Loulou met Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1968 at Sánchez’s Paris apartment and was instantly pulled into the clan. She seemed to cheer up and unshackle Saint Laurent; a few years before, he had created a comic book called La Vilaine Lulu, starring a stubby uniformed schoolgirl who was his criminal id run wild. Loulou, who was no criminal, served as his Lulu.
In 1972, Loulou was perhaps the first person ever hired as a muse, when Bergé brought her in to work alongside Saint Laurent. She clocked in at the couture house every day and watched as Saint Laurent designed. She reacted, added, and decorated: Together they conspired to make fashion. Saint Laurent had already found his own harmonic secret to proportions, one that he would repeat in endless subtle variations for the next 40 years. Loulou added the spice and the fun, but she was also attentive, subservient, and cautious: a wild girl behaving in class. Her ebullience was the opposite of Saint Laurent’s tortured, guilt-ridden introversion, but when it came to the potent thrill of colors and shapes, hashish and champagne, they were in agreement. Pink, orange, purple, turquoise: “The colors of Algeria,” said the fashion critics. Necklaces with stones as big as armchairs or hung with entire coral reefs, bracelets up to the shoulders, monster cuffs at the wrists, turbans, boaters, sashes. “Accessories,” said the fashion critics. All of these things were noise makers, confetti, and streamers—applied to the most calibrated and measured tailoring ever devised.
I remember Loulou in full, radiant bloom at a party given by the interior designer John Stefanidis in London in 1972. She was staying with him and came down the stairs laughing in a mint green taffeta dress with a ruffle. She crackled with happiness, and it wasn’t only because of the strict, tart cocktail she’d invented, grapefruit juice and champagne. “Smile, laugh, and say nice things about people. It brings good luck,” she said that night. Once she was in a room, it felt like an intoxicating party that would leave no hangover.
Along with her taste, Loulou’s gift was légèreté, a refusal to accept gravity or to take anything seriously, which is something that dour Parisians desperately need to lighten the burden of their rule-bound lives. Her eyes crinkled up when she laughed—and she laughed a lot. She had insouciance, a blindness to consequences that makes evenings more fun, and nonchalance, which doesn’t mean carelessness or casual sloppiness but a deep tolerance of foibles, failings, and sins—including one’s own.
The court around Saint Laurent, presided over by the brilliant and explosive Pierre Bergé, was the most exquisite center of the most exquisite world. While Saint Laurent sketched and suffered, Bergé imposed the laws; Clara Saint, Saint Laurent’s powerful press relations officer, herded the right people together; and an architect’s wife named Charlotte Aillaud gave dinner parties that gathered culture, youth, and Rothschilds around a bar made by François-Xavier Lalanne in the shape of a cat.