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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suitably stylish and well-made.
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...
Published on 3 Feb 2010 by S.M. Gidley

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, gossipy history that left me with many questions
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...
Published 21 months ago by emma who reads a lot


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suitably stylish and well-made., 3 Feb 2010
By 
S.M. Gidley (Sidmouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl and Yves, 18 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, gossipy history that left me with many questions, 7 Mar 2013
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
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. I would not rely on testimony from the other side of a family feud to 'prove' my account of someone's life. I was left unhappy about what Drake was trying to say about Lagerfeld, and if in the end any of it really mattered.

Secondly, I found the over-concentration on life events, rather than on fashion itself, often rather irritating and frustrating. I was delighted every time she explained something I didn't know - how the couture house is organised into ateliers - how each head would pick from the designer's drawings the frocks they thought they could make best - the fact that it was only in the seventies that a make-up artist was first employed to work on a fashion show! But these bits were relatively few and far between. There was far more in the book about taking drugs in Marrakech than there was about the basic process of constructing a couture dress and I found that limiting.

The 'gossip column' approach grated on me more with each chapter. It's assumed we'll know who many society characters are - for example Kasmin, the art dealer, is mentioned simply by his surname!

And I found the style irritating in places. She often takes a single event and explodes it into an account of a time using the verb 'would' - 'She would turn up with a suitcase of clothes gathered from Portobello market", "they would take a picnic and dress up on the beach"- this rhetorical technique is used over and over to stretch material over weeks or months that comes from an interviewer's mention of a single day. One minute a sentence begins "all summer long" the next, "she had on a red striped hat" - what, all summer long?? :-) And there are some uncomfortable turns of phrase: 'zenith of Satanism' was my favourite. (Should that be 'nadir'?)

But in the end my biggest frustration was the lack of words from the two central characters. I don't know much about YSL but Karl Lagerfeld is so brilliantly funny that it seems a great shame not to have more of his own words. The brief moments where he was quoted the book seemed to come to life in a way it hadn't before.

So, all in all, a really very readable book, but one with so many substantial problems that I'm giving it 3 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like this will happen again: the men, the times and Paris had to come together and it is not coming back the way it was, 23 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
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.
Born in a different land and in different times, I was reading with a blush the story of a world that I did not even know could be possible. The seventies in Paris, the times when hedonism, decadence, art, beauty, recklessness, drugs, money and social changes, including a shift to the left in politics meet and mix together, creating an almost impossible mix... What a wonderful, far from reach, unattainable world full of joy, light-heartedness, old money, poor but beautiful young people, all in that restless dance, rolling down, heading to disaster until it could not go any further and had to end tragically for some.
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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 (Portugal) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put it down, 5 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
This book is fantastic - have worked in the industry for years and found it really enjoyable! A must read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and well researched, 21 May 2014
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
This was a great read. Very fair to both YSL and Karl Lagerfeld who are each fascinating in their own way. Hugely talented, again in different ways. The author succeeds in depicting their lives and times fairly and in depth. For anyone interested in designers, fashion, the sixties to eighties, read this book. I thought it was terrific. Very well researched. Only criticism is that I wish the typeface was easier to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 25 April 2014
By 
Nick Hart (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
I have only read the first 50 pages or so but it's great and I am really enjoying it.

I saw the Yves Saint Laurent film the other day which inspired me to learn more about the era and the people and it's very good for that. It's all quite factual and not the usual breathless, fawning drivel that's written about this subject so I recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good, 29 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (Paperback)
It is good. Hasn't have time to read it yet though. Nice quality just like what I expected. Very good
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