Sunday, October 25, 2009

People and Places- To be continued

To me, the most inspiring thing is almost always a person:

Barbara Woolworth Hutton:

By the 1930’s, the days of New York society seemed to be coming to a close. But in the form of Barbara Woolworth Hutton it seemed to be revived. She was the original poor little rich girl as she had witnessed her mother’s suicide when she was only 5 and was then abandoned by her father. Through her mother and her mother’s family she inherited a $500 million dollar fortune in the late 1920’s. She was known for her emeralds that had once belonged to the Grand Duchess Valdimir and were said to be the finest in the world. Through her marriages she was twice a princess once a countess as well as a baroness and Mrs. Cary Grant. She burned through her money living a life of high style and died alone with only $5,000 to her name.

This photo taken in the mid 60's showcases Miss Huttons most magnificent jewels (The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara and earings as well as the Polar Star diamond, worn here as a ring.)

Yves saint Laurent:

Yves Saint Laurent was born on August 1st 1936 in Oran Algeria. At the time Oran was one of the largest cities in France, as it had been a colony since 1830. Oran was the only city in North Africa where the European population outnumbered that of the Arabs. The city had a Spanish feel due to their 200 year occupation starting in the sixteenth century. Yves ancestors had moved to Oran in the 1870’s after the Prussian occupation of the Alsace. Yves was born to Charles and Lucienne Saint Laurent, a very prominent couple in Oran Society. He was the oldest child in the family and had two younger sisters Michele and Brigitte born in 1942 and 1945.
Yves grew up charming his family with his precocious talent. He would make dresses out of old fabric and would make entire theatres with paper dolls. He grew up surrounded by the adoration of his mother and sisters. He was the family’s little prince. Growing up he was very shy outside his family and retreated into his room, drawing costumes for imaginary theatrical productions. To his family he was a star and it would not be until much later that the world saw him as one.
In 1953 Yves won third prize in the International Wool Secretariat competition. He flew to Paris with his mother for the first time to collect his prize. They were not only going for the award but for a meeting made through a family connection with Michel de Brunhoff, the extremely influential editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Brunhoff thought Yves should study at the Ecole de la Chambre de la Couture Parisienne, and in 1954 he came back to Paris as a student. At the time anyone aspiring to a career in couture went there. Among his fellow students were Karl Lagerfeld and Fernando Sanchez. After only a few months Yves began to dread the school and in the spring of 1955 he went to see de Brunhoff again. At the meeting Yves gave Brunhoff a handful of illustrations he had been working on. Everyone there was amazed because the sketches were almost identical to Dior’s new collection that would not be shown for another two weeks. Seeing his genius de Brunhoff showed the designs to Monsieur Dior and Yves was hired as an assistant at Christian Dior in June of 1955. In 1956 Yves was asked to design head-dresses for a masque that Baron Alexis de Rede was giving. Through this his star began to rise at the house of Dior. Later in 1957 he was promoted to assistant to Dior himself. But on the 24 of October, the savior of Paris fashion after WWII and its brightest star Christian Dior died of a heart attack. At the age of 21 Yves Saint Laurent was chosen to head the House of Dior. Since the 50’s fashion has become a youth centered industry. But back then couture was made by people 50 and over for a clientele of a similar age. It was a great shock to many that such a young shy boy would be chosen to fill the biggest shadow ever left in the industry.
After his appointment as the head of Dior, Yves went home on a small break and returned with 178 designs and one silhouette that would be fashion for that season. In early 1958 Yves Saint Laurent showed his first collection and named his new silhouette the “Trapeze”. The Trapeze was fitted at the bust and then flared out completely ignoring the waist. It was completely radical to ignore the waist at a house that had built its image on the “new look” waist. Clients and the press were intoxicated with interest for what they dubbed “the little girl dresses”. His first collection was a huge success and there was nowhere to go but up for this new star.
Saint Laurent designed six collections for Dior but his time there was never easy. Dior’s heirs who owned the house tried to bully Yves and exert their own influence on the business. His rebellion against the owners was never more evident than during his final collection in July of 1960. This final collection for Dior known as the “Beat” collection was inspired by the beatnik scene of Saint Germain and his designs were younger than they had ever been. His rebellion did not go over well and in October of 1960 Marc Bohan was brought in as head designer. Yves was offered the extremely inferior post of designing Dior’s ready-to-wear collection. It was an unsefferable punishment and he refused the offer. Suffering a breakdown Yves moved in with his good friend Pierre Berge. For a year Yves was out of work and desperate, all he did was design a costumes for his friend and dance star Zizi Jeanmaire.
