A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
The magical world of Steffy and Jill Bauwens of The Kooples.
Sitting in the sunshine in Saint-germain, one of the most desirable addresses in Paris, Jill and Steffy Bauwens are discussing the merits of their quartier.the stylish siblings are joint creative directors of the French fashion label The Kooples and seem to have a penchant for finishing each other’s sentences. “We love this area because it’s like a village in the heart of Paris, with the best butcher and bakery in the city,” Jill says as she pours glasses of lemonade.we are talking on the leafy terrace of her townhouse, which she shares with her husband, tim, and their 21-month-old baby girl, Norma. “And when you’re here, it feels like you’re in the countryside,” concludes Steffy, who lives in a flat just around the corner.
Jill and her husband bought their apartment in 2013, but they didn’t move in for three years, until the renowned French architect and interior designer Joseph Dirand had finished an extensive redesign. “We basically had to destroy everything to remove the mezzanine floor,” Jill says, “all the while maintaining a Parisian feel. It was important to keep the panelling and the beautiful materials like the marble in the bathrooms and in the kitchen, and the original fireplaces.” Against this sleek backdrop, there is an impressive display of art and furniture that the couple have sourced from auction houses and flea markets such as Les Puces de Saint-ouen. as well as magnificent ceiling lamps from Sarfatti, there are pieces from the ’50s and ’60s, including Pierre Jeanneret chairs and a huge Le Corbusier stone lamp, mixed with contemporary touches, such as Jill’s bed, which is by Rick Owens.the sisters are as chic as their surroundings: Steffy is wearing head-to-toe black, setting off her flame-red hair, while Jill is dressed with casual elegance in vintage Levi’s, Olivier Theyskens boots and a square-shouldered Kooples jacket.
The pair has been perfecting this stylish double act since their childhood in Brasschaat, Antwerp, where Steffy was
“I started reading about Coco Chanel when I was six years old. I was intrigued by her personality.”
– Steffy Bauwens
born in January 1989 and Jill followed in the December of the same calendar year. “So we are what you call Irish twins,” Jill says, “but we also have the same star sign, which is rare.” A mutual love of fashion emerged during their teenage years, though they had somewhat different interpretations. “I was very into denim and jersey,” Jill muses. “also anything to do with the ’90s — I loved the Spice Girls. My sister was the total opposite.” “I started reading about Coco Chanel when I was six years old,” Steffy says. “i was intrigued by her personality from a very young age. And then I became obsessed with uniforms. I dressed myself severely, in blazers and pleated skirts, long socks and patent shoes.” Jill agrees: “Steffy was different from all the rest, like she was going against the current.”
At 17, Jill was scouted in Antwerp by the Belgian stylist Tomvan Dorpe and signed up with Ford Models in New York. “he basically had to push me to pursue a modelling career because it was always my dream to become a plastic surgeon,” Jill recalls. Steffy, meanwhile, went to Paris, where she enrolled in the fashion business course at the French outpost of the famous Istituto Marangoni. But the sisters didn’t have to maintain a long-distance relationship for too long. Having modelled for Olivier Theyskens at Nina Ricci, Jill formed a close relationship with the designer, so when an opportunity came up to assist with the launch of the Theyskens’ Theory brand, she recommended her sister for the job. “steffy was still in school, but Olivier met her, and it was love at first sight,” Jill says. Steffy elaborates: “I was his butterfly — I was flying all over the place doing everything from fabric consultations to show fittings and sales.”
In 2012, the sisters returned to Paris, where Steffy took up a roll at Maje, and they began consulting for a number of brands together. “we have always been a duo, really. Even when I was modelling, Steffy was there supporting me in the background,” Jill says. After a serendipitous meeting with the equally fashionable siblings who founded The Kooples —
French brothers Alexandre, Laurent and Raphaël Elicha — Jill and Steffy came onboard as joint creative directors. Over the past four years, they have introduced a new freshness and femininity to the Parisian-street-chic aesthetic by experimenting with a wide range of fabrics, colours and animal prints.the sisters are also responsible for selecting muses and, after a successful collaboration with the model Emily Ratajkowski, they picked Stella Maxwell and Irina Shayk for the upcoming season. “We were attracted by their intrinsic style,” Jill says. “Stella is more rock’n’roll, almost nonchalant ...” “A bit more androgynous, but really pretty,” Steffy interjects. “and then we have this sexy bombshell, Irina, who is a mother, and more grown-up, in a way.”
When it comes to their own style, the Bauwens complement each other perfectly. “Generally, you could say I like slightly dark fashion,” Steffy says. “I am really excited to see what’s going to happen at Celine with Hedi Slimane because I think he did a great job at Saint Laurent. I also love Balenciaga, acne, Margiela and classic Chanel.” “we like to mix and match,” Jill adds. “Obviously, we love the Belgian designers — Olivier Theyskens and Ann Demeulemeester — as well as Haider Ackermann. Speaking for myself, I always throw these together with vintage pieces to complete my look. Old and new, previous and destroyed — it’s all about finding the right balance,” she concludes, smiling at her sister.
The sisters in the study, wearing The Kooples and their own clothes (as throughout). Right, and below: details in Jill’s apartment.
Above: the sisters in the kitchen. Below: the living room doors open out onto the garden.
Left: an Irina bag from The Kooples. Right: a taxidermy flamingo from Deyrolle.
Above left: the entrance to the apartment. Right: Steffy tries on a look. Left: Jill’s Rick Owens bed. Below right: Gucci slippers.