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The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris [Hardcover]

Alicia Drake
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Sep 2006
In 1954 they were two young talents from the provinces, both dreaming of Paris, glamour and glory. Yves Saint Laurent was the charmed youth, the enfant terrible inheritor of Dior's couture crown. Karl Lagerfeld was the freelance designer with a talent for ready-to-wear. Seemingly from a background of wealth and privilege, he was in fact a tireless workaholic, driven by his passion for capturing the pose of the moment. Then 1968 happened and Paris exploded like a champagne bottle left in the sun. The city embraced liberation and hedonism, making up for years of post-war insecurity. It was a decade dominated by intrigue, infidelities and addiction - and parties. Each designer created his own mesmerising world, drawing towards them people attracted by their power, charisma and fame. Loulou de la Falaise, Paloma Picasso, Pierre Berge and Jacques de Bascher were all living in the mirror of fashion. The tensions of class and nationality, bohemia and luxury, youth and yearning, talent and ambition were subsumed in the creation of glamour. The two cliques could not help but become rivals. But as the 70s turned to the 80s, heroin and Aids cast their shadow; fashion became an industry, money prevailed and the beautiful people discovered the danger of living their dreams. The Beautiful Fall is Alicia Drake's brilliant chronicle of this dangerous, brazen, fabulous time.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (18 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074757037X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747570370
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.2 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


`...This fascinating read... reveals the fashion industry's
constant flux between in and out, right and wrong...'
-- Glamour, 1 October 2006

`Gripping account of the rivalry between Yves Saint Laurent and
Karl Lagerfeld in Seventies Paris.' -- Independent on Sunday, 24 September 2006

`Men wore make-up, students rioted... Drake looks at how the Paris
fashion world was...the centre of newfound gay confidence.' -- Gay Times, 1 October 2006

`TBF has been researched with the vigour of an academic tome but
there's plenty in it for the casual reader.' -- Gay Times, 1 October 2006

`The book is thoroughly entertaining, unpicking the fashion scene
in Paris in the 1970s... this is an important social history.' -- Independent on Sunday, 24 September 2006

About the Author

Alicia Drake writes regularly for a variety of publications, including the International Herald Tribune, Travel and Leisure, W magazine and British Vogue, for which she was a contributing editor. She has lived and worked in Paris for the last ten years.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suitably stylish and well-made. 3 Feb 2010
This is a sensitively written, well-researched account of a pivotal point in the history of fashion. Drake takes as her starting point the co-incidence that a young Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld both took prizes in the International Wool Secretariat competition in 1954 and then charts their careers through the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Her main achievement in this book is her fairness. It would be easy to take sides with one of the designers over the other (who would be a matter of very personal choice, they are both equally likeable and dislikeable characters), but Drake does not do this and manages to convey a level of respect and, in the end, affection for them both which is coloured by extensive interviews that she carried out with friends and colleagues of the two designers. There is a section in the middle which seems almost endless about the drug-addled night-time exploits of the cast of hangers-on which could have been cut down as it doesn't add too much to the reader's understanding of the two men, but there's no doubt that it provides interesting detail of a period that, although still so close, is now long gone.

The only small criticism I had of this book is that fact that sometimes when you were reading a massive chunk about YSL you tended to forget that KL was even part of the book, and vice versa. Possibly Drake could have moved between them both a little more frequently, particularly at the beginning where YSL's early life and career tend to go on forever, however, I almost feel guilty writing that as these chunks in themselves were highly engrossing.

I would have liked to have seen more photographs too, especially of YSL's legendary 1970s haute couture collections.

And who did I end up by liking? It's got to be Kaiser Karl, you can't deny the man's staying power and his work ethic.

A highly recommended book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl and Yves 18 Feb 2013
This is not just the story of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, who started their careers together by winning the Woolmark prize in 1954. It is also about the other personalities and fashion houses that inspired and supported them. The story is gripping, Ms Drake must be admired for her detailed research into this fascinating story of fashion, business, love and rivalry throughout the 1970's.
If you have an interest in fashion you will love this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a thoroughly readable, page-turning history of Paris fashion in the seventies, centred on a dual biography of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld during those years. It has become famous partly for having been the cause of a lawsuit, initiated by Lagerfeld who disagreed (violently!) with Drake's account of him, in particular with her version of his childhood... so one does expect a bit of gossip!

I am not especially interested in fashion though I do have a soft spot for French Vogue... This book was a great place to start.

The good things first: Drake did an astonishing number of interviews - I have seen fewer listed in well-reviewed histories of the Second World War. She spoke to many of the most significant players: models, mannequins, muses and designers, with big names ranging from Helmut Newton to Manolo Blahnik to Paloma Picasso. (She did not however manage to speak to the reclusive Saint Laurent himself - nor secure a full interview with Karl Lagerfeld.)

Well-researched, then. And certainly you do get a good overall picture of Paris in the seventies. She is excellent at showing Paris's strengths - enormous depths of skill, style and tradition - and its weaknesses - little youth culture and no cool nightclubs...

However, I had a lot of issues with the book while reading, and so although I did enjoy it, I was left with a lot of criticisms.

My largest criticism would be her reliance, in questioning Karl Lagerfeld's accounts of his life, on the testimony of one relative, Kurt, who seems estranged from Karl. You only have to look at real life for ten seconds to know that massive disagreements within families about basic factual claims are extremely common.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God comunication, fast shipping. Love the book 21 Jan 2014
By Su
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is a great book, give us a review of the world of fashion, music, art, the madness of the 70's and the story behind of Yves Saint Laurent and karl Lagerfeld. I really loved it
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