Cover of the just published book and photograph of Christopher Petkanas by @Ed Singleton.
I am so excited to be able to post my review of Loulou & Yves The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent, on the day of its publication, April 17, 2018. I put the book on my list to have delivered on that date, but lucky me the publisher St. Martin’s Press sent me an advance copy to allow me to publish my thoughts today.
The book is extraordinary, in so many ways, it is a must for anyone interested in the complicated intense world of fashion and the people who inhabit the ateliers, wear the exquisite garments they create and move in the social circles of the time. It is unique in that it is an oral biography told chronologically and includes Loulou’s family tree at the beginning of the book. I must admit, it will take another reading to really appreciate the depth of research Petkanas has evoked. We hear from, I think, everyone who ever knew Loulou (over 200 people are quoted some often, many are names we all recognize others less familiar but have fascinating stories to tell), and the detailed family tree, her grandparents, her parents (especially her glamorous mother, Maxine ”Maxime”), her two husbands, her many lovers, her friends, admirers, and, of course, Yves Saint Laurent. Controversial most certainly, a fascinating read, without doubt.
Petkanas gives us thumbnail sketches of each contributing source, a bibliography, notes, permissions and an index. He has left nothing out if we want to continue our research. It is written for all fashionistas as well as fashion scholars. A stunning, major work on a family, a world renowned fashion house and the times they inhabited, a definite add to your library. If you are looking for fluff…look elsewhere, this is a serious piece while remaining a totally entertaining read.
I am over the moon that this will be the first book in my nenasnotes Fashion Book Club in May! Side note, as always, I recommend you support your local independent bookseller, I’ll be partnering with The Book Stall, remember to take advantage of special events at your bookseller on Independent Bookstore Day Saturday, April 28th.
Here we see Loulou’s grandfather, Sir Oswald Birley, the renowned portrait painter, her grandmother, Rhoda, and her mother, Maxine (Maxime), photographed in Sir Oswald’s studio. (This photograph is not in the book I found it on Pinterest no photo credit available).
Loulou and her brother were raised In “foster care” and we learn of sexual abuse, isolation and the beginnings of Loulou’s independent spirit and bohemian lifestyle inclinations which endeared her to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.
The main story is set in the ‘60’s through the 90’s (and until Loulou’s death in 2011) and takes us into the world of drugs, alcohol, sex and rock and roll and, of course, fashion. I was fascinated to learn of her affair with Fernando Sanchez (one of many “lovers”, they loved each other despite him being gay, he and Yves went to school together). I worked with him when he designed for Revillon Furs, the oldest fur company in the world, when he and Mme. Revillon visited Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, at the time, a really big deal!
From the day Loulou walked into the House of Saint Laurent, in a prim suit, not the bohemian attire we are used to seeing on her, she never left his side. She was muse, advisor, confidant, sounding board, she did the hair and makeup for the shows and choose all the accessories. She was indispensable to Yves and the House of Saint Laurent until Yves death.
The three photos not in the Book but found on Pinterest no photo credit available.
The first photo in the book….there are many photos and sketches but probably not as many as you will expect, this isn’t a picture book after all, rather a riveting accounting of a life filled to the brim with the twists and turns of living ones own life while living, for years, in the shadow of a major superstar designer.
Tha back cover of this beyond amazing account of a unique talent who collaborated with arguably one of the most influential designers ever. His style in creating clothing and interiors has not been equaled and his confidence in Loulou’s creativity and advice is unparalleled in the demanding fickle world we call fashion!