Amalia Vairelli - Fashion Muse #1

by Emmanuelle Christ

Photographed by giants such as Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Bruce Weber, and many others, Amalia Vairelli has been mostly famous for her role as Yves Saint Laurent's muse for almost 20 years. She now designs jewels and has accepted to go over her modeling career with us.

Could you tell us about your first steps in fashion?

A man gave me his card in a night club and gave me an appointment for a shooting to check how photogenic I was. He became my first agent. A few weeks later, he sent me to a casting at Yves Saint Laurent's - he was looking for an “exotic girl”. This was a crucial and decisive encounter in my career.

What do you remember from your modelling career?

Exceptional and privileged moments, trips around the world, parties, laughter, unique beings. Some have guided me, helped me to focus, others have pushed me.

Modelling is a job many dream of, could you tell us about what you experienced behind the scene?

What happens behind the scene is merely a perception of what surrounds us. A way to analyze behaviours. Ideally the point is to filter one's emotions and make sure you assert your personality without infringing on anyone's freedom. Then a whole driveway opens up on which you can drive fast and sometimes take the pedestrian ways.

A piece of advice for a young model making her debut?

Unlike what the saying says, God has not made us from the same lump! Our education, experiences, origins have made us decide and act with uniqueness. Thus it would seem quite out of place for me to give a relevant piece of advice. Of course, there are always pleonasms to advocate a “healthy lifestyle,” etc.

Your greatest professional encounter and why?

Yves Saint Laurent! My Pygmalion! He gave me an artistic identity, a passport to evolve with dignity.

Actually, what were your relations with him?

An unsettling and intensely true relationship. We spoke few works, yet chosen ones. We mostly exchanged looks, sensations, the same sensibility regarding what's “beautiful”! The Archetype of love! The same craving for perfection!

Your worst professional blunder?

For some inconceivable reasons I stopped working with Peter Lindbergh - who was the very man who had launched my photo career with the Vogue Italy front page. A decision I still regret. He is a talented and generous being.

Something crazy you've had to do for your job?

What's craziness? Is it cycling on a catwalk for Sonia Rykiel? A boa moving on my naked body while I had a puma on a leash - aggressive because scared by the flashes - or a macaw cutting into the skin of my arm to stay balanced for Vogue Germany. Riding an elephant, in a muddy river, for a swimsuit brand in Sri Lanka. Holding a little girl covered with spots in a fly-infested little village, somewhere in Togo for Vogue Italy. Diving into a swimming pool filled with mud - the therapeutic kind - during a show for thermal baths in Tuscany, or even a photo taken close to a salt lake in Kenya while hundreds of flamingoes took flight in the background!

Which fashion photo do you cherish most?

A photograph by Helmut Newton for Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture in Paris. Helmut had a very precise idea of the body aesthetics. For this photo I had to be very patient and imaginative to twist my body and hold the uncomfortable position until he got a look filled with soft pain from me.

Which do you prefer between fashion shows and photo shootings, and why?

Shows were parties, backtage was a moment of reunion we were very happy to share with designers, make up artists, hair stylists, and dressers - we were all aware we were linked together to turn the upcoming show into an unforgettable moment. Photo shootings were very rewarding, I would become the protagonist of an artistic arrangement and was very well taken care of.

If you had to choose but one, what is your best memory of a fashion show?

The day I was Yves Saint Laurent's couture bride! A show's crucial moment! The big picture! We both left hand in hand and, instinctively, our lips met in an exchange of love, joy, and mutual respect.

What is your view on today's models?

I admire their courage. They evolve in an aseptisized jungle, an ephemeral whirlwind of appearances that leaves very little room for sharing. They are isolated from their own nature and their basic reality, they are commected to what is immaterial.

You now design jewels, was this a project you'd cherished for a long time?

I have always favored jewels, they tell averything about me, they reveal me. I like to mix them skillfully so as to captivate.

Who do you nominate for the next interview?

Violeta Sanchez. A friend I greatly admire. She is not an archetypal model but she's had a model career. 

July 2016

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My best memory? “The day I was Yves Saint Laurent's couture bride! We both left hand in hand and, instinctively, our lips met...”