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‘Quand les etoiles deviennent noir’, is the title of Rebecca Ayoko’s book. It very well expresses the start of her remarkable career, working as an haute couture model for Yves Saint Laurent. For years she has been at his side, in the studio and on the runway. Rebecca has worked with many great other minds; from Geoffrey Beene to Guy Bourdin.

'Quand les etoiles deviennent noir’; when the stars turned black:

You know the title of the book comes from an Yves Saint Laurent dress. I very well remember posing for him, he draped a dress directly on me; I was always in the studio back then. It was a velvet, velours rasé, silk, very light! And very shiny! The light of the studio on that dress, that shining, he loved it! It was a beautiful dress.

It was the beginning of modern fashion. For me, even today, it feels like an honour to have been there with Yves Saint Laurent. He was a genius and he understood what women loved very well! When I first came into the studio they put me on heels. I was so afraid that I would fall, I remember saying something like, “oh but in Africa we do not walk on that”. We all had to laugh of course; I felt like a little giraffe that was just born.

What happened after Yves Saint Laurent?

I moved to New York because all of the designers there wanted to book me for their shows. I did Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta and many others. I worked a lot with American designers then!

And then the magazines started to call?

I remember working with Helmut Newton for Vogue, it was on location, very close to this studio! Newton was very talented.
He once took a picture of me walking behind the Assemblée Nationale, École Militaire here in Paris. He photographed the soldier walking there! It was great to see him interact with real people in the pictures.

What role does fashion play in your life?
For me it is heritage.

And how do you feel about the future?

Over the years I have experienced so much, I have worked with so many people that helped to create the industry, seen so many people come and go. You know, I wanted to be part of this project because I love to see new designers, to see the future, and also, I love to have a nice picture! [laughter]

REBECCA AYOKO is wearing a knitted Merino Wool sweater with Silk covered crystal embellishments from PEET DULLAERT.

PHOTOGRAPHY Meinke Klein - INTERVIEW Peet Dullaert - HAIR AND MAKE-UP  Chiao Li Hsu, Jennifer Mackintosh and Harie von Wijnberge