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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Beautiful Fall

I think I'm probably the last to talk about the passing of Yves St Laurent almost two weeks ago now. While I feel like a Jeanne-come-lately to the whole thing, it's only been really recently that I've been realizing the impact.

The first real exposure I had to YSL was through fragrance, through my mother's bottle of Opium perfume. It was the first scent that I knew by name, by bottle, by smell. Back in the day, when the coolest restaurant I knew (okay, it was Planet Hollywood -- also, I was in elementary school) had bottles of perfumes for you to touch up, Opium was the one I recognized, the one I wanted to spray onto my red paper napkin rose, and the one I proudly brought back to my mom as "Look! Opium! You have this!" and sniffed constantly through dinner. I haven't smelled it (the fragrance, not the paper rose) in years, but just thinking about it, I can remember it.

I have a stack of fashion books to read through, and I'll be writing more about them, but the one I took to Vegas and read through the airport, through the flights, and in my downtime at the hotel was The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris, the story of the rivalry between YSL and Karl Lagerfeld. Susie Bubble did a fabulous review of this book early in 2007, and this book had been on my list since then, but I only got around to reading it just this past week. (I'd had it since, oh, February or March, but my stack of books just keeps growing lately.)

And the passing of YSL definitely colored it -- reading about the relationship between YSL and Pierre Berge, of course, but particularly about Lagerfeld's own fear of mortality. Lagerfeld didn't attend either of his parents' funerals, and sure enough, he didn't attend YSL's, either. And I definitely felt a pang of sympathy -- how awful it must have felt for him, to have mortality stare him right in the face like this.

And while I don't always agree with everything Lagerfeld does or says (like when he takes over the Manolo's blog), I know that he, like a lot of people in fashion, is a wounded person. It's like Drake says at one point -- fashion attracts people who want to be consumed by something, and that's what it does. (Does it still? Have things changed enough?) But he's made it in the industry for over 50 years now -- and he's paid a lot of prices for being able to.

The book itself is an amazing piece of journalism -- I even read through all of the sources and notations, which had some excellent adventures briefly alluded to. (I would definitely read a book just on the research process for this one.) I was sometimes surprised and giddy that I was "in the know" when I picked up on name drops and brief passing references -- I've learned a lot since my days of red paper roses.

image from yslbeautyus.com


Jill Sherman said...

Hey Jeanne,

It was so great meeting you!! I'm adding a link on my blog :)


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Beauty411 said...

This sounds like a book that I would totally love. Hope you're doing well since the TB Summit. And you've been tagged! :D

Perfumeshrine said...

It's so great to see that people do have fond memories of Opium and YSL and have even picked up a really good book to read about him! Endearing story about your mum and the paper roses.

I was deeply, deeply saddened by his passing, dedicating two weeks to talking about his fragrance line and I still feel that there are many things to rhapsodise about his sense of style; I would never tire I guess.

Karl must have been feeling the cold touch of death's finger just missing. And that's a scary thought.

Thank you for writing this Opium post. :-)

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