Jill and St­effy Bauwens, sis­ters and the cre­ative direc­tors of The Kooples, bring their An­twerp artistry to a chic Parisian neigh­bour­hood

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Contents - By LUCY HALF­HEAD Pho­to­graphs by SO­PHIE CARRÉ

The Paris ar­rondisse­ment that is home to the Bel­gian sis­ters be­hind The Kooples

Sit­ting in the sun­shine in Saint­Ger­main, 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 re­tailer 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,’ says Jill, as she pours glasses of le­mon­ade. We are talk­ing on the leafy ter­race of her town­house apart­ment, which she shares with her hus­band Tim and their 21month-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,’ says Jill, ‘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 flea­mar­kets such as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. As well as mag­nif­i­cent celling lamps from Sar­fatti, there are pieces from the Fifties and Six­ties, 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 have been per­fect­ing this stylish dou­ble act since their child­hood in Brass­chaat, An­twerp, where St­effy was born in Jan­uary 1989 and Jill fol­lowed in the De­cem­ber of the same cal­en­dar year. ‘So we are what you call Ir­ish twins,’ says Jill, ‘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,’ says Jill. ‘Also, any­thing to do with the Nineties; I loved the Spice Girls. My sis­ter was the to­tal op­po­site.’ ‘I started read­ing about Coco Chanel when I was six years old,’ says St­effy. ‘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.’ ‘St­effy was dif­fer­ent from all the rest, like she was go­ing against the cur­rent,’ agrees Jill.

At 17, Jill was scouted in An­twerp by the Bel­gian stylist Tom Van 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,’ says Jill. St­effy, mean­while, went to Paris, where she en­rolled on 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 and the de­signer formed a close friend­ship. 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,’ says Jill. ‘I was his but­ter­fly; be­cause I was fly­ing all over the place do­ing ev­ery­thing from fab­ric con­sul­ta­tions to show fit­tings and sales,’ says St­effy.

In 2012 the sis­ters re­turned to Paris, where St­effy took up a role 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,’ says Jill. Af­ter a serendip­i­tous meet­ing with the three French brothers Alexan­dre, Lau­rent and Raphaël Elicha, the equally fash­ion­able sib­lings who founded The Kooples, Jill and St­effy came on board 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, colour and an­i­mal prints. The sis­ters are

‘I started read­ing about Coco Chanel when I was six years old. I was in­trigued by her


also re­spon­si­ble for se­lect­ing muses and, af­ter a suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with the su­per­model Emily Ratajkowski, they picked the mod­els Stella Maxwell and Irina Shayk for the up­com­ing sea­son. ‘We were at­tracted by their in­trin­sic style,’ says Jill. ‘Stella is more rock ’n’ roll, al­most non­cha­lant…’ ‘A bit more an­drog­y­nous but re­ally pretty,’ adds St­effy. ‘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,’ says St­effy. ‘I am re­ally ex­cited to see what’s go­ing to hap­pen at Cé­line 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,’ says Jill. ‘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, pre­cious and de­stroyed – it’s all about find­ing the right bal­ance,’ she con­cludes, smil­ing at her sis­ter.

Jill (left) and St­effyBauwens in the liv­ing-room of Jill’s Parisapart­ment. All clothes through­out, The Kooples and Jill and St­effy’s own

Left: an Irina bag from the lat­est col­lec­tion by The Kooples

The en­trance to the apart­ment

Above: a taxi­dermy flamingo from Dey­rolle. Left: the sis­ters in the kitchen. Be­low: Jill’sRick Owens bed

Above: Gucci slip­pers. Far right: the doors into thegar­den from the liv­ing-room. Be­low: the sis­tersin the study

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