PEET DULLAERT presents MUSES WITH EXTRAORDINARY LIVES
ZULEIKA PONSEN , LINDA SPIERINGS , JOSEPHINE COLSEN , REBECCA AYOKO wearing PEET DULLAERT Spring Summer 2013.
“It is not so much about age, or the trend topic of models and women that are of a different age then the usual. It is about women in fashion that have achieved so much! That inspire so much! Their stories, their devotion, their support and their love.
Their repertoire is impressive, their dedication to their work eternal. As are they. These women are to be remembered forever” – Peet Dullaert
Photography: Meinke Klein
Styling: Peet Dullaert
Hair and Make-up: Chiao Li Hsu, Jennifer Mackintosh and Harie von Wijnberge
Interviews: Peet Dullaert
Text: Melanie Bomans
With a special thanks to Wayne Sterling
For years iconic Zuleika Ponsen worked side by side as Muse and designer for Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaïa; giving advice and helping to create their heritage. As a close friend to the artists Pierre et Gilles, she is renowned for her everlasting avant-garde appearance in their work.
At the start of it all, you were there for both Thierry Mugler and later Azzedine Alaïa..
From the start indeed, it was wonderful to work with them. Long before all that, I started a shop in The Hague with Puck, a dear friend. ‘The Battle of the Beaux and the Belles’ we named the shop after an Aubrey Beardsley drawing. After I left for Paris, the shop became the famous Puck & Hans fashion store in Amsterdam.
I actually started my modeling career by surprise: The first casting I ever had was with Helmut Newton, I was very lucky and I didn’t have so much experience back then. I was 23 years old. Then Thierry Mugler and I met when I was modeling in a fashion show. He was intrigued by a dress that was hanging backstage: I had made that dress myself. He said, ‘WOW, Who made that dress? After that day he asked me to come and work with him. We worked together for his very first show that he presented in the Grand Palais. It was a very exciting time!
After many of years of success with Mugler I started to work with Alaïa. As you know Alaïa is a great technician and I learnt a lot from him. He was always doing the fittings on me; we worked nights on remarkable pieces together. Hard work but it was a lot of fun!
Did you ever consider starting a company yourself?
Yes I thought of that, but when Azzedine Alaïa asked me to start his brand with him, I was very pleased to do so.
Modeling runs a bit in the family, right?
Yes it does! My daughter Roussia was a model in the 90s! I remember her telling me someone had a Pierre et Gilles picture as inspiration for a show she did, he wanted everyone to look like that, Roussia said to the designer “Zuleika is my mother you know!”.
How was it to work with Pierre et Gilles?
I am very happy that I did so many pictures with them, they are great artists, they have a very strong vision of what they want and are very perfectionist which I am too so we get along very well.
Linda Spierings: a woman with a remarkable character and a revolutionary face. Embarking on her career in the 80s, she worked with many notable photographers; amongst them Irving Penn, who bestowed upon her the personal nickname of ‘Radar’. On top of that, Linda was the face of the first ever Comme des Garçons campaign.
You were actually studying Special Education..
Indeed! But I was always fascinated by how other people looked. At that time I had never walked on heels before! Maybe it was very interesting that I wasn’t so much aware of how I looked. If I didn’t work in fashion, I would have worked with children. I am still sometimes volunteering. Becoming a fashion model was very much by chance. I did a few shows in Amsterdam, then a dear friend, Frans Ankoné, asked me to work with him. Afterwards I was asked to come to Paris for the shows. I did 15 shows that first season.
What a wonderful first season!
Yes it was! I remember it was fun at Karl Lagerfeld; a lucid mind he is, with such humour! Mr. Lagerfeld said to me: “You know Linda, all the girls in the show are having a short haircut, so are you willing to cut your hair?” I looked at his long hair and responded: “No problem Mister Lagerfeld, I’ll cut my hair if you cut yours”. We had to laugh so much; he decided I was the only girl in the show with long hair.
Your look was very new for the 80s right?
The beauty ideal was indeed very different then. There were blondes and brunettes, very European, sometimes a black model, but even back than that was still very difficult. My look was very much in between; people didn’t really know what to do with me. The first photographer I worked with was Peter Lindbergh. He didn’t really like my book so he asked me to work with him. With Peter I also did the first Comme des Garçons campaign in 1982.
Wasn’t that interesting? It was the start of a very different time!
At the end of the 70s and early 80s, there were dresses with big shoulder-pads, big hairdos and lots of make-up. Then things were starting to change. Less to no make-up, dresses close to the body (like Alaïa) or the grunge style of Comme des Garçons. It was exciting to be part of this change.
