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Model, inspiration and third-generation wonder-woman Loulou de la Falaise

May 26, 2023

Louise Vava Lucia Henriette Le Bailly de La Falaise, known as Loulou de la Falaise, was Yves Saint Laurent’s best friend, “muse” (a term she rejected), model and co-creator. Those that knew the pair said that his work would not have the unique impact it did without her influence. She was also a jewellery, clothing and accessory designer, and one of the coolest women in 1970’s Paris.


Loulou de la Falaise was born on the 4 May 1947. Her grandmother was the unique character Lady Rhoda Birley, an eccentric Irish beauty who had travelled to India in her 20s and come back with saris and jodhpurs, and her travels in Mexico gave her piles of petticoats and multiple beaded necklaces, all of which she layered together. In a quick switch, she also dressed in Balenciaga couture, which she wore while cooking for dinner parties which might include Cecil Beaton, John Gielgud of Oliver Messel. She was married to Sir Oswald Birley.

LouLou de la Falaise’s mother, the party girl Maxime de la Falaise

A book about LouLou. Image via Flickr.

A book about LouLou. Image via Flickr.

LouLou’s mother was Maxime de la Falaise, a very famous and beautiful French model, furniture and rug designer, and inveterate party girl. She married Alain de la Falaise, a French aristocrat who did not think it was respectable to work. Maxime had affairs with many men, including the dreadful Max Ernst.


It was said that they were a very striking trio, alike in beauty, but Rhoda was the most gorgeous, followed by her daughter, Maxime, and LouLou was just that little bit less beautiful. But perhaps it just depends on your taste.

Born in the Bathtub

Maxime claimed that LouLou was born in the bathtub whilst she did some translation work for a fashion magazine, at cocktail hour. Alain came in and burned little wads of cotton wool soaked in ether under her nose. But other than that helpful gesture, Loulou de la Falaise s mother and father lived separate lives.


She also lead a rather separate life from her children, LouLou and her brother Alexis. After their parent’s divorce, they were put into foster care for a few years, a Maxime was declared an unfit mother and Alain, apparently, didn’t want them. They were sent to boarding school in England when LouLou was seven, and stayed with their aunt, Lady Annabel Birley, during holidays. When that closed down, LouLou was sent to school in Gstaad. She says she adopted a Saint Bernard dog she found in the street, which was difficult to conceal in a girl’s school. One day while out walking it swallowed a tiny poodle whole, the pet of an actress who was left holding just its lead.


The headmaster wanted to send for her mother, but obviously, Maxime wouldn’t have made a good impression. Because of the dog incident and many others, she was asked to leave school. Eventually it was decided she would go to live with her mother in New York. She was 14. She started work in an art gallery. But after 3 interesting years, she was sent back home to live with her grandmother again.

LouLou de la Falaise – Married at 19

In London she was introduced into society, where at the age of 19 she met and married Sir Desmond FitzGerald, a man ten years older than she. He was an assistant keeper at the V&A. In the wedding photos, she looks very, very young, definitely still a teenager. Although she thought of herself, like most teenagers I suppose, as fully formed and very interesting and wild, a guest, Elizabeth Chatwin, described her as “This tiny slender person, sweet but not the least sophisticated. Shy and embarrassed. No sang-froid to be face being looked at by all these strangers.”


Her wedding dress was unconventional. Put together by Maxime, it featured the skirt of a 19th century wedding dress, which was fragile and although re-sewn eventually fell apart during the ceremony. This was complemented by an Irish lace top, also vintage and in exactly the same cream colour. A broad sash nipped in the waist. The long lace veil was suspended from a tiny pearl hat like a little crown, especially made in Paris. The veil was worn very oddly, pinned at the back of the head but brought forward over the shoulders, like a shawl, giving the effect of an Indian head shawl. Maxime also ordered a huge trousseau of new outfits for her in Paris couture houses, including day , cocktail and ball dresses, suits, slacks and sweaters and lots of shoes. A whole wardrobe, in fact.


But Loulou de la Falaise was very bored with the life in Ireland that Fitzgerald gave her. It was extremely formal. She started a cottage industry, and designed knitwear that was made in the stables of a nearby stately home by local farm ladies. It was sold at New York department stores. Jaqeline Kennedy bought some. She also worked at Queen magazine, where, alongside the other staff, she took tonnes of drugs and partied a lot.


After just a year, she left the magazine, and her husband, too. She moved to Paris, and then New York, where she met and started working with Yves Saint Laurent. She took the city by storm, and became one of Andy Warhol’s crowd.

LouLou de la Falaise – Remarriage in a great outfit

LouLou’s second marriage was in 1977, to Thadée Klossowski de Rola. Friends said they weren’t very suited and he was quite a boring man, and it was all a rebound from a failed love affair of LouLou’s. In any case, this wedding outfit was marvellous. She wore a loosely wrapped white turban, with apricot feathers rising from it. This was adorned with a pearl pin and a huge diamond brooch and had red tassels dangling. She added red lipstick, ropes of white beads on top of a white embroidered blouse with more tassels. Around her waist was a broad red sash belt with a rope tasseled belt atop. She also wore calf-length knickerbockers and dainty high heeled gold sandals. It didn’t look like a mish-mash but very stylish. Her husband wore a white suit, white shirt, white satin tie and white shoes. Maxime wore an antique Creole nightshirt.


LouLou de la Falaise had always designed clothes, fabrics, jewellery and accessories, both fro her own businesses and others. She also opened boutiques in her own name.

She had one child, Anna Klossowski de Rola, with Thadée Klossowski de Rola.

LouLou de la Falais died in 2011, after a long illness.