Monday, February 7, 2011
Yves & Me
I received this gorgeous book, Yves Saint Laurent, as a Christmas present from my mother. Thanks, Mom! Have I had time to give it the attention it deserves? No, I have not. The endless snow is certainly conspiring to keep me inside and open the book, however, and last week I finally had a chance to take advantage of it.
The book, by Florence Müller and Farid Chenoune, accompanied the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective held last year at the Petit Palais in Paris and this book is a gem. A huge, heavy gem. It covers Saint Laurent’s earliest days as a young fledgling designer, entering a 1953 fashion drawing competition (3rd prize in the “dress” category), through his time in the mid-fifties working for Christian Dior, opening his own couture house in 1961, starting the ready-to-wear line Saint Laurent Rive Gauche in 1966, up until his retirement in 2002. There were over 300 pieces on display in the retrospective and a picture of every one of them is in this book.
Spring-Summer 1981 Haute Couture Collection. Exhibit installation photo by Alexandre Guirkinger
One of the reasons I started my blog was to learn about great designers of the past, their artistry, their techniques, their personalities, the circles they traveled in, what their lives must’ve been like, and to share some of what I learn here. I’m not an expert on Yves Saint Laurent, but looking through this book makes me want to be one.
Saint Laurent Rive Gauche ad, Photo by David Seidner
Fall-Winter 1975 Haute Couture Collection, Photo by Helmut Newton
And yet, while I’m still learning about Saint Laurent, the pictures from the book make me feel I already have a deep connection to him. The power of print! I must’ve seen these clothes in the fashion magazines my mother had around the house when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, they feel so familiar to me. And I can see how the shapes Saint Laurent created for women helped define over two decades of fashion. All those cool androgynous pantsuits and tuxedos. The Safari jacket! Le Smoking! So sleek and adult and glamorous!
©Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent
Besides the pictures, interviews, and detailed chronology of Saint Laurent’s life and career, one feature I love in this book is the fabric swatches. They appear throughout in every color. On the opposite page of the montage of pinks is this quote: “My favorite color, after black, is pink.” Hey, Yves! Me too!
Stills from Belle de Jour, 1967 © Cat's Collection/Corbis and ©1967 StudioCanal
The stills from Belle de Jour, the 1967 movie starring Catherine Deneuve, remind me of living in Austin, Texas. They always had old movie revivals playing in the local theaters there and I first saw Belle de Jour at one of them in 1995. I remember loving the clothes, especially the jackets. I need to get this movie from Netflix so I can see it again.
Yves and Nan Kempner, 1978. Photo by Robin Platzer/Time Life Pictures-Getty Images
Although it is not in the book, I can’t help adding this 1978 picture of Yves with the American socialite Nan Kempner. It is so disco-era and the expressions on their faces make me laugh every time. Nan was Yves’s biggest fan. By the end of her life in 2005, she owned 1,000 couture pieces. Of those, 376 of them were made by Yves Saint Laurent. Talk about love (and money, lots and lots of money).