Friday, February 20, 2015

YSL + Halston & the Women Who Wore Them Well

This is my favorite picture of Yves and Nan. It makes me laugh every time!

The exhibit now on view at The Museum at FIT called YSL + Halston: Fashioning the 70s has me thinking of the ladies who wore each of those designers so well. That list could go on for quite awhile so I decided to focus on two women I feel are synonymous with each designer.

YSL dress, 1971, left, Halston dress, 1976, right.

Nan in YSL in 1977. From the WWD Archives.

Yves Saint Laurent and Nan Kempner

Oh did Nan love Yves. The tall, blonde, Manhattan socialite wife of Thomas L. Kempner, who referred to herself as a housewife (God love her!), adored Saint Laurent above all other designers. The renowned collector of couture from her earliest days as an adult, had, by the end of her life at the age of 74, amassed 1,000 designer dresses. 376 of them were by Saint Laurent. Pierre Bergé, co-founder of the house, said of her, “Nan Kempner was loyal to Saint Laurent as a woman is faithful to her lover.” Nan must’ve felt like a dream client to Yves—tall, very thin, wealthy, and crazy about clothes (his in particular).

None of the pieces in the FIT exhibit were owned by Nan, her collection went to the Met, which put it on display in the winter of 2006-7 in the show Nan Kempner: American Chic. That is one exhibit I wish I would’ve seen!

I like this quote from Saint Laurent about Nan I found in a great article by Amy Larocca, “From the Well-Stuffed Closets of Mrs. Thomas L. Kempner” at New York magazine:

“Nan Kempner, to my eyes, always represented this modern, free, independent, and elegant woman. She is probably the woman who best wore my clothes, with whom I shared the longest and greatest complicity.”

Nan in 1974. Wow did she have long legs! Photo from the Condé Nast Archives.

YSL dresses in front. Lamé, center, 1977; gold and black, 1976.  Photo by G. Keresty.

Halston and Elsa Peretti

Peretti with Halston, and illustrator Joe Eula, left, in Halston’s apartment, 1974. Photo by Jill Krementz.

The moment I see a picture of Elsa Peretti from the 1970s I think she must’ve lived in Halston. She is always wearing drapey caftans and long clothing that seems to just flow. Peretti and Halston were very close for awhile—when she first came to Manhattan from Italy she worked as a model, for Halston, among others, and they became friends. She began designing jewelry for his collections in 1971, and for Tiffany & Co. in 1974. She also designed the bottle for Halston’s perfume. The launch of it in 1976 was one of the most successful ever in the marketing of fragrances.

The FIT exhibit features an amazing silver mesh bra by Peretti, paired with a pair of wool jersey trousers and silk shirt by Halston for one unexpected (and sexy) look! The exhibit also has one of her silver bottle pendants, worn over a Halston dress.

Gold suit by YSL, 1988, Halston ensemble featuring silver mesh bra by Elsa Peretti, 1975.

Halston dresses, circa 1976-77. The Peretti bottle pendant is on the far left.

Elsa in a Halston bunny costume, a famous 1975 Helmut Newton photo.

Halston said of her, “Elsa was different from the other models,” the designer recalled. “The others were clothes racks—you’d make them up, fix their hair, and then they’d put their blue jeans back on. But Elsa had style: she made the dress she was modeling her own.”

Elsa at work wearing Halston, in 1974. Photo by Duane Michals. Looks like the blouse in the exhibit!

If you have time, there is a terrific article by James Reginato at Vanity Fair that came out in August 2014, called “Elsa Peretti’s Great Escape” which features an interview with Peretti, now 74 and living in Italy. She details her friendship with Halston, as well as its demise, and how she came to be a jewelry designer.

Love these details of red beads and gold hammered silk satin!

If you get a chance to see it, YSL + Halston: Fashioning the 70s is a unique opportunity to see these two great designers’ work side by side at an important point in each of their careers. It has never been done before and is one of the most interesting shows I’ve seen in awhile. I highly recommend it!

Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s is on view until April 18, 2015. #YSLHalston

The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York NY 10001-5992

Hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-8pm
Saturday, 10AM-5PM
Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays
Admission is free


rosie said...

I read that Nan Kempner's father told her
"you'll never make it on your face, so you'd better make yourself interesting".

Well, she certainly showed him. She made herself & her life more than interesting. In her photos, she looked like she was having fun. A lot of fun.


Jill said...

Hi Rosie! I have read that about Nan's father too, kind of a mean thing for a dad to say to his daughter, right? I think I am drawn to all the crazy stories about her for exactly the reason you mentioned--she always looked like she was having a great time. That first picture I featured, with her and Yves, never fails to make me smile. He must've loved being around her, I know he was prone to depression, I bet Nan could snap him out of it pretty quick! Have fun watching the Oscars this weekend! You know I will be on jewelry patrol! XO, Jill

Chic atanyage said...

I do remember Halston way back in the 70s we used to sell it in a Boutique in London where I worked.

PinkCheetahVintage said...

These two ladies are just so glam!

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

I liked Nan bc even though she was a socialite she was a bit of an outsider. A west coast girl in New York who was unconventionally attractive in the era of Christie Brinkley and Brooke shields. She was a rich outsider plus her husband had that long affair. I think yves made her feel good and clothes was her niche. I know less of elsa and funny I didn't know she was a model but was always a designer!

No fear of fashion said...

The photo of that bunny costume... fabulous.

Linda said...

I'll bet she was a lot of fun...her clothes were wonderful. Great post, Jill.

Sue-Ann said...

The pants accentuate her long legs too.