For decades, fashion designers have worked with celebrities who, like shooting stars, held our collective eye and bewitched us with their twinkle. Thanks to these kindred creatures, the couturiers have found invaluable exposure, all the while pushing forward a billion-dollar industry. "The celebrity always lends a certain amount of presence and cache to the brand," said Patrick Michael Hughes, a fashion historian and professor at Parsons School of Design. What the stars get out of this symbiotic relationship isn't just couture in exchange for publicity; they often have the power to ignite the imagination and light the fire of the creative force.
Hubert de Givenchy first met Audrey Hepburn on the set of Sabrina in 1953, when he created her wardrobe under the legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head. The film won an Academy Award for best costume design, yet Givenchy did not receive any of the credit. Still, Hepburn demanded that he dress her in every film thereafter—and he did, which marked the start of one of the first and most symbolic of all muse-designer relationships.
"She was ravishing," Givenchy told The Wall Street Journal. "But she was dressed in a way that surprised me: small pants, ballerina flats. I asked myself, 'Who is this young lady?' We liked each other immediately."
Their friendship carried on through the decades. Givenchy dressed the actress in several films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), in which Hepburn wore her iconic black dress, unequivocally redefining the idea of chic dressing. When she became involved in humanitarian work with UNICEF, Givenchy continued dressing his muse for events and speaking engagements. Shortly before Hepburn passed away in 1993, she gifted the designer with 25 of the dresses he'd made for her. Eventually, all were donated to museums around the world.
In Paris, Yves Saint Laurent was terribly smitten with a model of the moment Betty Catroux, but it was Loulou de la Falaise, who became his sartorial match. Known as an early-1960s party girl, de la Falaise would show up all over town in bright scarves, edgy hot pants and bohemian accessories. Soon, the trendsetter's inimitable style caught Saint Laurent's eye.
"It was, at that time, what we called the 'swinging London,' and Loulou was the perfect example of that movement," Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's partner, recently told Harper's Bazaar. "We both loved her immediately." The duo was so in sync that Saint Laurent named de la Falaise the fashion consigliere of his House; she oversaw a range of products, from couture hats to the Variations line. "Yves had no muse around him," Berge explained. "Loulou worked beside Yves, with him. And it was important to Yves to have her there because they spoke the same language. Whenever they talked about a dress or a person, they understood each other immediately."
With mixed backgrounds, skills and aspirations, there is one thing all muses seem to have in common. "The bottom lineis, they're very glamorous," Hughes explains. "What makes these women stand out to the designer is their connection to a modern aesthetic and a modern sensibility of life."
Loyalty is at the core of the mutual admiration between director Sofia Coppola and designer Marc Jacobs. The two iconoclasts met at a critical point in their respective careers; he had just debuted the grunge look at Perry Ellis, and she was establishing herself as a director in her own right, despite the dynastic halo above her head, thanks to her Hollywood legend father, Francis Ford Coppola.
"In fashion, there is certainly a percentage of people who don't have the loyalty and integrity in a relationship. They're looking over their shoulder. They're being superficial," Jacobs told Harper's Bazaar. "But when you meet people that you genuinely like, and there's authenticity, it lasts, and it's not an effort to maintain a relationship." Today, Jacobs continues to design for some of Coppola's biggest moments, including her 2011 wedding and the night in 2004 when she accepted an Oscar for screenwriting for Lost in Translation. Their collaboration has yielded a beautiful friendship. The designer gave his muse carte blanche to direct the commercial for his Daisy fragrance, and Coppola has modeled in many of Jacobs' fashion campaigns.
Kate Moss needs no introduction. The English supermodel shot to fame when, as a 14 year old, she helped create the "heroine chic" trend of the last millennium. Today she is one of the most enduring faces of our era. Although her unique brand of waifish beauty remains controversial, her business relationship with Burberry is solid as a rock. From Moss' first Burberry campaign in 1999 to her latest--for the fragrance My Burberry, alongside another "It" girl, Cara Delevingne--the Moss/ Burberry partnership has endowed the storied British fashion house (think tartan plaids and Heritage Trench Coats) with an unprecedented cool factor. "When I started to visualize what we wanted to capture for My Burberry, I knew it needed to be iconic, but I also wanted it to be modern," said Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. Moss, a woman from humble beginnings who rose to glamorous new heights, personified this aesthetic. "We decided, 'let's bring Burberry to the people,'" added photographer Mario Testino. "And who was the best person to communicate that? Kate Moss. [She has] that royalty that comes from being, not inherited, but from creating it yourself."
THE NEXT GENERATION
Today, fashion muses, both famous and otherwise, can be seen splashed across the Instagram and Tumblr accounts of major designers. Savvy marketers like Proenza Schouler and Nanette Lepore know how to harness the power of social media to promote their collections and brands, while images of celebrities and supermodels wearing haute couture are tweeted across the globe in a nanosecond. Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between designer and muse is evolving as fast as technology will allow. Seasons and starlets of the moment may come and go, but the magic of sweet inspiration forever remains the same.