Annabel Bolton writes..Emilio Pucci called her “Giraffina,” or “baby giraffe”. Oleg Cassini found her “elegant to the point of distraction”. Valentino named her “the last Queen of Paris and Yves Saint Laurent called her “an ivory unicorn”.
Born Jacqueline Bonnin de La Bonninière de Beaumont Paris, 1929, Jacqueline de Ribes made a namesake of herself as an icon of glamour and society in the fashion. Her father, Jean de Beaumont, comte Bonnin de la Bonninière de Beaumont, was a French aristocrat and her mother was a Hemingway translater. Jacqueline’s upbringing, although immersed in the French glamour and wealth, was rumoured to be shadowed by the hardships of war and the emotional detachment from her parents.
And recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art announces that its autumn exhibition will focus on the stylish life of Jacqueline de Ribes. With the titles of aristocrat, designer, fashion-icon, business woman, producer, and philanthropist behind her, this is one ladies life you need to know more of.
She has been the muse of many designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Guy Laroche in her career of creating ready-to-wear collections whose quality is close to that of the high fashion houses, with sophistication and marketing techniques to attract a famous and elegant international clients, such as: Joan Collins, Raquel Welch, Barbara Walters, Baroness von Thyssen, Cher, Danielle Steel, Olympia de Rothschild, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild.
After marrying Vicomte Édouard de Ribes at the young age of 19, she found her independent style working under Oleg Cassini and Pucci. When Jacqueline first landed on Eleanor Lambert’s Best-Dressed List in 1956, she only had a handful of couture gowns to her name. By 1962, she was inducted into the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame. This became Ribes starting point for friends and working relationships alike, often collaborating with them rather than just being a patron.
Recalling what she told Oleg Cassini “I feel you are a frustrated designer. Would you do things for me?”. Her natural talent for cutting and draping was apparent for the 60’s, and had a unique talent for learning to make patterns very quickly, often cutting them at home before sending toiles to Cassini in New York where he would then construct the garments. At this point, she hired a young Italian to help her with the drawings — a certain Valentino no less. He went on to stay with her for the year and went back to Rome to start his own couture house, which needs no mention. Jacqueline became a loyal friend and client.
By the 1980s, Jacqueline finally mustered up the courage to start up her own line. Lack of support was obvious, her family thought she was out of her mind. She moved her studio into YSL’s attic and off she went starting to cut and drape. In 1983, during Paris Fashion Week,14 look collection was debuted. YSL lent her his lighting and sound people and he sat front row along with Pierre Bergé, Ungaro and of course, Valentino. “Everybody was prepared to ridicule the society lady making fashion. But she made beautiful clothes.”
The collection was a critical and commercial hit. Saks Fifth Avenue signed her straight away to an exclusive three-year contract. Saks even made mannequins that were replicas of her own image. Unfortunately, Jacqueline underwent a hemilaminectomy, which left her unable to walk for three years from 1994 to 1997, and she was forced to retire from fashion.
Not often would I want to be compared to animals, but I would be more happy if I possessed 1% of Jacqueline’s elegance. And called “an ivory unicorn’? It would be a absolute pleasure.