“The dress in this  photograph . . . was so well made. You felt like you didn’t wear anything,” recalls Gunilla Lindblad. (Photo: © AGIP / RDA / Everett Collection)
As Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant get ready to show their much-anticipated sophomore collection for the house of Courrèges, we asked Swedish model Gunilla Lindblad to share her experiences of working with the Pau, France-born Space Age designer, who passed away at age 92 this past January.
A muse to Helmut Newton and four-time Vogue cover model, Lindblad was also a face of Courrèges, having been introduced to the house through the designer’s friend, photographer Peter Knapp. Here, six takeaways from Vogue's exclusive interview.
André Courrèges was a mensch.
“They were so nice, he and his wife. They were just wonderful, normal people,” says Lindblad, who describes the designer’s wife, Coqueline, as “his right hand.” Everything in the atelier was “white, white, white,” and Courrèges, Lindblad recalls, “was usually dressed in kind of a space outfit, with his transparent glasses. He was such a gentle man. . . . I think Courrèges had soul; he was very different from Pierre Cardin.”
His style was lady, not mod.
“Courrèges was not really the style of 20-year-old girls. It was very lady—I mean, Jacqueline Kennedy was wearing it. Very chic, you know. Everything was perfectly made, even the prêt-à-porter.”
The designer liked active models.
“We all had to jump, I remember.” The clothes might have been lady, but the way they were presented—to music with models dancing or leaping—totally broke with convention at the time.
Think the candy-colored hair trend is new? Think again.
Courrèges gave more than clothes a rethink: “He was the one starting with the wigs, the light blue and pink and yellow wigs,” says Lindblad. “[Model] girls today don’t even know how lucky they are. I had to bring wigs because I had long hair. I had to bring shoes because I had size 40/41 and the shoes stopped at 39 in France, so they never had shoes in my size. I had to bring . . . jewelry and makeup. And most of the time I had to come with makeup on and hair done, usually my long hair curled, and with false eyelashes [put on] one by one in the morning. We earned our money at the time!”
Courrèges wasn’t a prude.
“I was a little bit intimidated, I think,” says Lindblad, who agreed to pose in a sheer Courrèges minidress for Peter Knapp, although, she says, “I never did anything nude with Helmut [Newton]. He’d always ask me: ‘I’d like to do a nude photograph.’ I’d say, ‘Unh-unh, I don’t want to.’ Finally I [did] end up doing [one]—the other girl was nude, and I was dressed in a tuxedo.”
He embraced diversity.
“[He] used a lot of black girls and also very athletic-looking girls. Not skinny—I mean, they were thin, but not skinny, skinny girls. They were very athletic with good muscles. And not specifically young, young, young. That was the style of Courrèges,” says Lindblad. “I don’t know why he liked me, because you know I didn’t look sporty at all!”
Photographed by Bert Stern, Vogue, March 15, 1969.