Sunday, November 9, 2008

All About Yves

The flurry of fashion events stemming from the retrospective on the late Yves Saint Laurent at the De Young Museum this month has hit San Francisco on a large scale. Opening festivities might be past, but the exhibit is on view until April and is not to be missed.

On November 1st, The Innovative Fashion Council had a chance to attend a very special symposium at the Koret Auditorium on the life and cultural influence of Yves Saint Laurent. The elite group of speakers included Hamish Bowles (European Editor-at-Large for Vogue), Florence Muller (Fashion Historian, Professor and Editor for Surface Magazine), and Farid Chenoune (Fashion Historian and Author) - each with a unique perspective on how YSL shaped modern fashion for women. Pierre Berge, longtime business partner of the late YSL, provided the opening remarks.

Hamish Bowles focused his presentation on the early years as a young apprentice to Christian Dior to "The Three Fates" that led to YSL taking over the couture house and his dramatic move to open his own atelier (with the help of Berge, his devoted clients and "muses", and loyal Dior staff). While critics declared his first collection "underwhelming," Coco Chanel named him her only true heir, and the rich hues influenced by his travels to Morocco were on the way. With his new muse Loulou de la Falaise, YSL united the aristocracy with bohemianism in his collections and became the designer of his time. When he moved his couture house to the grand Avenue Marceau, YSL declared "I need opulence as others need oceans or mountains."

Farid Chenoune focused on what might be the greatest revolution in women's fashion -the debut of "Le Smoking" in 1966. This elegant take on the tuxedo for evening wear essentially gave women the power they had lost in the feminine frills of the "Mad Men" world and trapeze dresses. YSL made it possible for women to have sex appeal without the vulgarity. Chenoune further pointed out the timeless appeal of this iconic look in the example of the French fashion chain La Redoute introducing Le Smoking in its 1995 catalog. So while "Chanel gave women freedom, YSL gave them the power." And the power of this outfit couldn't be conveyed any stronger than in the uber-chic style of famed YSL muse, Betty Catroux, who was also in San Francisco during the opening of the exhibit.

In the final presentation, Florence Muller gave her own interpretation of how YSL revolutionized the world of women through her own experiences in his pieces for YSL Rive Gauche. In her own YSL ensemble, she shared the secret of YSL, which is style to help you define your own personality - not make your personality. In his spirit for modern sportswear (begun by Chanel in the early 1900's) YSL stated, "My dream is to give women the basis for a classic wardrobe, which, escaping the fashion of the moment, will give them greater confidence in themselves." And what greater gift can a designer give a woman than confidence? Muller mused that it's increasingly harder for modern designers to make the same impact as YSL, because now that women have it all, what's next?

And what is next is the impact YSL will continue to have on style and elegance. While the presenters answered many questions on the mystery and delicacy of YSL and his talents, their insights opened the door to even more musings- who is the YSL of today and would he/she even have the means to make such an impact?

There's more to come on YSL in San Francisco. Thursday night ArtPoint host a VIP party and private viewing of the exhibit and coming soon, we'll have more from Florence Muller in Paris.

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