TODAY, FEW FASHION MUSES ARE AS ENDURING AND RELEVANT AS BETTY CATROUX HAS BEEN TO THE HOUSE OF SAINT LAURENT. TILL OCT 11, THE BRAND’S MUSEUM IN PARIS HOSTS BETTY CATROUX, YVES SAINT LAURENT: FEMININE SINGULAR, AN EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE BRAZILIAN MODEL. ON DISPLAY: ABOUT 50 OUTFITS THAT ENCAPSULATE THE WAY SHE FASCINATED AND INSPIRED THE MAISON’S FOUNDER FROM THEIR FIRST MEETING IN 1967 UP TILL HIS DEATH, ONLY TO HAVE THE SAME EFFECT ON PRESENT-DAY CREATIVE DIRECTOR ANTHONY VACCARELLO. NOELLE LOH GETS EXCLUSIVE PHOTO ACCESS TO THE VIP DINNER HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH ITS OPENING, WHERE THE LABEL’S NEW MUSES GATHERED TO TOAST THE OG.
From the time they first met at the legendary Parisian nightclub New Jimmy’s in 1967, Betty Catroux (left) was said to have mesmerised Yves Saint Laurent with her masculine-meets-feminine style. It would lead to a lifelong friendship – she called him her soulmate while he described her as his “female double” – as well as some of the brand’s most iconic designs such as the Le Smoking tuxedo and safari jacket, all of which referenced her long, lean silhouette and disaffected cool. Taking the helm eight years after Saint Laurent’s passing, present-day creative director Anthony Vaccarello (right) too has repeatedly found inspiration in the now-75-year-old Catroux. He cast her in the brand’s Fall/Winter 2018 campaign, then revived her preferred mode of wearing tailoring – nude under the jacket, sunglasses, all-black – for the Fall/Winter 2019 collection. For the Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent: Feminine Singular exhibition at the Musee Yves Saint Laurent Paris, he was given carte blanche by Madison Cox – president of the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent that conserves and promotes the brand’s heritage – as curator. Highlights include several pieces from Catroux’s own personal collection that she had donated to the Fondation. Word is that the blonde dislikes being called a muse. How then to describe her behind-the-scenes influence on the house? Vaccarello sums it up: “She lives and breathes Saint Laurent – an allure, a mystery, an almost nefarious aspect, an elusive yet desirable nature, all that underlies the house’s aura. You understand the magnitude of it when you meet Betty.”
A close friend of Anthony Vaccarello’s for nearly a decade, Polish supermodel Anja Rubik has also become a muse figure of sorts at Saint Laurent, walking in nearly every show since Vaccarello’s Spring/Summer 2017 debut, fronting multiple campaigns and even having her Polaroid printed onto a T-shirt created specially for the opening of the brand’s Rive Droite store in Paris last year. It’s anyone’s guess if the brand’s sexy staple, the Anja pumps, was named after her.
(Clockwise from bottom left) Diane von Furstenberg warmly embraces Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Saint Laurent’s parent company Kering. Saint Laurent runway regular Kaia Gerber (and possibly whom the brand’s Kaia satchel was named after) all smiles with Rami Malek, face of the brand’s menswear this season. Another millennial supermodel who’s become synonymous with the brand during Vaccarello’s tenure: the implausibly cool Freja Beha Erichsen. Catroux with French style icon and fellow proponent of tuxedos made effortless, Charlotte Gainsbourg. The model-turned-documentarian Farida Khelfa, lauded fashion muse since the ’80s. Vaccarello with supermodel Amber Valletta, who celebrated 30 years in the business last year with a Saint Laurent party. Hailey Bieber and Charlotte Casiraghi (on Vaccarello’s right respectively) join the SL glam squad. The stars of the night: Catroux and Vaccarello.
Portrait of Betty Catroux & Anthony Vaccarello David Sims All other photos Courtesy of Saint Laurent