LAURENT AND LOLA, A LOVE STORY
Did little Laurent try on his mother’s clothes when he was a child?
You bet he did! Not only did he put on his mother’s clothes but he would also go through her wardrobe to find clothes from the fifties and sixties, because I was already fond of it. To be honest, I have always loved shoes, everything stems from that… I was just about the age when you started walking when I saw in my mother’s wardrobe the shoes she had been wearing at her wedding: a pair of white stilettos from the sixties; it was love at first sight. I would put these shoes on over and over again, but one day my mother got fed up of me making holes in the parquet, she grabbed the shoes and threw them into the chimney where a fire was lit and, horrified, I looked at them vanish into the flames… I think that is why I have more than five hundreds pairs of shoes today… Later, when my mum would pay visits to her friends, I would run down to the basement to look for high heels I could nick; obviously she caught me more than once… Still, I would take the shoes and put them on; there was a forest behind my house, so I would go running into the forest with my high heels on.
Where does Lola come from? When did she first appear?
She has always been here! I have always developed my male personality because it was the normal course of things, but in parallel Lola was always present: she grew up with me. She is very much like a double; she is my twin sister. We are identical twins, from the same egg.
What does being a woman mean to you?
To be fair, I don’t know because I’m not a woman, so at the end of the day this is a concept I can’t grasp, we all have in our personality a more or less set out masculine side and a feminine one, I think I’m fifty-fifty. I believe being a woman is to be born a woman; that is to say to have endured all the dictates about gender from our society. I think one can only truly say ‘I know what it is like to be a woman’ when you have been brought up as a woman in our society. Speaking about it, I have no desire to be a woman; I’m interested in the projection of the ideal woman. I don’t wish to be a woman, that doesn’t turn me on at all!
Why are you doing drag?
It is to be able to give flesh to a fantasy and I’m lucky enough to have a silhouette that allows me such a transformation. To dress up as a ‘Diva’ –I don’t want to use the term ‘woman’- it is a way to embody my fantasies, to become one of those women that made such an impression on me when I was younger like Marlene [Dietrich] & Co… They all are transformed women, they aren’t ordinary women, it is all about the transformation: hair, make up, attitude, photography… and this what I’m really interested in… the process between nature and extreme sophistication. It is worth mentioning that initially one does not need to be a woman to become a Diva, you can be a man and become a Diva.
What does Laurent think about Lola? And vice versa?
Laurent about Lola: so, obviously he complains a lot about her because she is a walking mess, she is always stealing his credit card, he has to deal with her hangovers… But deep inside Laurent is really happy to have Lola, because she adds so much to his own character. If I were only Laurent, well, I would only be Laurent and that would be sad somehow! Lola is a constant source of joy; if Laurent is mentally well balanced it is thanks to Lola.
Lola about Laurent: she thinks he is nice, a bit reserved, too shy, he is a bit like lukewarm water for Lola… but… on the other hand, she is happy that he works so hard and earns money, to be honest, she can’t complain because when it comes down to it he never says no. So he is a bit like a boring husband but one that you still like somehow because he comes in handy at times.
I have heard you were teaching classes… can one learn the mystery of glamour from them?
I would say that glamour can be applied. Can one learn glamour? Mmmm, some people will never get it right but it can be applied to them. If you are in good hands, you can become glamorous.
You were flirting with Prince Albert a few years ago; do you have any other famous lovers? (see video below)
‘Flirting’… no way! I just got close to him and the security came after me straight away. We can’t let people think that there was something between us beyond a micro interaction where I just threw myself at him because I was paid to be present; I was there with La Movida setting up at the Bal de la Rose in Monaco so it had to be fun… Because they announced the royal family’s arrival and they lined up for the photographs, as a queen I just naturally thought I was a part of it. Actually, I even told Prince Albert: ‘I’m not impressed that you’re a Prince because I’m a Queen’. He laughed, and then the security took me away so that the royal family could do the official pictures without me.
What is the ideal man like for Lola? And the ideal woman?
Let’s see… the ideal man I would like to be or the one I would like to have? To be or to have, that is the question…
The one you would like TO HAVE obviously!
The ideal man for me is a real man, he is athletic; the kind of man I already have actually. I like him not to be too intellectual, since I myself spend a lot of time intellectualizing everything; if I were to be with someone like me we would waste a lot time lost in our own thoughts. Actually, I am rather fascinated by this masculine and direct approach to life. You can feel that the world is meant for a heterosexual guy and it gives him some kind of confidence I find attractive. For once in my life, I would like him to be responsible, someone I can rely upon. I’m not asking for an exclusive relationship because I would never pretend to be able to be ‘everything’ for someone, actually I find it quite pretentious to come to someone and expect him or her not to see anybody else apart from yourself; on the other hand, could I also be sure to find someone that is ‘everything for me’?! No need to know what happens when I’m not around; I’m not someone really possessive.
And the ideal woman? Well… that’s Lola of course! She is ideal and perfect. Moreover, I just lost 5kg, I’m the most ‘couture’ thing on earth, my hips are protruding, I’m wearing Mugler all day long every single day, so any trannies would kill to be in my position at the moment…
Lola is said to be sublimely mean, dreadfully dominating, a glamorous party animal with a wicked sense of humour… does she have any other qualities?
