Alicia Drake’s “The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris” is a stunning non-fiction book for those who are interested in the history of fashion. The book focuses on the rise and eventual rivalry of designers Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. It caused quite a stir when it was released in 2006 because it was so thoroughly researched and documented that Lagerfeld tried to ban its release.
To be honest, I find it hard to understand what could have provoked the illustrious “King Karl”. The book was passionate, precise and completely neutral. It goes through the professional journeys lived by Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent.
This fascinating book paints a picture of the professional lives of Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent, which started during the 1954 “Secrétariat international de la laine”, a design contest represented by promoters of wool fabrics at a time where buyers began having an interest in synthetic fabrics. The contest, judged by the likes of Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior, saw the two prizewinners Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent, become very good friends and fierce competitors.
Beyond exposing the professional evolution of two fashion geniuses, the strength of “The Beautiful Fall” resides clearly in the in-depth analysis of conducted by Alicia Drake who revealed these men in all of their humanity.
Two divergent paths, antipodal both on a professional and personal level.
Where Lagerfeld chose to work in service of several houses (Chloé, Fendi, Chanel) and never succeeded under his own name, Saint Laurent chose to launch his own label .
Where Lagerfeld was a perpetual chameleon and an unwavering genious, Saint Laurent was the mad craftsman of an immediately recognizable and perhaps repetitive style.
Where Lagerfeld refused emotional attachments and addictions, Saint Laurent had no other poles than Pierre Bergé and drugs.
One hyperconscious and clinical, the other unconscious and emotional. What an explosive duo!
The two career paths will be crowned with absolute success, for totally different reasons. The two life paths will be on a human and emotional level an absolute shipwreck, for diametrically opposed reasons. God, life is strange.
I could only illustrate this article with photos taken in front of the Paris Fashion Museum, the Palais Galliera – in a Saint Laurent coat 😉
YSL coat – Dior heels – Renaud Pellegrino handbag – Agnelle gloves