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