I don’t think I’m mean, I’m just telling things as they are. Laurent is very diplomatic and Lola a lot less so… I don’t think I’m mean, I can be obnoxious but that is different; because of course when I put my mascara on I become a star… So it is a way to counter balance Laurent who is very accommodating and diplomatic. What about being a party animal? Of course, I love the night because people transform into more interesting characters and those are the people I’m interested in, the people at night. Dominating? Not at all. As for the wicked sense of humour… Lola only tells the truth!
At your place there are bookcases full of… heels! What makes that object a fetish for many people?
Well, because it is an obvious sign of elevation, at least physically; moreover, it changes one’s life, when you’re wearing heels you don’t move the same, it changes life’s every move. I love the creative aspect of shoes, which enables your feet to take on another shape or form. It is also an act of creation through pain to mould a basic shape, such as the foot, into a walking wonder. Moreover, it’s exciting!
Your rival makes a triumphant entrance at the party you’re in… what do you do?
The problem is I’m friends with all my rivals; they are my best friends actually. Anyway, when it comes to being chic and elegant I’m hardly ever outclassed… I don’t really have any rivals. This is also the advantage of creating your own persona: it means that there is nobody in the world with the same traits as you and, instead, you have the freedom to find your own place in the world. I’m not competing against anybody; on the contrary, I’m really happy when I see people with great outfits and attitude, it’s a delight. I wish there were more people like this. I’m a fierce advocate of eccentricity: it allows people to express themselves as an individual with one’s proper identity. I think this is a big achievement in life, when one pushes one’s uniqueness to its full potential.
Who do you look up to?
Linda, Glenda, Maria, Marlene, Marilyn… all of them! The people that inspire me the most are those creatures of glamour, which are the result of the work of several people. For instance I admire Lady Gaga. I’m not a big fan of her musical talent, but she definitely has personality. She triggered a new era of pop culture; for the past 20 years all singers used to dress the same until the ascension of Lady Gaga inspired a wave of daring, weird and extravagant outlooks. I prefer a bad singer with personality than a good singer without presence, for example I hate Maria Callas or Edith Piaf… Although I think Lady Gaga is a good singer, it is just a question of musical choices… Actually, she said something like:
‘it’s not who I am, but if I want the international success of Lady Gaga then I have to commit to the role’.
What inspires you?
Errrr… I’m not that inspired at the moment… I’m rather a muse, an inspiration myself!
You’ve been running several fashion houses (Balmain, Morgan…) as well as your own collection (Laurent Mercier Deluxe) for about 20 years. What have these past years taught you?
It has been a lot of work, but it is something I have always wanted to do, since I was a child. I became fashion-conscious when I was about ten year old and I came across the magazine L’Officiel of 1957 in a pile of old papers; it was Mr Dior’s last collection, since he died that same year. It was like uncovering a treasure, I had the feeling I had made an extraordinary discovery. I started to draw again and again all the dress patterns and that is when I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life: design clothes. Since then I made everything I could to make my dream come true and that wasn’t easy since I grew up in a remote and little village in Switzerland, at that time we had virtually no information from Paris or fashion. I began by dressing up my sister’s dolls and step-by-step made my way to Paris. I was so happy to make that dream come true, but the problem is when you realize your dream it becomes reality. I’m someone whose got his head in the clouds, I’m a dreamer and since I’m constantly realizing my dreams, I have to find new ones. Success is tiring! Nevertheless, this period of time was fantastic; I had a lot of success and being nominated director of the Haute Couture at Balmain right after Oscar de la Renta was the pinnacle of my career. I have been part of the sacrosanct cenacle of the ten fashion designers who are officially part of the calendar of the Chambre syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Prêt-à-porter (trade union of high fashion and ready-to-wear).
What advice would you give to a young fashion stylist?
None, since fashion has changed so much: it is no longer the job I have known and practiced… To be honest, today I would tell a young fashion designer: ‘listen carefully to the businessmen, because in the end that is all you’ll ever do: trying in vane to reconciliate their vision with yours…’ The businessmen might as well make the collections themselves if they know so much better than everyone else!
If tomorrow somebody calls you to run a fashion house, it would be…?
Thierry Mugler. They are currently looking for someone… It is a fashion house I could run very easily and turn into gold. They would make a lot of money with me on board! Unfortunately I’m not ‘bankable’ now because I ventured into too many directions and they know me well at the maison Mugler, especially since I’m performing in the cabaret show of Manfred Thierry Muger: I don’t think they consider me a serious option, which is a shame… Anyway, I’m not giving away my very lucrative and amazing ideas but they could do wonders with me at the head!
Lola’s glamorous presence has been illuminating the Parisian nights for years now; today she is going on stage of the new cabaret of Manfred Thierry Mugler for les Mugler Follies… is it your crowning moment?
Once again, a dream that has come true!
“Artistic expression as a way of…”
Defending our differences.
Interview: Guillaume Thomas