photographs by BRITTANY AMBRIDGE
text by Caroline Biggs
Thanks to her legendary sense of style, designer and collector Christophe de Menil has been setting trends in the international art world for the past six decades. Her personal history reads like a collection of the 20th century’s greatest hits of high culture: when she was 18, her priest, Father Jean Marie-Alain Couturier introduced her to Matisse; in the ’60s, she befriended de Kooning in the Hamptons; and for almost 20 years, she worked as a costume designer for the avant-garde director Robert Wilson. Here, while preparing her latest jewelry collection, de Menil talks Oprah, John Cage, and jumpsuits with domino.
Christophe de Menil wearing a necklace from her jewelry collection.
Mementos from de Menil’s rich and varied life are displayed throughout her home.
The designer with granddaughter Caroline Snow in W magazine, 2010.
Current location: New York City, with a few excursions to her house in Barcelona Point, Long Island
How would you describe your personal style?
What’s your most prized possession?
My granddaughter, Caroline Snow, and my great-granddaughter, Secret Snow. Not only do I love them, but they’re very inspiring.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
The Abbey of the Val-Richer, in Normandy, France—the Schlumberger family enclave—which was once a 12th-century Cistercian monastery.
The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas—the art museum my mom and dad created. I had the privilege to help choose, along with my sister Adelaide, many of its important pieces, by such artists as de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and John Cage.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My own black jumpsuit, in lightweight Italian wool, which I’ve perfected throughout the years. At one point, Yves Saint Laurent asked my friend Claude Lalanne, “Qui ta fait ça?” (“Who made that?”), and I loved that he loved it.
On what items do you scrimp? On what do you splurge?
I do not scrimp or splurge, but I can’t resist exceptional fabrics and artwork from up-and-coming artists like Tona Pellizzi.