LOULOU & YVES – REMEMBRANCE OF LIVES PAST
Author Christopher Petkanas was the recent special guest of the National Arts Club to discuss his latest tome “Loulou & Yves” with its Fashion Council’s former and current chairs David Zyla and Angela Lui. Framed against the formidable House of Saint Laurent, a captivating yet complex portrait of Loulou de La Falaise is unveiled from over 150 personally conducted interviews by Mr. Petkanas who structured this oral biography like a far more impressive cocktail party than what’s passing as a Met Gala assemblage these days. Here, it’s a salon where such notables as Cecil Beaton, Diana Vreeland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Hubert de Givenchy, Elsa Peretti, Betty Catroux, Marisa Berenson, Diane von Furstenberg, John Richardson, Grace Coddington, and Lady Annabel Goldsmith take turns confiding their memories of a true personage’s rarefied life.
Louise Vava Lucia Henriette Le Bailly de La Falaise (1948-2011) is fondly remembered as a style icon whose incandescent presence served as a near tangible frisson to M. Saint Laurent’s genius. Beyond her invaluable and by now legendary contributions to the brand, the book spans across a childhood estranged from parents Maxime Birley and Comte Alain de la Falaise, the ill-advised marriage to Desmond FitzGerald, the fateful collision of the title personalities at the Paris flat of Fernando Sanchez, the creatively brilliant and substance fueled YSL decades, and her attempts to establish a personal niche after M. Saint Laurent’s passing. More pointedly the narrative runs less than congruous to the “official” story of a Loulou content in narrow confinement to the brand. But embedded as he is in the fashion and culture frontlines since his 1980s tenure at the Paris bureau of Women’s Wear Daily, Mr. Petkanas is far too assiduous a reporter to simply run with the press release. Inconsistencies do arise in the telling but his format allows the witnesses to divulge their versions Rashomon style. As a consequence, the book, published this month by St. Martin’s Press, is drawing some pushback from those who prefer to toe the party line.
Regardless, Mr. Petkanas is confident the work stands firmly on its integrity. His appearance at the historic Samuel J. Tilden townhouse in Gramercy Park where the National Arts Club has been headquartered since 1906 is one in several he’s holding with the fashion faithful. The Fashion Council’s Ms. Lui, Mr. Zyla, and the attendees were regaled by the “fireside chat”, which is part of the club’s series of events designed to provide members with insight into all things fashion – from 18th century dressing to jewelry. These events are among the more popular highlights of the private club, founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay who was a poet and literary and art critic for the New York Times. For over a century, the club has counted some of Manhattan’s most prominent citizens as members.
Image of Christopher Petkanas by Derek Dewitt with additional images from “Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de la Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent”.