For years iconic Zuleika Ponsen worked side by side as Muse and designer for Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaïa; giving advice and helping to create their heritage. As a close friend to the artists Pierre et Gilles, she is renowned for her everlasting avant-garde appearance in their work.
At the start of it all, you were there for both Thierry Mugler and later Azzedine Alaïa..
From the start indeed, it was wonderful to work with them. Long before all that, I started a shop in The Hague with Puck, a dear friend. ‘The Battle of the Beaux and the Belles’ we named the shop after an Aubrey Beardsley drawing. After I left for Paris, the shop became the famous Puck & Hans fashion store in Amsterdam.
I actually started my modeling career by surprise: The first casting I ever had was with Helmut Newton, I was very lucky and I didn’t have so much experience back then. I was 23 years old. Then Thierry Mugler and I met when I was modeling in a fashion show. He was intrigued by a dress that was hanging backstage: I had made that dress myself. He said, ‘WOW, Who made that dress? After that day he asked me to come and work with him. We worked together for his very first show that he presented in the Grand Palais. It was a very exciting time!
After many of years of success with Mugler I started to work with Alaïa. As you know Alaïa is a great technician and I learnt a lot from him. He was always doing the fittings on me; we worked nights on remarkable pieces together. Hard work but it was a lot of fun!
Did you ever consider starting a company yourself?
Yes I thought of that, but when Azzedine Alaïa asked me to start his brand with him, I was very pleased to do so.
Modeling runs a bit in the family, right?
Yes it does! My daughter Roussia was a model in the 90s! I remember her telling me someone had a Pierre et Gilles picture as inspiration for a show she did, he wanted everyone to look like that, Roussia said to the designer “Zuleika is my mother you know!”.
How was it to work with Pierre et Gilles?
I am very happy that I did so many pictures with them, they are great artists, they have a very strong vision of what they want and are very perfectionist which I am too so we get along very well.
PHOTOGRAPHY Meinke Klein - INTERVIEW Peet Dullaert - HAIR AND MAKE-UP Chiao Li Hsu, Jennifer Mackintosh and Harie von Wijnberge