The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris Info

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A comprehensive biography of the late designer, Karl
Lagerfeld, and his infamous rivalry with Yves Saint Laurent.





"Deliciously dramatic...
The Beautiful Fall crackles with excitement."-New York Times
Book Review
In the 1970s, w:st="on">Paris fashion exploded like a champagne
bottle left out in the sun. Amid sequins and longing, celebrities and
aspirants flocked to the heart of chic, and w:st="on">Paris became a
hothouse of revelry, intrigue, and searing ambition. At the center of it
all were fashion's most beloved luminaries - Yves Saint Laurent, the
reclusive enfant terrible, and Karl Lagerfeld, the flamboyant
freelancer with a talent for reinvention - and they divided w:st="on">Paris into two
fabulous halves. Their enduring rivalry is chronicled in this dazzling
exposé of an era: of social ambitions, shared obsessions, and the
mesmerizing quest for beauty.
"Fascinating." -w:st="on">New
York
Times
"Addictive."
-w:st="on">Philadelphia
Inquirer

"It's like US Weekly, 1970s style."
-Gotham
"A story
constructed as exquisitely as a couture dress. . . . It moves stylishly
forward, with frequent over-the-shoulder glances at some very dishy
background." -w:st="on">Boston Globe

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris:

5

Oct 17, 2007

alicia drake has written the non-fiction version of the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay. this book, a bildingsroman in the truest sense, does a wonderful job of painting the human side of yves saint laurent, karl lagerfeld and their respective coderies, which serves to highlight their dizzing rise to superstardom. by turns hilarious and tragic, drake offers an impressive litany of sources to flesh out this poignant tale. we see saint laurent at the glittery heights of his creativity, a alicia drake has written the non-fiction version of the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay. this book, a bildingsroman in the truest sense, does a wonderful job of painting the human side of yves saint laurent, karl lagerfeld and their respective coderies, which serves to highlight their dizzing rise to superstardom. by turns hilarious and tragic, drake offers an impressive litany of sources to flesh out this poignant tale. we see saint laurent at the glittery heights of his creativity, a precipice inevitably lost to the crushing depths of his depression. despite the designers attempt to scuttle the books reputation, drake delivers a nuanced portrait of lagerfeld, suggesting in the process that his famous eccentricities may be a mask concealing a traumatic childhood. it is a study of opposites: saint laurent, the tortured wunderkind hidden away in his protective bubble, and lagerfeld, the tireless laborer absrobing and reappropriating everything around him. but for all its anthropological burrowing, fall truly shines when invocing the fabulous clothing these coutiers produce in stagering number. drake claims that fashion has become a post war society's preferred form of self-expression and re-invention. saint laurent and lagerfeld are the perfect embodiment of that zeitgeist.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews! ...more
4

Jul 26, 2011

I received this book as a gift and it took me some time to get to it, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. It reads like a mix of biography and dishy tell all and takes you deep into the glorified and narcissistic worlds of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s.

Beautifully written, extraordinarily researched ( with over 500 interviews), you are transported back to the lavish excesses of the 70s at every turn of the page. Although the book concentrates on fashion as lived by I received this book as a gift and it took me some time to get to it, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. It reads like a mix of biography and dishy tell all and takes you deep into the glorified and narcissistic worlds of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s.

Beautifully written, extraordinarily researched ( with over 500 interviews), you are transported back to the lavish excesses of the 70s at every turn of the page. Although the book concentrates on fashion as lived by the rival camps of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, its scope is much broader. Throughout a narrative that reads as compellingly as fiction, the author analyzes the socio-cultural events that shaped the Paris fashion world.

Despite the superficial nature of the worlds they lived in and their countless personal foibles, that included sex, drugs and a gluttonous appetite for power, you can't help but become attached to these supremely talented characters.

This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in fashion, Paris or history. ...more
4

Feb 21, 2018

In the early 2000s there was a show on some cable channel or other called “Fashiontrance”. It was literally thirty minutes of models on catwalks. I LOVED it. I watched it obsessively.

This book is almost as cool and glamorous as “Fashiontrance”. I would have liked more insight into the whole process of fashion, as opposed to the quasi-biography that this book is.
4

Nov 20, 2008

A mesmerizing read about the rise, fall, and triumphs of St Laurent and Lagerfeld, about the evolution of the Parisian fashion world from the fifties to nowadays, about the the drug-filled parties of the seventies and the eighties, about the dreams and heartbreaks that shaped the lives of those visionary designers. You don't have to be especially interested in fashion to read this book, which is really the portrait of two tortured and complex artists as well as the portrait of an era. For those A mesmerizing read about the rise, fall, and triumphs of St Laurent and Lagerfeld, about the evolution of the Parisian fashion world from the fifties to nowadays, about the the drug-filled parties of the seventies and the eighties, about the dreams and heartbreaks that shaped the lives of those visionary designers. You don't have to be especially interested in fashion to read this book, which is really the portrait of two tortured and complex artists as well as the portrait of an era. For those who have known the fashion world of the times, or who have seen glimpses of the wild parties described by Drake, reading this book will be even powerful. ...more
4

Jan 21, 2015

I enjoyed reading about the crazy lives of Yves Saint Laurent and (especially) Karl Lagerfeld. It was really funny to see the evolution of Lagerfeld's look over the years. Would have loved to have seen his various apartments and chateaus. The man has an iron will. At least, when he's not drinking 20 Coca-Colas per day and eating pounds of chocolate cake.