While Yves was recovering Pierre was out looking for a backer to help Yves. He found it in Jesse Mack Robinson a millionaire from the US and on the 4th of December 1961 they opened the house of Yves Saint Laurent. It had been a year since Yves had shown a collection and there were great expectations for this one. From this collection one particular ensemble became an iconic ideal of Saint Laurent, a navy blue pea coat with wide white pants and white flats. This simple ensemble showed the great modern force that Yves would bring to fashion. He saw beyond the lady in a chauffeured car who needed clothing that suited her position in society, he saw a younger client. His last collection at Dior showed a move towards this younger look but again those garments were worn by socialites and heiresses not starlets. The press was amazed to find a rival to the youth centered world of swinging London.
In 1967 Clara Saint suggested Yves and Pierre take a holiday in Marrakech. It was here Yves meet Talitha Getty, the 26 year old wife of J. P. Getty and the reigning queen of the jet-set. She introduced Yves and Pierre to Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg and every night was spent coked up and dancing. Yves was entranced by this glamorous new youth culture that was hinged on rock’n roll. It was also during this era that Yves was spending time with such luminary’s as Nureyev, Maia Plistetskaia,, Andy Warhol and Margot Fonteyn. He found a muse in new french star Catherine Deneuve who he dressed for several films and would become a permanent client. He was also introduced to Betty Catroux born Saint a debutante turned model who would become one of his greatest friends. She became part of what was called the Saint Laurent Clique. It was the most chic and and exclusive set in Paris and it was governed by one rule, complete devotion to Yves Saint Laurent.
In 1968 Yves saw a young waif at a party and he was immediately entranced by her style and look. That girl was Loulou de la Falaise, who would become one of his greatest muses and the perfect example of the converging generations of the late 60’s and early 70’s. From this odd mix Paris culture seemed to change, with the turn of the decade it seemed art was no longer what people saw in Paris but fashion. It was with this fashion that the younger generation chose to express itself, and a new type of art was born. Throughout the 70’s Yves triumphed, collection after collection was received with more and more applause. Yves dressed Bianca Jagger and almost everyone who was anyone. Clubs reigned supreme and the drug addled glitterati were idolized by wannabes the world over.
The endless parties were coming to a close. Everyone was older and they knew it. After more than a decade of drugs, parties and the jet-set, what was next? Everyone had always been well off but now fashion was big business. Based on 1982 figures Yves was taking home a reported personal income of more than $4 million year. There were CEOs, share holders, and it was no longer just about the clothing. In 1983 with help from Diana Vreeland the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held a major retrospective of Yves’s work. It was the first time the museum had honored a living designer with a retrospective. Yves Saint Laurent said “what will I do afterwards?” in reference to the retrospective. Where could he go, he couldn’t go up and he sure couldn’t go down. He prevailed and was continually successful with a devoted clientele and achieved an almost mythical status in the fashion world.
In the late 80’s and into the 90’s the House of Yves Saint Laurent went through many business changes. Pierre Berge took the company public in 89 and then sold it for $650 million to Sanofi in 93. A fall in profits was hard for the company and Berge spoke openly of finding a new designer for the ready to wear collection. There were a slew of YSL licenses with items designed by others and bearing no relation to the genius that was Saint Laurent. It seemed an artist’s genius was no longer what counted. As Yves entered the last decade of his career he had no ideas for a successor. There would be no one to inherit his place in fashion. He was adamant that couture died with him and with the greatest expression of his ego he said, “I am the last couturier”. In 1998 Yves Saint Laurent gave up designing his ready to wear line and choose only to continue with couture. In 1999 Sanofi Corp. who owned YSL sold it to Francois Pinault for $1 billion. Pinaults buy out left Yves and Pierre in charge of the couture house and they were given a settlement of $70 million and an annual salary of $6.6 million. But the further sale of YSL to the Gucci group brought about the greatest change, the introduction of Tom Ford as the ready to wear designer of YSL. For a few years Yves continued to work but his couture creations were often over shadowed buy the money made from Ford’s ready-to-wear. In 2002, forty years after his first YSL couture show Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement. It was fashions greatest loss since that of Christian Dior in 1957. After retirement Yves lived in relative obscurity, he was no longer a creator. On June 1st 2008 Yves Saint Laurent died of brain cancer at the age of 71. One of the greatest stars of the 20th century had ceased to shine. Now we can only look to books and old publications for what was Saint Laurent, for his creative genius is no more. He will remain what the Metropolitan retrospective in 1983 made him, a legend.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I Saw For SS 10

-Practical dresses. Cute things that work for every day.

-Blazers. Working women are stronger than ever!!!

-Softer 80’s. We're back in the 80's but the shoulder pads and over sized jackets seem more palatable this time around.

-Stylized shorts. Forget those ugly old hiking shorts you wear in the jungle, try a sheer Valentino pair.

-Basics, lots of nice workable pieces. It has to work with with what you already have.

-Sheers. If you've got it, flaunt it!!!!!!!

-Ruffles. No 80's prom dresses for us, our ruffles are refined and chic.

-Neutral colors. Put away the PUCCI