YVES SAINT LAURENT
HINTS OF SOMETHING BIG AS YVES PREPARES HIS BALLET RUSSE COLLECTION.
Byline: Patrick McCarthy, July 1979
There will be news from the house of Saint Laurent,” declares Yves Saint Laurent during a break from preparing his 38th couture collection. ‘It won’t be a kind of vulgar, circus type of news, but news and interest based on an evolution of things I’ve done before and some new, modern ideas.”
The master is seeing no one these days, and he has not sampled Paris nightlife in several months. He begins work — usually at his Avenue Marceau atelier — at 9:30, takes a break for lunch at home and then works until 7 or 7:30. “I stop completely then because I’m too old to work — or play — all night,” he says with a smile. “I need to relax and wait for the new day.” YSL also has put away his writing, which during the last few years has taken more and more of his time, and says he doesn’t know when, or if, he will start again.
His new pride is a spectacular Picasso watercolor that dominated the salon of his Rue de Babylone apartment. It dates from 1910, and Saint Laurent says it, as well as some of the set designs Picasso did for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, have influenced him immensely. “The mood of the new couture collection will be like that, at the beginning of the century when Diaghilev was producing the ballets, Stravinsky was writing the music and Picasso was designing,” he says. “There will be lots of black, intermixed with wonderful flashes of color. Many of the colors will be similar to the ones Picasso used in his pink and blue periods.”
Saint Laurent adds the collection will have the feel of “soft Cubism,” and his collection will be a further evolution of his “close-to-the-body” look. He also is very excited this season about the short cocktail dress — mostly in black with revealing sweetheart necklines and bow-covered bodices. He is also planning some very important “Ballet Russe” ballerina-inspired dresses with long, black velvet waists and full, very twirly taffeta skirts in bright colors such as turquoise, purple and orange. The dresses are made for dancing and have lots of frothy underskirts, frilly petticoats and Pierrot collar ruffles. “This is very new for me,” he says excitedly. “The full skirt is without doubt one of the most important parts of the collection.”
Saint Laurent also is still crazy about suits — this time around he will mix black velvet jackets with brightly colored skirts — and he has done a series of important block-stripe suits in orange, blue and stark white wool with alternating black velvet panels. For evening, Saint Laurent promises plenty of entrance-making numbers with gold brocade peplumed jackets, black or red Zouave “harem” pants, stunning Gazar half-capes (worn over long, short-trained dresses) and knockout one-shoulder satin dresses with a contrasting body-defined bandeau from the bust to the hips.
“In many ways, I’m at a pivotal point in my life,” observes Saint Laurent, sipping a glass of the imitation beer his valet found in England. “Like Diaghilev, I believe in the classic and the refined. But I also want to be part of the avant-garde, to be doing something new and interesting. It’s very difficult, sometimes agonizing, to try to combine both.”
Saint Laurent still is horrified, however, by what he sees around him in Paris. “It’s uninteresting and vulgar,” he declares. “Most of those designers working here are selfish and self-indulgent. They are more concerned about their own circuses and spectacles than they are with dressing women. Fashion, if it is to be true fashion, must have a universal appeal. It shouldn’t be aimed, as it is now, just for the Palace crowd.
“I’m bored — and angry — with people who just design clothes for the runway. It is a massive deception and one a lot of people have fallen for. Some of the Paris designers are doing two collections each season — one for the runway and another for the showroom. I think that belittles the idea of fashion and soils everyone in a bizarre, unamusing joke.”
After he shows his collection on Wednesday, Saint Laurent will spend August in Normandy at a house he and Pierre Berge have rented near Trouville. Their own grand castle nearby is still being renovated and will not be habitable for at least another year. “It’s an amazing Agatha Christie-like castle built by a rich Englishman in the 19th century,” explains Saint Laurent, who will oversee all the decoration himself. “It will be a lifetime task to make it as we want.”
After the collection, he also hopes to enliven his social life, which, by his own admission, has been virtually nonexistent for the last six months. Except for a week in Marrakech earlier this summer and a driving tour of the Swiss Alps with Berge, Saint Laurent has confined himself to the Rue de Babylone talking only to his closest friends, such as Lou Lou Klossowski and Betty Catroux, on the phone. “I didn’t feel happy, and I needed to withdraw, so I did,” he says. “But now I feel like it’s time to get about. It will help me, and it’ll help my work.”
Saint Laurent also will take some time to consider his future. “I have some major decisions and choices to make very soon,” he says suggestively, while declining to elaborate. “I have had great fame for more than 20 years, and I am frankly a bit tired of it all. If I had it all to do over, I would do it much differently. But then the house is my family, and I worship and need those people. It’s a time of great complexity.”
Saint Laurent Says
“Art is a very big word for couture. It’s a metier like any other but a poetic metier.”
— April 1963
“I don’t think that the round woman is the modern woman. The woman today has bones — she is nervous. The woman of the 19th century was round. C’est fini the round. It is for renoir.”
— August 1966
“One thing you can be sure of, I’ll not finish my career doing couture as i’m doing it now.”
— January 1968
“So they have crowned me king. Look what happened to all the other kings in France.”
— June 1968
“I have never had any youth. I have been working for as long as I can remember.”
— August 1968
“Pants are simply not important anymore. There are only jeans today.”
— October 1976