Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Uglification of Fashion

When Yves Saint Laurent showed his Spring/Summer collection in 1971,  an uproar ensued.  YSL had had some big shoes to fill some years earlier, taking over designing for the House of Dior after the death of Christian Dior.  He had created some beautiful looks before branching off on his own, with a successful house that created the iconic Mondrian look.  By the time 1971 had come around, people were believers in the designer, who was still the youngest couturier showing in Paris.  But disaster hit with the spring collection.  One French critic called it Une Grande Farce -- pretty harsh criticism, coming from a countryman.  American papers called it "hideous," proclaiming it to be the start of the "uglification of fashion."


What set them off?  Europeans, especially the French, were upset at the fact that it was inspired by the 40s.  They felt that he was romanticing the occupation of France by Germany -- it was, after all, only 25 years or so after it had happened.  Too soon?  Think about it.  What if an American designer had been inspired by Pearl Harbor, or by the events of 9/11?  Granted, YSL had chosen an era in fashion, but the outcry showed just how emotional fashion can be.

American critics hated the clunky shoes, the over-sized revers, and even the chunkier than normal models he used.  They noted that the huge shoes - designed by Vivier -- sported platform soles, four inch heels and T-straps, which thrust the model's posture into an odd forward posture.  One fashion critic called the shoes "repellent," and said that the model's could barely walk in them.
Critics noted that younger girls could get away with his mini skirts, which were noted to be the shortest in Paris, and that they'd have fun playing dress up in the campy couture he showed.  Mature ladies?  Not so much.  They, in fact, called the entire European couture trend "suicidal," saying that the thought of the Paris designers was that they wanted to focus on the ready to wear arm of their business -- where the real money was made -- rather than the couture.

Whether this was truth or not, it was somewhat prophetic.  Some time later, YSL -- who was the first couturier to put out a ready to wear collection --  cracked under the pressure of creating 2 couture and 2 ready to wear collections a year, and handed the ready to wear off to his assistants.  It died a fairly quick death after that, and he eventually closed his couture house as well.  He died in 2008 as a result of brain cancer.

(Photo, courtesy of AspenPeak magazine.)

1 comment:

  1. Amazing designs, rich colors and very elegant. Too bad that it was too soon for his critics. I love this collection! Interestingly, The Pointer Sisters would adopt a similar look for their album That's A-Plenty that came out just a few years later. So perhaps his designs had some cultural impact anyway?