The Grand Dame
Krystyne Griffin—the jewellery designer, elegant Rosedalian and former president of YSL Rive Gauche Canada—is an expert in navigating international style
My style philosophy
When you’re the president of Yves Saint Laurent, you’re not going to run out and buy yourself a wonderful dress from Kensington Market because it represents your original style sense. I used to wear French designers or whoever I represented. Now that I am free of having to represent anyone in particular, I wear what I feel like wearing. I think about it, and I do it emotionally. And then, the minute I put it on, I forget about it.
My global influences
I was born in Poland in 1940, and lived for 25 years in Paris, which was extremely important in my upbringing. I went there as an art student. What influences you in your life are the things you see. There are things I love everywhere. I was in a bazaar in Istanbul and I saw these amazing textiles from central Asia and I said, “Hey, this is me.” The other night, I wore an Uzbek coat, which one would otherwise only see in the Aga Khan Museum. They do very good textile exhibitions. Recently, I wore a cashmere coat from India. I am a part of all that I have met. I love Issey Miyake. If I were younger, I would wear someone like Iris van Herpen, with her exquisite, high-tech gowns. Everyone should see the ROM’s Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion exhibit. It shows you what real talent and real genius are all about. The technical side of her clothing is unparalleled. She’s made a success of her own thinking.
My idea of dressing down
In the daytime, I wear a pair of jeans and a good sweater. Yves Saint Laurent was famously asked, “Is there anything you regret?” And he answered, “I wish I had invented blue jeans.” Jeans have become an integral part of our clothing.
I work with what I’ve got
There’s nothing worse than a tall woman who wants to be shorter. Because I’m five-eleven, I often wear men’s clothing. Women in Uzbekistan or in Mexico, they’re very short, so I have to wear their dresses as a tunic.
What I see in the mirror
I have strong features, on account of my Slavic background. Strong bone structure, a big nose. You have to have a good look at yourself. I couldn’t dress in Valentino. I don’t have the silhouette that would espouse that kind of sexy look. I don’t think it’s chic to dress sexy at 80. Sex appeal, no no no. I’m not dressing for young men who want to have an older woman.
My advice for style seekers
Be curious. Take risks. Don’t be afraid that you’re not looking right or that you like something nobody else will like. If you like something, put it on. It doesn’t have to be scary, you can stay in your jeans, stay in your little black dress, keep your little skirt on and put on an amazing shawl. Adornments and accessories have an awful lot of definition. It’s also a question of budget, of course. I love feathers. They’re not expensive. You can go down to Kensington Market and buy yourself green and red and purple feathers and put them behind your ear. Don’t be afraid of judgment or that someone will think you’re crazy. Crazy is wonderful.
My favourite jacket
I have a heavily laser-cut leather jacket designed by an amazing Quebec designer named Denis Gagnon. It looks like he took a pair of scissors or a razor blade to it, as if the whole piece only hangs together by the lining. I mean, it is crazy. To take the garment and slash it up. People love it. And they never believe that it’s Canadian, because Canadians are not known for being that original. But it’s off the wall.
My hair strategy
When I lived in Paris, I experimented with hair colour. I never went punk but I went red, gold and black. It’s all a bit of a masquerade in your 20s. As I grew older, I decided to stop dying my hair. I have long hair, which I don’t leave on my shoulders because that might make me look slightly wicked. I pile it up. People always ask me why I don’t have short hair. Everybody has short hair when they hit 70 because it’s more practical. I don’t want to look like everybody else.