Dior, YSL, and What’s next?

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(YSL following the funeral of Christian Dior in 1957)

WWD’s coverage of YSL’s funeral is extensive, and the funeral itself warrants comment as a major event in fashion history (following on Monica’s earlier post). The article suggests it was “one of the most important and biggest French fashion funerals since the death of Christian Dior in 1957.” This makes me wonder if the loss of St. Laurent will have the same impact on fashion as the loss of Christian Dior. Lets think about that.

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Dior brought the French fashion industry back up on its feet after a devastating war, and re-defined the notion of chicness, along with the introduction of a major shift in the fashionable silhouette: He defined the ‘new look’ of the 1950s.

The loss of Dior created another major change in the silhouette by ushering in the young Yves Saint Laurent. For many, YSL brought about a new awareness of youth culture, leaving behind the old staid traditional conservativeness of couture. Things were exciting, new, and in constant flux with experimentation under YSL. He grew with and helped established a look for the independent, working woman of the 1970s and 1980s.

But now the fashion world works in a different way. Paris does not control the fashionable world as it once did. Couture has a different function, and is no longer the beginning of new styles (as it was under Dior). As Balenciaga noted when he left the field in 1968, “couture is dead.” So what then does the loss of YSL really mean for fashionability?

For one, an extremely creative, definitive, and important designer has left the world. But also, we have lost a connection to the history of couture, to the old way of doing things. But as many designers will tell you, you must always look to the future. What this loss points to (and forgive the corniness here): As in all things, when one thing ends, something new has the opportunity to begin. Will this mean that the ‘cult of youth’ will loosen its grip over the design world? Will structure return? Will the trend for 1980s fashion finally subside? One can only wait and see where we will go next. But I will speculate that given the stratification of the fashion world, the direction will not be absolute.

One thing we are likely to see is more reference to YSL’s historic body of work. Marc Jacobs (who often ‘references’ older styles), has already included an ensemble referring to YSL’s Le Smoking in his Resort 2009 collection. But where else and more importantly, what else will we see?

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(Trapeze Dress, YSL for House of Dior, 1958)

YSL’s Modrian homage dress, the safari suit, the trapeze dress, his costumes for Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour (You Tube Trailer) and his African inspired raffia collections, are all iconic forms will likely appear in the collections of other designers (a list of iconic designs is here). That said, YSL’s talent for synthesizing the essence of an art or cultural movement and translating it into a singular fashion statement was breathtaking and would be nearly impossible to emmulate. Young designers looking to emulate his style, or historians looking for an encyclopedic reference should turn to the images at Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.


Until next time,

Heather

www.fashionhistorian.net

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