PARIS — Marie Seznec Martinez, a longstanding muse of Christian Lacroix, died on Wednesday in Monaco at the age of 57, WWD has learned.
The elegant Parisian with striking white hair passed away after a long battle with cancer, confirmed Pia de Brantes, a public relations executive and longtime friend of hers.
Seznec Martinez, a graduate of Studio Berçot, modeled for the likes of Thierry Mugler, Hermès, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto. However, she was best known for her work with Christian Lacroix.
Seznec Martinez joined Lacroix as his permanent fit model in 1984 when he was at Jean Patou.
“Everybody was astonished and charmed, and some customers were able to project the outfits better on a woman who was white-haired like them,” he said, noting all of Seznec Martinez’s siblings shared the unusual hair color since childhood. “She had a special attitude on the runway: Posing at the end then turning her body and looking back over her shoulder with that winning smile of hers.”
He lauded her as “spirited, whimsical, funny, exquisite” and able to straddle the modern and contemporary and classical, traditional elegance. She was “half dowager, half little girl, so Paris, so couture, so Eighties,” Lacroix enthused.
After LVMH launched a couture house for Lacroix in 1987, Seznec Martinez became the directrice of the salon. “She was like a sketch with her beautiful legs and perfect profile and gestures,” the designer enthused. “She was like a butterfly, which she wore in her hair as the bride in my 1998 couture show. She epitomized the house of Lacroix.”
Seznec Martinez remained directrice of the salon until it was shuttered in 2009.
She subsequently launched an eponymous line of dresses and bags with highly exclusive distribution, according to de Brantes.
“She was remarkable, brave and always smiling,” recalled the executive. “Because of her striking white hair, she looked like a lady, and clients loved her.”
Paris-based industry consultant Jean-Jacques Picart agreed that Seznec Martinez was adored by couture clients.
“She had a real sense of business,” he said, adding: “I never saw her in a bad mood. I don’t even know if she was capable of it.”
“[Marie] battled cancer for a long, long time. She was always stoic and regal – never once complained. I adored her and Jacques,” said Becca Cason Thrash, referring to Seznec Martinez’s husband.
“She welcomed me with open arms into the world of haute couture when other houses were more tentative,” continued the Houston philanthropist. “You know what it was like 17 to 18 years ago [for a] Texan girl, not French-speaking, etcetera. Together Marie and I – with Christian’s full consent – brought the entire Lacroix haute couture collection to Houston and recreated the Paris show in my home. She was very forward-thinking and yet remained the quintessential French girl.
“Fashion has lost an original muse and a dear friend,” said Carson Thrash.
Seznec Martinez is survived by her husband, with whom she lived in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in Provence since 2013.
Her funeral is to be held in the south of France next week and a tribute is expected in January during Paris couture week.