perks but no professional security.

"So what does it really mean to be a designer’s 'muse'? Read the book and find out. It’s great information in the guise of nonfiction escapism. Though, honestly, afterward you may think you couldn’t make it up it you’d tried."—Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times



"The legendary LouLou de la Falaise and Thadee Klossowski... Paloma Picasso and Bianca Jagger... the late Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent... Baronne Guy de Rothschild, social queen of Paris! Read all about these sacred monsters in Christopher Petkanas['s] LouLou and Yves. This book is an oral biography of Paris fashion between the glittering years when LouLou was the light between all the characters! It's a modern Balzac history! You will want to give the book and also read it. It soars! It roars! Petkanas has achieved in this book, a smash artistic hit... absorb[ing] you in the history of high fashion in the 70s."—André Leon Talley, fashion journalist and subject of the documentary "The World According to André"




"Red-hot."—Fern Mallis, host of "Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis" at the 92nd Street Y, NYC






"A must read!"—Sandra Bernhard, actress, comedian and host of Sandyland on SiriusXM





"... at 495 pages, [Loulou & Yves] will no doubt prove essential reading for anyone fascinated with the Saint Laurent legend."


"In the elite constellation of fashion muses, few have shone as brightly as Loulou de la Falaise.
During her heyday in the Sixties and Seventies, Yves Saint Laurent’s right-hand woman hobnobbed with everyone from Robert Mapplethorpe to Andy Warhol, and had affairs with the likes of Kenzo Takada and “Performance” director Donald Cammell.

"In later years, Saint Laurent would give her credit for designing his costume jewelry and accessories for the runway and de la Falaise went on to launch a namesake collection of fashion and accessories in 2003 that traded on her signature mix of English pedigree and bohemian Left Bank chic.

"Since her death in 2011, her legend has grown further, as evidenced by her continued pull on designers from Anthony Vaccarello, the current creative director of Saint Laurent, to niche labels like Milan-based Blazé, whose spring line of luxury tailored jackets was inspired by her Moroccan jaunts with Saint Laurent.

"Christopher Petkanas, who covered the Saint Laurent clan during his tenure in the Paris bureau of Women’s Wear Daily between 1982 and 1988, knows more than most about the woman behind the myth...

"In his book, “Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de la Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent,”... Petkanas challenges the official house history, which contends that for three decades de la Falaise was happy to exist as Saint Laurent’s cheerleader and sounding board.

"The oral biography deals in the kind of salacious detail last read in Alicia Drake’s 2007 tome “The Beautiful Fall,” with quotes — drawn from 153 original interviews and previously published material — from everyone from Loulou herself to her mother, Maxime de la Falaise; Marisa Berenson; Diane von Furstenberg; André Leon Talley; Lady Annabel Goldsmith, and members of Saint Laurent’s inner circle...

"The Petkanas tome delves into de la Falaise’s troubled childhood, her addiction to drugs and alcohol and her tumultuous relationship with men. But most intriguingly, it suggests that the woman known for her dazzling smile was frustrated by her role at Saint Laurent, and was ultimately let down by [YSL's partner, Pierre] Bergé when she hit financial straits at the end of her life.”—Joelle Diderich, Women's Wear Daily

"[Loulou & Yves] ruffles fancy feathers."—Richard Johnson, New York Post

“Like all good biographies, Loulou & Yves… is a portrait of not just its subject… but of her place and time... The result is a crackling good read with a pleasing superabundance of salt, wit and dish; even the contributor bios are snarky.”—Nell Baram, Shelf Awareness, MainStreet BookEnds


“For 30 years, [Loulou de La Falaise] helped Saint Laurent see things through rose-coloured glasses. A new book reveals why the troubled designer was drawn to his right-hand woman’s more-is-more style… As detailed in Christopher Petkanas’s… Loulou & Yves, De la Falaise was by Yves Saint Laurent’s side for 30 years. They began to work together in 1972… Her daily responsibilities show she was a multitasker of the highest order. They included everything from helping decide on the colour of a collection ('Yves has a phenomenal sense of colour, but he needs me to jerk it out of his system,' she said), to the casting of models (she encouraged the house to use Kate Moss), designing the jewellery and walking Saint Laurent’s French bulldog, Moujik. Principally, however, De la Falaise was there as a taste check, someone to try ideas on – sometimes literally – and to brainstorm with. 'She is charm, poetry, excess, extravagance and elegance all in one blow,' said the designer. 'We make a stewing pot. Things bubble and brew.'

