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The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris Paperback – 1 Oct 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (1 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585466
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'In this fascinating read, Drake reveals the fashion industry's constant flux between in and out, right and wrong, and how Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld trod a rivalrous tightrope' Glamour 'This is an extremely readable and impressively researched book' Guardian 'If you have the slightest interest in late-twentieth-century culture, you should read this book' Gay Times 'Thoroughly entertaining ... Starting with the student riots of 1968 and ending with the shadow of Aids, this is an important social history' --Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Alicia Drake is a fashion journalist based in Paris. She writes regularly for major publications such as W, International Herald Tribune and Vogue.

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S.M. Gidley on 3 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Mar. 2013
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Gaskett on 18 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
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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This is a great book for all those who try to understand anything about the spirit of fashion and how it developed to be what it is today. Nothing like that will happen again and without what happened we would never arrive where we are in our relationship with clothes and style. This book should be part of mandatory reading for anybody who aspires to becoming a fashion critic or connoisseur, it is a very trustworthy guide to the world of the couture, the ready-to-wear and the dynamic that it has played. Alicia Drake guides readers through this world without labeling, rating and judging, she only turns the key in the lock and lets you watch for yourself.

Fantastic read. Everybody notes how well documented this book is, but what struck me most is the very precise way that Alicia Drake introduces the characters, gradually building up the various aspects of their complex personalities that evolve in time and are so human though so genius. It's not an attempt of building a pedestal for the two fantastic fashion personalities, though there is a fair and more than fair amount of acknowledgment to the genius of both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. No mater how extraordinary, though, both have a human side to them that sometimes surprises and adds colour to the image of the person that we know and sometimes disappoints. That human side, that aspect close to nature is sometimes so opposite to the public image of the great creators (and probably what they want to be known for) that it's difficult to accept. But it's not a book meant to deal with the myth of any of the two and it's not trying to lessen their grandeur, it's dealing with the complexity of their souls and their extraordinary, though so different from each other, faith.
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