A review of the recent biopic about the designer.
This week saw Couture season roll round once more, and while you won’t find me sporting an opera-inspired Valentino gown or riding a Chanel bicyclette any time soon, there’s nothing like the glamour of Couture – fashion in its purest, sparkliest and most fantastical form – to remind you it’s not all about disposable style and relentless trend chasing. Haute Couture is true fashion artistry and nobody sums up the innovative spirit, creative mastery and sheer craftsmanship of Couture than the genius that was Yves Saint Laurent. One of the greatest names in fashion history, Saint Laurent revived the dying art in the ’60s and made ready-to-wear a reputable form with designs that combined aesthetic appeal and a real understanding of what women wanted to wear – and feel like.
His iconic 1966 ‘Le Smoking’ collection introduced women to the tuxedo for the first time, celebrating the female form and empowering women with an unfussy, androgynous appeal that fashion has flirted with ever since. Fashion history is a real passion of mine and so when I heard there was a film all about the designer’s life in the pipeline, I couldn’t wait to see it – and knew it would be a feast for the eyes. Yves Saint Laurent is every bit as slick and stylish as you would hope, realising mid-century glamour and Parisian sparkle on the screen. The clothes were an absolute dream – it’s one thing viewing Saint Laurent’s masterpieces in photographs or books, but to see them come to life really hammered home just how liberating and enchanting his designs were.
The styling was sublime, with amazing attention to detail from the perfect accessories to chic Parisian interiors. The film is so much more than just a shiny surface though, and the very real pressures of the industry and of the rapidly changing world in which the designer lived were rendered believably and movingly. We think of the cult of the celebrity designer as a recent phenomenon, but the immense pressure on Saint Laurent to deliver the innovative and new, and marry business demands with artistic vision, was keenly felt. He was propelled into the limelight as successor to Christian Dior at 21 and clearly had not only immense talent but an instinctive and insatiable drive to create.
Saint Laurent battled with personal demons throughout his life. I didn’t know much about the designer personally, but the film focused prominently on his struggles with mental illness and addiction, and tumultuous relationship with business partner and lifelong companion Pierre Bergé. The duo split romantically in 1976, but the unwavering support of Bergé for Saint Laurent was incredibly moving; as artistic partnerships go, this has got to be one of the most significant – but perhaps one of the less well-known – of the twentieth century. It’s been compared to The Devil Wears Prada and Coco Avant Chanel but I felt this film was more than that: beautiful and thought-provoking in equal measure.
Who is your favourite twentieth century designer? Do you have a favourite fashion film or fashion moment?
Yves Saint Laurent is out on DVD 14 July.
A check disc was sent to me for the purposes of review, but all thoughts are, as always, my own! Images courtesy of Premier.