Beautiful People, Sublime Couture

Anaïs Romand’s costumes for Saint Laurent

When she took on the role of costume designer for Bertrand Bonello’s biopic, Saint Laurent, Anaïs Romand was dismayed to learn that the late couturier’s estate had refused permission for her to use the vintage clothes locked away in the Yves Saint Laurent museum archive. Instead, it had given its blessing to the other Saint Laurent film which, most unusually, was being shot in France in the same year. Apart from the welcome help she received from private collector Oliver Châtenet, the rest she had to create from scratch. It meant using public archives and photographs, scavenging flea markets, sewing bits of antique cloth together—and even painting fabric to achieve particular colors. But, as the old phrase goes: ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, and it ended up giving her greater freedom to stretch and drape and let the actors truly live in their costumes as though they were actually alive in that era. Had they been wearing valuable Yves Saint Laurent originals, they would never have been able to do this. Deservedly, in tribute to her extraordinary skills, France honored Ms. Roman with a César (French equivalent of an Oscar) this year.Anaïs Romand’s costumes for Saint Laurent

Terrific film! How would you describe Loulou de la Falaise’s role—her style, her influence on Yves Saint Laurent’s work, and who she was? 
Everyone regarded her as a sort of muse. I think she was an inspiration for him. She suggested ideas that he’d approve—they worked well together. She highlighted the importance of accessorizing outfits, introducing a certain freedom in mixing things the way she did. But in the film, it was portrayed entirely differently: Léa Seydoux is an actress, and very different from Loulou de la Falaise: Loulou was androgynous, whereas Léa is extremely feminine, with hips and breasts and a narrow waist. Often it’s slender women who wear lots of accessories. I had to create Loulou’s style on a totally different body, so I put the accent on fabrics with beautiful colors and prints, and mixed Forties-style period pieces that looked like she had found them in a flea market. I included some impressive jewelry, but not too much—you can’t put all that jewelry on a woman who has breasts. Loulou de la Falaise could do that; Diana Vreeland could do that—they were tall and thin. So I had to find a careful balance.

Anaïs Romand’S costumes for Saint LaurentThere’s a moment when she’s telling Yves the story behind each piece of clothing and jewelry. These inspire him and make him think. Tell us about one prominent element of her look—the turban, and its history in Western fashion. 
The turban arrived in France in the Thirties and became very fashionable during the Occupation. It was difficult for women to be elegant during the war years without access to hair salons or hair products. Draping beautiful fabrics around their heads replaced a good hairstyle. Turbans appeared in Saint Laurent’s work in his scandalous Spring/Summer 1971 collection, which recalled the fashion of the Forties during the Occupation. As for Loulou, I don’t know exactly where she found turbans, but she traveled a lot, including in North Africa, and she didn’t have easy, glamorous hair, so the gypsy look would have been a convenient ‘hairstyle’ for her. I think all the turbans in the Opéra Les Ballets Russes collection were clearly inspired by Orientalism, which was really fashionable in the Seventies, and which she adored.
Anaïs Romand’S costumes for Saint Laurent
Anaïs Romand’S costumes for Saint LaurentBesides Morocco and Russia, what other country would you say inspired Loulou?
I think she was more inspired by culture. She came from an educated background, with access to museums and paintings, and she was curious about everything. She found inspiration in everything that was beautiful and suited her—she just grabbed it and used it. She also had this talent of being able to mix things from different cultures and unify them. 

I think African designers also have a knack for mixing things up in an interesting way. They fearlessly combine elements from their own cultures with influences from Western culture, as well. There’s an interesting exhibition in Paris called Fashion Mix—it’s mostly designers from Africa, and it’s much bolder than anything you see in magazines or shop windows, where everything seems to be copied from something else. Street fashion is much more interesting.