story by Evan Ross, proprietor of Frock
illustration by Aya Rosen
photos by Tal Shpantzer
The recent passing of Loulou de la Falaise, style icon, close friend and “muse” to Yves Saint Laurent, and designer in her own right, had me reflecting on how far-reaching one’s personal style can be. I encounter women of style on a daily basis. Some come to it from “within.” Some… well, they have a bit of help through stylists or PR teams, while others developed their style from a personal connection, like a mother or grandmother, whose influence has stuck with them for life with the clothing being the culmination of this influence.
The muse or fashion conscious woman truly can be anyone who takes delight in dressing and feels connected with how one puts themselves out there for the world to see. Socialite Nan Kempner once said, “I absolutely adore clothes, they add whimsy to life. One bores oneself enough, why do it with what one wears?” Every fashionable woman throughout time from Jackie Kennedy to the women from whom I source clothes for my store, are all muses. One could say the women of the Punk Rock movement were muses to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, who took their street style and brought it to “high street.” I believe any woman has the ability to inspire and excite a designer and give them the creative jolt needed to move ahead with another brilliant creation. Dolce & Gabbana, for instance, made a whole fashion empire based on the archetypal Italian woman found throughout their country.
It is simply fascinating how these women, whether they are in the public eye, or close private friends to the designer, help shape the collections we see in stores and on the runways. I don’t believe there is a male designer out there who couldn’t count at least one, if not several, women as his muse. Yves Saint Laurent not only had Loulou, but a whole roster of them, such as Betty Catroux, Catherine Deneuve, Iman (he called her his “dream woman”), Talitha Getty, Katoucha Niane, and later Laetitia Casta. Bill Blass was surrounded by the women who bought and wore his clothes, their lives and manner influenced and was carried in the sense of refinement and opulence of his designs. Coco Chanel was most undoubtedly her own muse, as is Donna Karan, or many of the newer socialites turned designers. These women took not only their personal style, but their lifestyle and the lifestyles of those around them and brought it into through their designs to the masses.
It is these women, these arbiters of “style,” the ones who take their inner being and wear it on the outside, expressing it through fashion, who I personally find so fascinating and stimulating. They are the engines that drive the whole industry, for without them there would be no need to create the several collections a year each designer brings out. There would be no need for change, for evolution. The craftsmanship of couture would most certainly die, as there would be no one willing to pay the price or simply put in the time all of the fittings take. I truly believe fashion in the sense of “fashion or whimsy” would be dead without them. Claude Montana may have said it best : “It upsets me that women are more attracted by the practical side of dressing than by the idea of looking divine.” For me, it goes back to a stylish woman , my own mother, who always said she would much prefer to be the most appropriately dressed woman in the room than the one who is not putting her best foot forward.