Lou Lou de la Falaise, Willy and Yves St Laurent doing a fitting for a show, 1974.
Editors note - I decided that it would be fun to interview all the various people that write here on Shrimpton Couture's Curate and also work behind the scenes to bring you all the amazing content and Vintage Couture that you see posted daily on our sites. I asked Maria to set up interviews with everyone (and then I will turn the tables on her at some point). We decided to break each interview into two sets of questions - the first set is a more focused and in-depth look at each member of our team and then the second set quick round that will be asked of everyone. Today we meet Willy ....
More often than not, the role of a muse is an abstraction. To inspire is to exist in a pure and natural state, untangled from the nebulous angst of the creative process. But every now and then, a bright light shines so warmly that the lines between designer and inspiration beautifully blur. So it was that Willy van Rooy, darling of Helmut Newton, muse to Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, stepped off the runway and into the atelier, designing accessories for the top designers in Paris. That the transition was seamless is a testament to her spirit, to say nothing of the fact that her evolution was took place before the age of the celebrity fashion line. The Dutch beauty is the antithesis of the age branding – authentic, earthy and warm.
Is there anything about your Dutch Heritage that shaped your success?
Not that I can think of but we do have great looking model girls in my country, Doutzen, Lara, Marpessa, Apollonia to mention a few....
What was the most impactful foreign destination you ever visited?
Nepal in 1962, you can't imagine
What was your favorite modeling job?
It’s difficult to say but I think “The Canadian World Fair” with Helmut Newton, which was 16 pages, the cover for French Elle (shown below), and one of my first jobs. The editorial team at Elle did not agree I was going to be the only model, what if.... but Helmut insisted because he believed in me. Love that series.
Some of my favorite images of you are with your children. How has being a mother shaped your life?
I don't know how, but it did shape my life, as I myself was motherless from the age of four. It became the most important thing in my life.
How did you transition from modeling to designing? What drew you to accessories?
Well I always designed, even when I was modeling. I always made my own clothes, and clothes for my husband and sometimes for the kids. I began designing for YSL and Lagerfeld because I knew them and they knew me. The fact that I was designing accessories is because the designers themselves made the collection but loved to have help and inspiration for the fabric prints, the jewelry, bags and shoes etc. I did make my own line of shoes for ten years, and I chose shoes because I had a real weakness for them, and because it was the only thing I could not really make myself.
What was the most remarkable item you designed?
My Tunique Unique
Please share your tips on how to look good in a photograph.
Best picture by Helmut Newton?
Difficult to choose (Willy shared the photo below on the right is one of her favourites)
If you had not been a model or designer, what would you have been?
We would never know. It is what it is.
(L) Willy's favourite modelling job - “The Canadian World Fair”, French Elle, Photos by Helmut Newton. (R) One of Willy's favourite photos by Helmut Newton.
Where are you from?
What’s the story of your name?
My particular name has none, simply Willy, not Wilhelmina after the then Queen.
What is the first thing you notice about people?
Best day of your life?
The birth of my babies
What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite flower?
Sweet pea flower
Who/what is your greatest love?
Smoking a good joint
Meeting my husband
What would you wear to your last meal?
A golden Tunique Unique, red and golden sandals with platform and some extra ordinary jewels
What’s your favorite era of dress?
1930's I think but like things in all the times
What is your favorite beauty moment?
Painting my lips
What trick do you use to dress best for yourself?
Make my own
What is your favorite material?
Silk and leather
If you could organize one gathering, what would it be? What is the setting, what is the music, what is the food, who are the guests?
An old castle in the South of France, mixed music from Bach to Tupac, passing by Bob Dylan and Billy Holiday, Caviar and Blinis, freshly caught salmon prepared in different manners, Sushi from a Sushi master, potatoes of all kinds, all green veggies and Strawberry shortcake with rose petals and whipped cream for desert and lastly after a good joint a creme brulee. Let's not forget the champagne. Cheers to all my guests, which are all friends I met through the years and close family too.
If you could attend one event of the past, what would it be?
Please pick three items from Shrimpton that you love and tell us why.
1. S/S 2002 Dance of the twisted bull dress - MCQUEEN. Looks so comfortable and soft and... it is a MCQUEEN.
2. 1968 William de Lillo prototype sample necklace - Is so beautiful and special, one of a kind handmade. Good collectors item.
3. 1970s Couture Galanos Dramatic silk gown - That is something I can wear everyday on any occasion, anywhere- love it.
And finally … Karl or Yves?