Yves Saint Laurent once described Loulou de la Falaise as "charm, poetry, excess, extravagance, and elegance, all in one blow." Right now the embodiment of that potent mix is on the second floor of her Paris boutique, fussing with the sleeves of a bomber jacket made from black tulle and trimmed in thin velvet ribbon. The piece, worn as easily over an evening dress as with a pair of jeans, is typical of De la Falaise's entire approach to fashion: "I hate being dictated to, so I don't boss people around," says the former model, director of Yves Saint Laurent's accessories and jewelry line, and the designer's longtime muse.
But beware such a seemingly laissez-faire approach. De la Falaise's signature is everywhere in this her first store, which opened last February on Rue de Bourgogne, a stylish little street in the heart of the Left Bank. "I wanted a Chinese influence," says De la Falaise, reclining in a deep-red velvet couch, her feet resting on an orange lacquered table. "But then I went to Egypt last December and I loved that too. Everything got a little mixed up." Cross-cultural surroundings clearly make De la Falaise feel at home. She said she wanted her first shop to feel like "an English house in the heart of Paris," which makes sense when you consider that she was born in Sussex and raised in France. Equally fitting, given De la Falaise's well-documented travels to every corner of the globe, is the setting in which that vision came to life: a three-story townhouse, the former site of La Bibliothèque des Expatries. "People used to come here to read the Polish papers," she says.
De la Falaise's style itself is très international. Take for example her way of pairing a tribal-style African necklace with a crisp white shirt; switching from English to French (and back) in a single sentence, pulling off a turban at her wedding party thrown by Yves himself, or mingling with the haute-couture crowd before partying into the night with her friends, the Rolling Stones. Her trademark chic is now stateside; Bergdorf Goodman shows her collection (including a sampling of her popular silk kimono-inspired blouses) on its fourth floor, alongside Valentino, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta.
The Paris shop was designed by her brother, decorator Alexis de la Falaise. Done up in blues and reds accented with gilded chandeliers and antique Asian armoires, it showcases neat racks of tweed mini kilts ($965), fitted jackets with frayed cuffs ($1,355), and suede drawstring purses ($590). There are also red lacquer cases brimming with bangles carved from African wood, an amethyst-and-turquoise necklace from China, and a scarf from Cambodia. A winding staircase leads clients like Bernadette Chirac, Catherine Deneuve, Deeda Blair, and Nan Kempner to the salon-like second floor, where they're free to browse the racks of eveningwear and stacks of plush cashmere sweaters, or just have coffee. This fall she even dedicated a small area of this most decidedly feminine store to cashmere sweaters ($345-$460) and a leather-and-velvet travel bag for men ($360).
"No one should feel shy when they come in here," says De la Falaise. "No one is going to leap on you—you can just walk through and not buy anything." But who could resist just one perfect little something: maybe the chocolate-brown and black-velvet evening dress lined in shocking lime silk ($1,950); or the velour paisley pants with buttons running down the legs ($975), which would go so nicely with the silver silk shirt with frayed cuffs and collar ($910). In addition to the ready-to-wear collection, there is a small couture line of women's suits and fur coats.
Perhaps the only thing that you won't find much of in this treasure trove is basic black. De la Falaise's cashmere sweaters come in hot pink, deep purple, green, and blue, as well as a few slightly more subdued browns and grays (from $460). Her Scotty satchel ($750) is designed from a rich red, dusty blue, and brown tartan, while the Fox shoulder bag ($1,030) is a deep burgundy. And then there's the jewelry that sparkles with a myriad of gold, amethyst, lapis lazuli, gray pearls, and jade. Among her current favorites are brooches designed after a salamander ($665) and a thistle ($600). "Look at my little beast," says De la Falaise, pointing to the salamander. "I'm slowly building a menagerie. Life can be so charmless, these fun pieces add a bit of joy."
At 7 Rue de Bourgogne, Paris; 33-1-45-51-42-32. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Sundays.