Pat Cleveland is the ultimate muse.
The supermodel rose to fame in the 1960s and ’70s as a darling of designers Halston, Oscar de la Renta and Stephen Burrows. She was more than just a pretty face “with a lot of hair” — she was a friend.
In her new memoir, “Walking With Muses,” released June 14, the beauty recalls her rise from making her own clothes in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood to walking the runways in Paris for the fashion industry’s elite, and partying along the way.
Speaking to Footwear News, the spitfire said that at the beginning of her modeling career, she strapped on a pair of sky-high shoes and truly felt larger than life.
“When I first started with Stephen, he put me in Goody Two Shoes,” Cleveland said. “They were covered with suede and so lightweight they made you 10-feet tall.”
In the book, Cleveland recalled when Burrows escorted her to Henri Bendel’s luxury store, where he picked the footwear out for her — a pair of brown patent leather wedges, a variation of Buster Browns, with candy-stripped shoelaces. “I got dizzy when I first walked in them because the floor seemed so far away,” she wrote in the memoir.
“They were wedges but very high,” she explained to FN. “When you went dancing, they felt so comfortable. Right across the toes they had a little band, and you would tie them around your ankles. Once you put those shoes on, you could sleep on them.”
In “Walking With Muses,” Cleveland shares memories of her glamorous past, reveling among icons and rising stars across entertainment, fashion and art. And not much has changed for the 66-year-old, who celebrated her birthday on Thursday.
The launch party held June 9 for the memoir attracted Zac Posen, who designed her dress, as well as TV personality Wendy Williams, Calvin Klein, her daughter Anna Cleveland (also a supermodel), husband Paul von Ravenstein and legendary fashion photography Bill Cunningham, a beloved industry figure and chronicler of New York City street style who died Saturday at age 87.
Cleveland fondly remembers an affectionate sobriquet Cunningham had for her.
“He used call me ‘muffin’ all the time,” she shared. “Sometimes he would take pictures of me while I was in Central Park flying my kite.”
The former New York Times photographer was known to snap candidate moments of famous Big Apple residents.
Cleveland recalled posing for Cunningham at his studio building, where the late fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez was a neighbor and mutual friend.
“I’d go into his studio dressed in feathers, and we’d go from one apartment to the other, just laughing,” she said.
On the cover of “Walking With Muses,” Cleveland creates a striking abstract silhouette resembling a pair of boot heels that she forms by wearing gloves while posing upside down wearing, a black top and black-and-yellow-striped socks.
Cleveland calls it her “bumblebee picture” and said it was the perfect choice.
Photographer Sacha Van Dorssen snapped the image in 1971 for The Sunday Times magazine.
“That was very rare, having female photographers,” Cleveland explained of Van Dorssen.
Perhaps it’s an apt nod to breaking barriers, just as she did as one of the first black supermodels.
In fact, Cleveland was among 11 black models — an unprecedented number — selected to walk the storied Battle of Versailles in 1973.
The runway show pitted five American designers against five Parisian designers for a benefit to raise money for its restoration.
Houses Givenchy, Dior, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin competed against Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein (with then-assistant Donna Karan), Stephen Burrows and Bill Blass.
Cleveland said the word “battle” isn’t fitting of the historic show: “It wasn’t a battle — it was a bunch of young people and successful designers, going to Paris to help save a piece of precocious architecture.”
The Americans, she said, made an impression among the Parisian tastemakers — not only for style, but also for a presentation of the kind the old guard had never seen.
“Our simplicity and way of doing things so easily was shocking to them,” she recalled. “We had good music and girls who could move clothes. It was very sharp, very quick and alive.”
Wearing “200 layers of beige chiffon,” Cleveland captivated onlookers performing a wild catwalk strut.
“I twirled, which made me look like a moth,” she said. “I twirled so much and got to the end of the stage and people thought I was going to fall, off but didn’t.”
The audience was “fabulous,” she said in reference to the 700-person guest list.
Cleveland was feted by Josephine Baker, Princess Grace and Liza Minnelli.
“Being backstage and suffering in the cold was worth it,” she recalled, adding, that she performed a dance routine with Minnelli and rehearsed catwalk moves with Kay Thompson.
“We were partying so hard, today you would think we were terrorists — there were so much champagne bottles popping,” she said, laughing. “When we got over there, I don’t think anyone wanted to come back, but we came back with a prize — the prize was the acceptance and applause — the exchange of energy and inspiration in the end.”
Recalling the roster of iconic designers for which she was a muse, Cleveland said she can’t pick favorites.
“Working with Stephen Burrows, Karl Lagerfeld, Halston — you can’t just pick one,” she explained. “They were very special, and they give you a different feeling. The people you start out with you are the most affectionate about. Stephen’s line with rainbows, they’re coming back.
“These young men, when they were starting, they made everything special — they draped the world. I was just a skinny flagpole with a lot of hair — that was me, but I felt adored.”