The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris Hardcover – 18 Sep 2006
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`...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
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. See all Product description
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I did struggle to keep up with all the entourages (The Fashion Pack) with whom Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent surrounded themselves, partly because there are so many of them, but mainly because they are so utterly vile and unattractive as people. Not in a physical sense of course, because beauty, originality and glamour are the essential order of the day to be part of these very exclusive jet set groups. However, they are all so full of intense superficiality, cruelty, snobbery and lack interest in anything other than themselves and their own self promotion, being seen in the 'right' place with the 'right' person, partying until dawn and being visibly connected to the latest trend, fashion magazine, designer, artist, fashion photographer or super rich person(s). The entourages reminded me of a sort off modern day court of Louis xiv. And I think you can guess the two individuals playing King Louis xiv, the Sun King!
Saint Laurent certainly comes across as a very talented but deeply fragile, superficial, passive aggressive, self-involved manic depressive living in his own world, deluded about his own importance and great talent. While his lifelong partner and most devoted defender and advocate, Pierre Bergé appears very astute but highly controlling and a very divisive megalomaniac. That said, as the story unfolds you begin to feel that maybe Pierre is unfairly cast as the villain, living his life in a world of endless drama and hysteria with YSL. Karl Lagerfeld equally appears very astute and highly intelligent, always positioning himself well, he is generous while feeding of numerous people like a vampire and then discarding them to move himself forward and onto the next big thing. This is a creative process he becomes very adept at, so he can always stay one step ahead in the fast paced, ever changing high end fashion world. He also becomes very adept at re-inventing and grandly embellishing his past rather like the great Coco Chanel.
The book discusses how Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent helped to shift the fashion world away from the fustiness of Paris haute couture to prêt a porter. But it also focuses far more on both their and their entourages very hedonistic lifestyle, with money no object, leading to the pursuit of endless pleasure, and for many heavy drug and alcohol use in the 1970's. This then of course moves on to the advent of Aids on the entourages, a group of people who saw the flaunting of casual sex and hard drugs as part of their essential and invincible power, allure and glamour. This is described with clear-eyed, be careful what you wish for compassion by Drake.
Both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent refused to speak to Drake for the book, but allowed their many intimate acquaintances/friends to do so. The truth creeps through like a powerful thunder bolt, and ultimately what one is left with is a rather disturbing image of a closed, exclusive world, with a group of highly narcissistic people who created their own reality, but who were then burned by their own arrogant self-obsession and desperate desire to be noticed and in with the 'in' crowd. Lagerfeld of course survives and still shines as a tour de force in the high end fashion world. This speaks volumes about the astute forward thinking man he is. Ultimately this book is a fascinating insight into an esoteric world, a world of the super rich, but for many readers of this book like myself, it will be the pinnacle of a fashion dream. Yet the cruel 'exclusive club' superficial, narcissistic reality of it, left me cold and very happy to be on the outside looking in. I couldn't help thinking about Hans Christian Andersen's, 'The Emperor's New Clothes'.
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.