Courtesy of Saint Laurent
Earlier today, the French fashion house Saint Laurent released its fall 2018 ad campaign, starring the 70-something Betty Catroux. If her name sounds familiar, you already know why, but for the uninformed millennials among us, it's time to get to know the longtime model—starting with the fact that Yves Saint Laurent himself used to call her his "twin."
Back in his heyday, decades before the word became tiresome enough to make you cringe, Saint Laurent practically invented the concept of a squad, aiding both his house and many of his muses—including Iman and Catherine Deneuve—in becoming household names. Remarkable as they all were, the larger squad was often secondary to Saint Laurent's perfectly paired main duo: Loulou de la Falaise, who worked with Saint Laurent for three decades, and Betty Catroux. (As de la Falaise, who died in 2014, put it to W when reflecting on Saint Laurent's death, in 2008, she'd "always been the gypsy influence," whereas "Betty Catroux was the one who inspired all of his mannish looks.")
Before she was perennially labeled "androgynous," spent decades bleaching her forever-platinum-blonde hair, and grew all the way up to reach six feet, Catroux was born in Brazil, in 1945, and, fittingly enough for someone whom Saint Laurent would eventually call his twin, first named Betty Saint. She soon left the country behind with her mother to join the French bourgeoisie in Paris, where she took up modeling in the early '60s. Then, in 1967, she walked into a "a very, very gay nightclub" in the city and experienced a coup de foudre—which is to say, of course, that she met Saint Laurent.
Whereas Catroux had previously hated modeling so much that when she was still a teen she'd dare to ditch her first employer, who was none other than Coco Chanel, things were clearly different with Saint Laurent; the pair first bonded because they "hated normal life," so they set about leading a lifestyle of nonstop partying and pioneering looks like Le Smoking. In the end, Catroux reflected that she "had a fairytale life with him."
In the decade following the designer's death, that fairytale has felt alive: Since then, names like Aymeline Valade have portrayed Catroux in some of the many films about Saint Laurent, and the model herself made a point to attend Hedi Slimane's first show for the house, and now shows the same support for the brand's current designer, Anthony Vaccarello.
All that's certainly saying something, considering that Catroux has repeatedly insisted she's "not interested in fashion at all." She does, however, love black leather, which could be part of what convinced her to, in her 70s, do her first-ever advertising campaign; two-thirds of the work consisted of simply loving black leather in front of the camera, thanks to Vaccarello's leather-jacket-heavy fall collection.