"De la Falaise’s style is now the stuff of legend – and Pinterest boards. Headscarves and turbans became her trademark… while her attitude to dressing could be summed up as: 'Why wear one skirt/sweater/necklace if you can wear four?' As with all style icons – from Jane Birkin to Kate Moss and Rihanna – a frustratingly indefinable flair was at the heart of it. 'I’ve always longed to pull off wearing a couture dress with a bit of old tat from a flea market,' says De la Falaise’s sometime associate Nicky Samuel in Petkanas’s book, 'but only a few women succeed.' De la Falaise was one of them.

"While she had started her own label after parting ways with Saint Laurent when he retired from the house in 2002, it is for her associations with the designer that she will be remembered – muse or not. Her importance was summed up by Paris Match after she died. The headline? ‘The second death of Yves Saint Laurent.’"—Lauren Cochrane, The Guardian


"From the book: 'On the theory that everyone loves a cocktail party, and because people with a drink in their hand tend to be candid, Loulou & Yves traces Loulou’s life chronologically through the memories of more than two hundred voices: husbands, lovers, extended family, friends, enemies, slightly less bitter detractors, colleagues, groupies, Yves, pundits, hangers-on and Grace Jones.' The good news is that you are all invited to eavesdrop on every morsel of information and tidbit of gossip that so many so freely offer at this 'party.'


"One of the first topics that the reader will be confronted with is Loulou’s genetics, bloodlines, and family tree. By today’s standards, her youth was what one would call unconventional or bohemian, some will find it more abusive, while others might will see it as dysfunctional and insane. The truth of it is that those adjectives would be akin to saying Richard Avedon took great snap shots. Unquestionably with so many 'speakers' there has to be much more than a crumb of truth involved and, by the way, it’s pretty riveting if you like a dishy and tell all kind of reading . . . warts and all. It is truly hard to believe that anything has been held back as the comments or 'tales' range from laudatory to downright going for the throat. What cannot be ignored is that this family (de La Falaise, McKendry, Birley) was absolutely magnetic chiefly because of one very 'sun like' Maxime.


"Imagine if you will a mixture of the Addams family, the Duggar Family, and Little Orphan Annie but all cast within the blue bloodlines in what was once called high society… The primary character from which all revolve around is Momma Maxime… It might be safe to say that the most precise defining term for this family might or should have been, menagerie, commune, circus, and haute hippie.


"What is so startling about the book is that once the topic focuses on when Loulou and Yves became coworkers, the entire tone of the book changes dramatically from bitchy, revelatory gossip to retelling a symbiotic relationship unlike any other. The most incredible aspect is that this reviewer could actually envision the moments and scenarios that were taking place on the written page and within the inner sanctum…


"In the end, the reader of this book must be prepared to quite literally be consumed by it; in many ways it is the train wreck that you can’t look away from. If you have unlimited curiosity of those times and an unquenchable thirst for the back stories of the characters of that era and of the fashion world, well . . . here is a book for you!"—Jeffrey Felner, New York Journal of Books

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Reviews from Goodreads

Christopher Petkanas

CHRISTOPHER PETKANAS covered Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent from 1982 to 1988 while living in Paris, picking up with Loulou again more than two decades later, in 2010, the year before she died. He has written for The New York Times, Vogue, and Architectural Digest, and his previous books are At Home in France: Eating and Entertaining with the French, and Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design (with Sister Parish and Albert Hadley). He resides in New York City.

St. Martin's Press

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