Last year, a cafe called Catroux opened in Auckland. The name had only recently come into my consciousness, through reading a book I got for my birthday - The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake.
The book chronicles the lives of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld from their childhoods and how they entered the fashion industry in Paris in the 50's and beyond. I guess I had seen the name pop up here and there in the past, but didn't know who it was. I had heard of Loulou de la Falaise, the Bohemian aristocratic model & designer who sadly passed away at 63 earlier this year through her model niece Lucie and muse status, but not her cohort Betty. I'm up to the part about the young YSL and Karl, and YSL's relationship and subsequent heavy reliance on Svengali-esque boyfriend Pierre Bergé. I love reading about the painfully shy Yves, Betty and Loulou, gallivanting about the Left Bank, Marrakesh, London and New York with gay abandon, sipping cocktails and generally being fabulous.
Betty, Yves and LoulouBetty was working part time in an art gallery on the Boulevard Saint Germain. As chronicled in The Beautiful Fall "she looked like a deviant schoolgirl with high black socks, and short black mini." Yves St Laurent first laid eyes on Betty Cattroux in 1967 at Régine's, a gay nightclub in Paris. "Seated at the table of Régine's nightclub was a young woman...in her hand was a burning cigarette, on her face was the gloss of beauty and ennui." Betty was tall, thin, lithe, bleached blonde - just like him. YSL loved her legs "just what I love. Long long long." Betty says it was a "physical attraction" to her. I think he saw a kindred spirit. "Yves picked me up in a nightclub!” she recalls. “It was coup de foudre when we met, and we never left each other. After that we only lived for fun, two of us against the world. We hated normal life!” The two, along with Loulou, became fast friends. "He wanted me to work for him straight away" say Betty. "He decided that I was for him, he ran after me, he harassed me, he tied me up, he wanted to posses me and I ended up doing one collection with him. I realise that in fact we were very similar." We loved too much to drink, we loved everything bad - even our sense of humour was the same. Betty's flatmate at the time, Jean-Pascal Billaud describes her as "the best dressed girl in Paris. She already had her own defined look and an attitude of provocateur. She was always extremely modern.' She was a debutante with an anti-debutante attitude. She drank Crème de menthe and swore she was drunk on the second glass; she flirted with girls and was chased by boys. There was something deliberately ambivalent about Betty." I love this series of famous pictures of the 3 musketeers in 1978, looking louche & ready for mischief at YSL's home.
Betty and Loulou with Kate Moss.
Betty Catroux and YSL portrait
Betty photographed for French Vogue by Tom Ford
Betty & Tom
Betty front rowNot only does Betty have the looks and style but that flirty, impish yet smoldering sexy personality to go with it - an unbeatable combination. It is easy to see how this incredible woman enraptured two of fashion's greats, Yves Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane and Tom Ford (below). Her sexy yet masculine style is often emulated, with Tom Ford dedicating his entire debut YSL Rive Gauche collection to her.
Tom Ford for Rive Gauche, 2001
More Betty inspired looks:
Andrej Pejic for Jean Paul Gaultier Andrej Pejic by Mert and Marcus Kate Moss Abbey Lee Kershaw Daphne Groeneveld
YSL called Betty his "twin sister". To this day Betty wears only YSL, and toasts a painting of him by Andy Warhol every night. It was given to her by Pierre Bergé, the man it took her 30 years to become friends with (pictured with Betty below).
I love this pic of effortlessly cool Betty now, lounging with her husband François at their home in front of a giant 1995 portrait of Betty by Philippe de Lustrac. Below is an interview with Pierre Bergé and Betty from Fashion TV.