Long modeling career by design

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Jorie Parr

William Squire of Palm Springs has fond memories modeling for Yves St. Laurent from 1982 to 1990.
Photo provided by William Squire

“Yves was a gentle soul. A quiet genius…polite, kind, elegant, sophisticated,” recalled model William Squire of Palm Springs.

If things went wrong, Yves Saint Laurent didn’t scream and scapegoat the models, as some other designers might, he said. Squire, tall and trim — in fact Y-shaped — has positive memories of his days in Paris walking for the house of Yves Saint Laurent.

Yes, Yves, who retired in 2002 and died in 2008, was a true gentleman. The bombastic youth portrayed in the recent biopic, Yves Saint Laurent, was not the person Squire knew. But the movie fades out after 1976, and Squire modeled for YSL from 1982 to 1990. 

Yves’ sensitive nature was bent, Squire thinks, by high school hazing against homosexuals, including “being pushed around and called names.”

And then his traumatic stint in the military, which triggered a nervous breakdown and shock treatments. “You don’t come out unscathed,” he said.

The designer prevailed, of course, becoming, along with Chanel, the major designer of the 20th century. He may have been the first couturier to look to street styles for inspiration. He could combine colors like no one else. And he pioneered the use of non-Caucasian models.

“I wasn’t in his inner circle,” Squire said, but they socialized at the parties after the shows. It’s been famously noted that YSL was only happy twice a year, at spring and fall collections.

“He called me Billy. He thought I looked like him,” Squire said.

Did he flirt? “Oh, I think so,” Squire said. Perhaps they were more than friends? Squire blushed, remarking, “I would never say.”

In Squire’s day, YSL was his favorite. He found Karl Lagerfeld “more eccentric — he had more of an ego.” The model’s resume also highlights Versace and Valentino, Fila and Alan Flusser menswear. “I loved all the fashion shows at Joseph Magnin in San Francisco.”

Still in the biz

Nowadays, Squire continues to model. You may have seen him on the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo. He teaches modeling and often participates in cruise ship programs. At deadline time, he was busy behind scenes at the Emmys.

He purveys a line of his own cosmetics, Billy’s Blues. His lead item evolved “when I got a call from Neiman Marcus… ‘What did you tell these women? We’ve sold out of blue mascara.’ ” He started making his own inky wand.

Being a model is “tricky, difficult. It’s not just about bodies, it’s business.” He warns newcomers that “photographers can rip them off; agencies can rip them off.” Squire has outlined tips of the trade in his The Model’s Workbook.

But then he thinks everyone can be beautiful. “Just take an assessment of what you have to work with…enhancing your qualities and downplaying your faults.”

By the way, when he’s worked on a client’s makeup “for an hour and someone comes along and tells her she’s beautiful, I say thank you.”

His own special gift? “Well, I guess, I can walk. I came from ballet, starting at 8 years old. Ballet West in Salt Lake City. I retired from it at 24 —- tired of lifting, sweating and jumping.”

 At this point in the conversation, he gave a walking demonstration: feet in alignment, stomach in, arms in control. No “happy arm” flailing about.

Fit and trim

At 6 feet tall, he maintains his 175 pounds, with a 30-inch waist. Every evening he does set ups and pushups, while watching old Perry Mason reruns.

What he doesn’t watch on TV is reality shows. “I think you have to pay your dues to find success.” And he deplores the bad manners flagrantly displayed.

Squire looks marvelous. If you dare ask how old he is, he deadpans “I don’t know.”

Yes, certainly the mannequin watches his diet, for health as well as appearance. No sweets except for holiday flings with licorice. And, “I eat jelly beans at Easter.” But predictably his fare remains lots of vegetables and fruits, chicken and fish. “No white carbs (white bread, etc.),” he said.

However, there’s a glass of red wine at the end of the day. Squire sees no future change.

Think about it: He may never stop modeling. In his 70s and 80s? That demographic, “They buy clothes, too.” Ageism may have loosened by then. Who knows?

Squire loves Palm Springs, his home base. He has footholds in Honolulu, Maui and Long Beach but “we get our mail here.” The desert, where he first spent just weekends, has expanded to a way of life. He likes the mid-century ambiance.

“And when you come around the mountain, you just go ‘ahhhh’,” he said.

Still, Squire allows he wouldn’t mind a pied-`a-terre in San Francisco. That would round off the residences nicely.

For now Squire’s next goal is “sitting on my beach in Maui drinking wine with a good book and crossword puzzle.”

He loves to swim with Terry, a wild ocean sea turtle. “I think he smiles at me. Well, he flips his fins.”

For more on William Squire, see www.BillysBlues.com