BillyBoy™ Couture Collector Extraordinaire
By Terry McCormick
Some people seem to have lives full of sunshine and joy. BillyBoy is
such a person. He has one of the largest collections of couture clothing
and jewelry in the world. The spirits of Chanel, Schiaparelli, Poiret,
Lelong, and other great designers live in his collection. Pieces in his
collection were owned by the greatest beauties and style leaders of
their times: Josephine Baker, Mrs. Daisy Fellowes, Babe Paley, even
Marilyn Monroe, are represented in this sublime collection. BillyBoy
himself lives and works on the rue de la Paix in Paris, probably the
most famous street of fashion in the world.
The collection began when BillyBoy was 13 (he's 30 now) and found a
Schiaparelli hat in a Paris flea market. He showed it to one of his
aunts, who told him about Schiaparelli, introducing him to the world of
the couture. That hat, he says, set the direction of his life. Over the
years he has collected over 11,000 pieces of couture clothing and
accessories, and is building a museum in Switzerland to house them. He
employs four assistants to help him maintain the clothes, and says it is
an incredible task. His other occupations have grown from, or
complement, his collection of couture. At age 15 he opened his own
design house, "Surreal Couture" on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Then he
began designing jewelry. BillyBoy Surreal Biyoux™ jewelry is worn by
famous people, shown in museums, and sold in the most elegant stores all
over the world. He designed Barbie dolls for Mattel, wrote the book
Barbie, Her Life and Times; and has just launched his own designer
fashion doll: the Mdvanii doll. Just a simple, down home, superstar!
Paris Vogue did an article about BillyBoy, called Le Passions De
BillyBoy, so VCN doesn't want to be left behind! BillyBoy first floated
into my life at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. He was calling from
Paris, and had forgotten about the time difference. He is such a
delightful person that soon we were chattering away, and I forgot I was
shivering in my bare feet. We've had a few conversations since then, and
I wanted to share this charming person with you.
"Butterflies. Collecting historic couture is exactly like collecting
butterflies, a constant obsession with gossamer-winged exquisite
perfection, elusive and mysterious."* BillyBoy collects from his heart
and soul. He says he has hundreds of stories of finding couture pieces;
impossible stories. He can be walking down the street and suddenly know
he is going to find a couture dress in a shop around the next corner.
And he always does. "You won't believe this," he says "You'll think I'm
When you look at a couture garment, 'Take a hard look at these clothes.
Then, step back and take a soft look. Look at some detail or aspect of
these clothes and you will see immediately what the difference between
these masterpieces and commercially manufactured clothes is."* When
BillyBoy first began collecting, he found couture pieces in flea markets
and thrift stores for a few dollars; sometimes a few cents. I asked him
if he still found vintage couture, especially in America. "Yes," he
said. "At one time American women bought couture clothes from Paris all
the time. Not only in New York, but wealthy women in cities all over the
country. I still find couture clothes wherever I go, sometimes in the
most unexpected little shops, stuffed in boxes, where you would never
dream of finding them." He not only collects the great designers that
are well known today; but also the work of couturiers who were famous in
their own time, but whose names have faded into obscurity.
His latest passion is his Mdvanii doll; a doll inspired by the grand
couture of the 1950's; and intended as a collectible "toy for adults."
The doll took 2 years to design and is beautiful; "More beautiful even
than I thought she'd be. She seemed to take on a life of her own."
Thedolls are individually handmade, as are the clothes, and the deluxe
edition dolls are numbered. BillyBoy says that he's put together
everything he loves in this one doll. The wigs are designed by Alexandra
of Paris and each garment is named and numbered. New collections are
presented twice a year, as in the real couture.
In promoting Mdvanii, BillyBoy has taken selected garments from his
collection, and shown them in cities around the world. I think it's
wonderful that he shares these treasures with others. After all, the
clothes were made to be admired, not to lanquish in boxes. BillyBoy
points out "And of course remember, it's all about attraction, sex, fun,
flirtation, glamour, and 'show-off-ishness,' all things human beings
BillyBoy's autobiography, My American Family: In One Era, Out The Other,
will be published soon. His inspiration is Elsa Schiaparelli, and he
keeps her autobiography, Shocking Life, close at hand. "Whenever I open
it I find something relevant to what's happening for me. A thought, an
anecdote, a solution to a problem. There's always something for me."
Another important book to him is Paul Poiret's On Dressing The Era. He
never met Schiaparelli, but Diana Vreeland was a close, supportive
friend. If you want to contact BillyBoy about his dolls, or with a
couture garment or accessory to sell him (he will also trade clothes
he's found that are not couture, but excellent pieces), the address is:
BillyBoy, 6, rue de la Pix, 75002 Paris, France. Telephone from the U.S.
is 011-33-1-47 03 42 88 or 47 03 90 45.
A quote from the Mdvanii catalogue beginning with Diana Vreeland:'"..!
mean, a new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living
in the dress, and the sort of life you lived before, and what you will
do in it later.' " From BillyBoy: "It's this type of thinking, the
personal auras of human lives who knew the luxury of elegance which keep
me forever chasing butterflies."*
To end, my favorite Diana Vreeland quote: "What it comes down to is, we
just love clothes."
© Copyright 1990 - All Rights Reserved,
Terry McCormick, Vintage Clothing Newsletter