How was it to work on set?
I remember my first job for Vogue very well. It was with Polly Mellen and Irving Penn. I was twenty years old. Polly; all that energy, leaving nothing to chance. Irving Penn was an artist with more than the one talent, like many other talented people, I must say. He spoke with a very soft voice and always asked his assistants to tell the models how he wanted them to pose. It was all about details. I was always able to hear him so I’d change my hand before the assistant reached me, that’s why he nicknamed me: Radar.
Can you say fashion changed your life?
Becoming a model turned my life around 180 degrees. Fashion itself has not changed me so much. What changed is the way I am looking at myself now; how I look in a picture, how the images surprise me afterwards. It is the amazing cross-pollination I’ve experienced. The people I have met, the journeys I’ve been on. The ones that are still my friends today.
Why did you actually join this project?
I looked at the clothes, I thought; he dares to make a statement. For me it is not about having a great image of myself, I just really liked to join! It was the same for Azzedine, I also didn’t know how it would develop. To see the clothes, that was enough. I believe support is very important. Over the years I got a lot of support myself and sometimes, when you believe in something, you need to give it back.
Josephine Colsen worked for years in the fashion industry and textile industry, amongst others for the house of Yves Saint Laurent. Years later Josephine devoted herself as a teacher for young designers at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Today, she dedicates herself to her eponymous jewelry line. Josephine remains a true inspiration from up close.
What was your first fashion experience?
I was about 4 or 5 years old when I started to design my own shoes and dresses. I also remember trying to make long hair with a scarf.
The feeling of a material and of clothes has always fascinated me and it still does! But especially how clothes make you feel. I remember an assignment I gave the students once, it was about a sense of chic, and it was the only time I used that word during school. For me, chic is a word I believe someone can only use when you know its true meaning.
We can say clothes are very much about experience and development right?
Yes. When I grew older the idea of development in fashion kept me experimenting with material. Sometimes I tried to change my shoes! I took a shape or a special material and glued or tied it underneath my shoes. I tried to change things, but it always had to stay close to my personal sense. Material in that way has always been very interesting for me!
Can your explain a bit more about your vision?
I always try to approach things with a new perspective. Developing a prototype directly with material to experiment with shape and experience proportions is my way of working. I think it is really important to try and realise a design in the true material. For me it is very important that ratio and intuition are in balance during the design process.
Did you find it hard to give your opinion to the students?
Never, while teaching I was always honest towards the students. If I saw something I didn’t like, I told them; it didn’t matter who he or she was or how good or bad they were. Not everyone could take that you know, but then again the process to a great product is never so easy. You need to go through all kinds of phases.
What would you advise the younger generation of designers to keep in mind?
Personally, I find it very important that clothes are easy to wear, that they make you feel comfortable.
Conclusion; making good, interesting and innovative fashion designs, that are not too difficult to wear, is very difficult.
‘Quand les etoiles deviennent noir’, is the title of Rebecca Ayoko’s recently launched book. It very well expresses the start of her remarkable career, working as a haute couture model for Yves Saint Laurent. For years she has been at his side, in the studio and on the runway. Rebecca has worked with many great minds; from Geoffrey Beene to Guy Bourdin.
‘Quand les etoiles deviennent noir'; when the stars turned black…
You know the title of the book comes from an Yves Saint Laurent dress. I very well remember posing for him, he draped a dress directly on me; I was always in the studio back then. It was a velvet, velours rasé, silk, very light! And very shiny! The light of the studio on that dress, that shining, he loved it! It was a beautiful dress.
It was the beginning of modern fashion. For me, even today, it feels like an honour to have been there with Yves Saint Laurent. He was a genius and he understood what women loved very well! When I first came into the studio they put me on heels. I was so afraid that I would fall, I remember saying something like, “oh but in Africa we do not walk on that”. We all had to laugh of course; I felt like a little giraffe that was just born.
What happened after Yves Saint Laurent?
I moved to New York because all of the designers there wanted to book me for their shows. I did Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta and many others. I worked a lot with American designers then!
And then the magazines started to call?
I remember working with Helmut Newton for Vogue, it was on location, very close to this studio! Newton was very talented. He once took a picture of me walking behind the Assemblée Nationale, École Militaire here in Paris. He photographed the soldier walking there! It was great to see him interact with real people in the pictures.
What role does fashion play in your life?
For me it is heritage.
And how do you feel about the future?
Over the years I have experienced so much, I have worked with so many people that helped to create the industry, seen so many people come and go. You know, I wanted to be part of this project because I love to see new designers, to see the future, and also, I love to have a nice picture! [laughter]