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What is a Muse in Fashion?

September 11, 2019

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The dictionary definition of a muse is, “A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.” However, in the fashion industry, it’s much more than that.

Many designers use multiple muses for inspiration, but there is almost always one SPECIFIC MUSE that originally inspired the designer to become the creative artist they are today. A muse helps talented people to grow so we’ve decided to look at four fashion designers and the muses that inspired them.

YVES SAINT LAURENT AND BETTY CATROUX

I believe I heard the word “muse” used for the first time with this duo – and I was fascinated. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum had the first retrospective of a living couturier’s work in the eighties. The exhibit, which was organized by Diana Vreeland, gave an insight into how incredibly talented St. Laurent was.

When he became popular worldwide there was a great deal of publicity about the ideal female who inspired him. She was described as “always a cool girl who was an individual, bohemian, a striking beauty and never afraid to challenge conventional attitudes – a free-thinker.” I am aware of two for St. Laurent: Catherine Denueve and Betty Catroux. I’ve only seen one of these ladies – Denueve – and she is beyond beautiful. I saw her in Bloomingdale’s and I literally stopped in my tracks (as I desperately tried to be as discreet as possible).

As far as Betty Catroux is concerned she was not only St. Laurent’s muse, she was someone he could “let his hair down with” and really enjoy himself. She is blonde, six ft. tall and “model slim” with a famous interior designer husband, two children, grandchildren and cats. “We love our cats,” says François Catroux with a sly grin.   

HUBERT DE GIVENCHY AND AUDREY HEPBURN

Both of these stellar talents are gone now but it’s a well-known fact that they were very close. He designed entire collections inspired by this talented and extremely slim actress. I once talked to friend who told me that early in his career he worked as a waiter at very fancy, black-tie dinners. Audrey Hepburn was at one of them and this is what she ate: one cooked string bean and one cup of black coffee – as everyone around her ate an entire meal she simply talked to the guests. My friend never forgot this.

MARC JACOBS AND SOFIA COPPOLA

Jacobs is very effusive when he talks about Coppola.

“I met Sofia just after I showed my grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 1992. She was one of the few who saw something special and related to what I was doing at that time. She wanted to meet me and when we did it was love at first sight for me!”

“Not only was I attracted to how she looked, her sense of style, I was drawn to her manner, her behavior, her life, her ambitions and creativity. She represented everything I am drawn to – talent, style, creativity, a unique ‘vision and voice.’ She had then and has now an interest in fashion – not as an art – but as a part of the ‘art of living.’

This sounds like the perfect matchup of a designer and his muse.

MOSCHINO’S JEREMY SCOTT AND KATY PERRY

In an interview with the New York Post, 5/6/19 Scott says, “Katy was a fan of mine. She came up to me at a fan event before her first album came out and told me she loved my work.” In the 10 years since then Scott has created wildly whimsical looks for Perry. When the 2019 Met Gala was named Campy Notes on Fashion, Katy said to the designer, “Oh my God, can you believe it? It’s all about you!” He recalled this moment with a laugh.

Katy Perry and Jeremy Scott at the Met Gala, 2015 – photo courtesy of the New York Post, 5/6/19

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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