On the outskirts of Paris, a studio blooms with bright flowers—some real, some faux. Lucie de la Falaise, however, is accoutred in all black. “I’m like a strong fairy,” the legendary model jokes. Her daughter Ella Richards, the shoot’s other subject—in a white bathrobe and house slippers, and the same slick blonde chignon as Mom—counters: “If you are, then I am.”
That exchange sums up their playful dynamic, the two perpetually in cahoots. When the photographer behind the shoot, Brigitte Niedermair, saw the duo leaving Dior’s Mumbai show in March sniffing jasmine necklaces, very much in fairy mode, she had the idea to photograph them festooned with blooms, and clad in some of fall’s most exuberant, lush takes on floral, from designers like Bottega Veneta and Chanel.
Their lighthearted demeanor belies a weighty legacy in both fashion and rock ’n’ roll. De la Falaise’s aunt Loulou was a muse to Yves Saint Laurent, and de la Falaise herself worked for the designer, when, at 21, she decided to marry Marlon Richards, the son of Keith Richards. (They’re still together.) Thus Anita Pallenberg, the late rock goddess and reluctant model who played the villainess in Barbarella, is, in addition to being the subject of the recent documentary Anita, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Ella Richards’s grandmother.
All of which is to say: Mother and daughter have It Girl-dom practically encoded in their DNA, though de la Falaise and her longtime publicist and later business partner Hélène Renaud remind me—warmly, humbly—that I really needn’t go there again. Yes, those rock-royalty genes are a “huge benefit,” and the physical resemblances are obvious. But I could take a different tack when writing about them, like when Cat Power covered “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and entirely left out the titular chorus (to very satisfying effect, it must be said). Old song, new life.
As for de la Falaise—who is based in West Sussex, where the family decamped some two decades ago—she’s relieved to be on the other side of the “old-fashioned idea” that any of us is just one thing. Today, “you can be pretty and have a voice, too,” she says, “and have something on the side.” You can bloom again and again.
In 2017, she and Renaud launched Lucie de la Falaise Studio, a lifestyle/interior design firm, to spearhead more of the kinds of collaborations they’ve done in the past. In 2016, de la Falaise designed a wicker picnic hamper kitted out with Dior plates, glasses, cutlery, and napkins. And in 2018, for Schiaparelli’s spring haute couture collection, she dreamed up a series of bags made from raffia, wicker, driftwood, wooden beads, pearls, and upcycled plastic. De la Falaise and Richards demur when asked about upcoming projects—“That stuff’s always hush-hush until the last minute,” Richards says—but it’s something to see them together in the meantime.
Now 50, de la Falaise was in her early twenties and in the midst of her modeling career when she had her daughter, who then was often on set for (and ended up in) her mom’s shoots. When Richards later accepted her own modeling gigs, for brands like Burberry and Tom Ford, de la Falaise chaperoned her as vigilantly as she’d been chaperoned herself. Richards says her mom encouraged her to “figure out what you love…try a little bit of everything.” (Also, her godmother Kate Moss—whose agency Richards has signed with—has impressed upon her that “No” is a full sentence.)
Based in London, the 27-year-old Richards is a city girl but not a wild child. Clubbing, she says, has “never really been my thing.” Dinners with friends are so much better. Her closet, bookshelf, and apartment in general are stuffed with heirlooms and hand-me-downs—including Pallenberg’s clothes (an archive she wants to publicly exhibit) as well as her books. She’s planning to read a couple of the classics next: Dune, by Frank Herbert, and The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa—novels, incidentally, about succession and finding your place in the world order.
Her favorite possessions tend to be secondhand—including a pale pink silk frock that belonged to the model-actress Patti Hansen, her step-grandmother. “I couldn’t wait for the day that I would grow into it,” she says. She loves to look for garments at vintage shops and to browse antiques at online auctions before bedtime. “That’s what excites me these days!” she admits.
Richards can also be spotted before dawn at the antique stalls in Kempton Park Market, where she has acquired such objets déco as a convex mirror framed with mother-of-pearl, and her description of the scene sounds like advice for life in general: “You [have to] go with a torch and make decisions really quickly,” she says. “You don’t know what you’re buying—but you just have to hope that when the sun comes out, you will like it.”
Hair by Shon Hyungsun Ju at The Wall Group; makeup by Peter Philips for Christian Dior Makeup; manicure by Saloua Derbali for Manucurist; models: Ella Richards at Kate Moss Agency and Lucie de la Falaise; set design by Alexander Bock at Streeters; produced by Shape Production.
This article appears in the September 2023 issue of ELLE.
Chantel Tattoli is a Paris-based, Florida-bred culture journalist whose work has recently appeared in T_he Paris Review_, Wired, the New York Times, THR, and the Porsche journal 000.