It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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This year, on 29 January 2012, the Yves Saint Laurent brand will celebrate its 50th birthday. Fifty years of dressing women (and men), of launching best-seller licensing deals, of building up Yves Saint Laurent’s legend, Pierre Bergé’s myth, of being scandalous under Tom Ford and quiet under Stefano Pilati.

I fell in love with Yves Saint Laurent after a Paris ELLE cover featuring the designer with Laetitia Casta in that bikini flower wedding dress. Although I haven’t been able to find it anywhere on the world wide web, to the extent I’ve started to think this cover was little more than a composite of my imagination, I’d date it back to his 2002 retrospective.

Despite not owing anything Yves Saint Laurent until last year, the man and the brand have been a recurrent presence in my life and have formed my fashion taste.

I remember queuing at the Petit Palais to see the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective, the amazement of the Visconti room, the surprise of discovering he’d written a cartoon book, the Catherine Deneuve wardrobe and his voice when answering Proust’s questionnaire

I remember my sister’s shock when, sitting on les berges de la Seine, after seeing the Petit Palais retrospective, I told her Yves Saint Laurent had been a drug addict, then leafing through Laurence Benaïm's biography to read the appropriate extracts

I remember being impressed by the minimalism, cut and modernity of my first real-life Mondrian dress at the Grace Kelly V&A exhibition

I remember seeing the pictures of Saint Laurent being made Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2007 and realising there and then he would definitely never design again

I remember being moved to tears when I first heard Laetitia Casta and Catherine Deneuve sing Barbara’s Ma plus belle histoire d’amour at the end of his 2002 haute-couture retrospective. (No, Laetitia can’t sing)

I remember my eighty-year-old neighbour turning up to my birthday in a Pucci dress and Yves Saint Laurent shawl and considering her the height of elegance

I remember loving Anny Duperey’s wardrobe in Stavisky, a white, luxury symphony, and discovering, years later, that Yves Saint Laurent had designed it

I remember hearing about Yves Saint Laurent’s death, on the radio, the morning of my Indian history exam, when I should have been focusing on Macaulay’s reforms and how the British created a caste system

I remember regretting not to be in Paris to queue for the exhibition before the Christie’s auction

I remember being disappointed Pierre Bergé has decided to disperse the collection rather than keeping rue Babylone as a museum and not understanding his decision. I’ve since read in Béatrice Peyrani’s biography that he thought a private museum wouldn’t be sustainable

I remember considering the 1998 advert for the Paris women’s fragrance, with a woman kissing her lover, suspended to a helicopter, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, as the height of romanticism

I remember the 1998 World Cup retrospective, just before the  France-Brazil match kicked off. Pure Pierre Bergé marketing genius

I remember little of the Tom Ford years

I remember Stefano Pilati, shy and self-effacing, trying to convince Anna Wintour dark green is a colour in The September Issue

I remember an article on Pilati’s mastership of polka dots in one of the first Paris Vogue I’ve ever read

I remember Anna Dello Russo in Pilati’s strawberry print white dress, with a cherry hat

I remember my first Yves Saint Laurent manifesto, set aside by a passenger on the number 9 bus at the Knightsbridge stop

I remember Kate Moss looking through the Pierre-Bergé Yves Saint Laurent Fondation window, in an advert which has been on the walls of every single room I’ve moved to

I remember thinking the same Kate Moss wasn’t the best person to embody the Parisienne perfume because she was more cool Britannia than Parisian chic. Would Yves have approved?

I remember buying my first vintage Yves Saint Laurent piece, a purple skirt I date to the Van Gogh collection, in the 1980s. I remember nearly buying a red cape with a black fur collar for fashion’s sakes since it suited neither my frame, nor my lifestyle

I remember buying my second Yves Saint Laurent piece, a Muse in a beautiful camel colour in the softest grainy leather

I remember wanting the Arty ring before deciding against it because everyone was buying it. In 2011, Net-a-Porter alone sold 800 blue Arty rings.

I remember opening my wardrobe to make and inventory of all the clothes inspired by the Yves Saint Laurent collections I owe. Smoking, check, safari jacket, check, trench coat, check…

Posted at 7:54pm and tagged with: first person, pierre bergé, ysl, yves saint laurent, tom ford, Stefano Pilati, the september issue,.

Remember that September Issue scene where Anna Wintour tells Elissa Santisi her styling is always the same?

Elissa: I was thinking maybe it’s kind of body conscious for clothes. Then at one point I thought maybe she could be sort of bionic. […]

Anna: It’s quite one-dimensional. But, also, the girls always look the same, Elissa. The way they’re dressed, it’s always the same. Somehow, the picture’s always the same. It’s usually the same minimal approach. I mean it’s what you are, I know. And the girls always tend to have straight hair. […] So it would be great if we could break out.

Well break out she did with her “Monsters, Inc.” editorial in this year’s September issue. This is the kind of shoot I expect from Pop rather than Vogue. Santisi teamed up with performance artist Nick Cave to introduce the season’s new accessories as well as fur, but not as Vogue does it. The result is colourful and crazy, without a bionic woman or straight hair in sight.

On a side note, the scene quoted seems odd to me. Santisi has been styling for quite a while. It is unlikely that Wintour realised her styling was a reflection of her personal style just as RJ Cutler was filming.

All scans from The Fashion Spot user IAmLordZen

Posted at 10:39am and tagged with: Vogue, The September Issue, editorial, Anna Wintour,.

Towards the beginning of The September Issue, Anna Wintour, fashion market/accessories editor Virginia Smith and style director Elissa Santisi discuss an accessory story:

Anna Wintour: So it’s all pinks.[…] Virginia we really feel that this is the most important message to put in the September issue?

Virginia Smith: I thought it was pretty

Pretty? Really? I’m aware of the importance of aesthetics in fashion but “pretty”, alone, isn’t a good enough reason to feature an accessory in a magazine which will be read by “one in ten American women”. Pretty is the kind of argument my four-year old goddaughter uses to try to convince me to buy her a dress, “mais c’est zoli marraine”. Pretty is subjective, especially when it isn’t backed up by context or reference. Pretty doesn’t sound thought through, it sounds like a knee-jerk, last-minute decision. Even this-is-an-accessory-made-by-a-big-advertiser would be more valid, especially coming from the fashion market/accessories editor.

Of course, there is a possibility that RJ Cutler edited the dialogue, and Anna Wintour has little time for each of her meetings, but I would expect the accessories I see in the Vogue pages to be chosen for reasons beyond their prettiness.

Previously: The September Issue: It’s a men’s world

Posted at 9:38am and tagged with: anna Wintour, Vogue, Classy film, the september issue,.

The September Issue is a female-dominated documentary. With the exception of editor-at-large André Leon Talley, publisher Tom Florio, contributing editor Edward Enninful and design director Charles Churchward, men are a rare on-screen commodity, relegated to cameo and faire-valoir roles. 

This changes in the last minutes of the film. One of the most significant scenes is sandwiched between the wrapping up of the magazine and the end credits. Anna Wintour, dressed in Prada, presents the upcoming September issue to Si Newhouse, Condé Nast chairman. During the whole film, Wintour was the boss but in this really short and easy to oversee scene, you are reminded that her decisions are accountable for and that she, herself, has a big boss. Around the table she’s presenting to, I’ve only counted three women.

Posted at 10:23pm and tagged with: Vogue, Classy film, The September Issue, Anna Wintour,.