The one thing this book needed was more pictures. WAY more pictures. I'm sorry, I just don't have the capacity to visualize half of the crazy I enjoyed reading about the crazy lives of Yves Saint Laurent and (especially) Karl Lagerfeld. It was really funny to see the evolution of Lagerfeld's look over the years. Would have loved to have seen his various apartments and chateaus. The man has an iron will. At least, when he's not drinking 20 Coca-Colas per day and eating pounds of chocolate cake.

The one thing this book needed was more pictures. WAY more pictures. I'm sorry, I just don't have the capacity to visualize half of the crazy outfits described in this book. This book should have 100 pages of photos.

Shout out to the NY Times article which triggered my fascination w/ Lagerfeld:
The Jet Set Life of Karl Lagerfeld’s Favorite Male Model — for Now

NY Mag's incredulous reaction to said article:
Everyone in the Times’ Brad Kroenig Profile Is Gloriously Nuts

...more
4

Jul 01, 2018

I had written a negative comment on this book earlier.. but weeks after reading it, all the details are still in my mind. It's like I cannot escape the narrative! So I deleted my comment and have to say this book was wonderfully written, with lots of research and detail. It's written so well it stays with you for a long time .. do read it..
3

Oct 26, 2011

I've become the world's slowest reader and this book has been a victim of my creative distractions. I probably would've rated the book higher if I'd read it straight through.

Nonetheless, I liked the book. I like fashion history and any books that provide a deeper understanding of the industry and its personalities. Drake was extremely through in illustrating the rarified world that YSL and Lagerfeld inhabited. Besides being the biggest names in fashion, I liked that Drake presented them as two I've become the world's slowest reader and this book has been a victim of my creative distractions. I probably would've rated the book higher if I'd read it straight through.

Nonetheless, I liked the book. I like fashion history and any books that provide a deeper understanding of the industry and its personalities. Drake was extremely through in illustrating the rarified world that YSL and Lagerfeld inhabited. Besides being the biggest names in fashion, I liked that Drake presented them as two ends of a spectrum - self-destructive genius and the talented yet disciplined hard worker. The journeyman and the anointed one.

My only criticism of the book is the ending. I know Drake wrote the book before every pop starlet started rocking Chanel left and right (Rihanna and Miley Cyrus) but I felt like the ending left a lot to be desired. It was factually correct for its time but it lacked any power or drama. It could be that the current state of fashion, particularly when compared to the 70's, lacks drama and passion itself, so maybe that's what she was going for.

Definitely a must read for any fashion history buff. ...more
2

Jun 23, 2008

Maybe there's no poetry in me, but this unauthorized biography of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld fell far short of meeting my expectations. While I appreciate the dramatic edge Drake attempted to apply to her "narrative," the overall story of the designers was often lost in a sea of quotes from friends and acquaintances. Using this technique to string together a story works well in abbreviated magazine articles, but I couldn't help but feel that her editor needed to have a heavier hand. Maybe there's no poetry in me, but this unauthorized biography of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld fell far short of meeting my expectations. While I appreciate the dramatic edge Drake attempted to apply to her "narrative," the overall story of the designers was often lost in a sea of quotes from friends and acquaintances. Using this technique to string together a story works well in abbreviated magazine articles, but I couldn't help but feel that her editor needed to have a heavier hand. Ending with more questions and an epilogue dedicated to defending the book made the book feel like an even bigger waste of time.

I did enjoy learning more about the designers and found the photographs fascinating, but my overall impression is that it's a personal triumph to have read this book start to finish. ...more
4

Jan 30, 2017

Controversial and fun. I learnt a lot about the political and social context in Paris and the world during the 70s and 80s. Fashion editors say that, sometimes, you can judge a society's political context by the cover of a fashion magazine more accurately than by the front page of a newspaper, and I agree to a certain extent.
As a huge fan of Lagerfeld's work and persona, I loved the sheer description of his life, which heavily influences his art. I'm in awe with Saint Laurent's legacy, which I Controversial and fun. I learnt a lot about the political and social context in Paris and the world during the 70s and 80s. Fashion editors say that, sometimes, you can judge a society's political context by the cover of a fashion magazine more accurately than by the front page of a newspaper, and I agree to a certain extent.
As a huge fan of Lagerfeld's work and persona, I loved the sheer description of his life, which heavily influences his art. I'm in awe with Saint Laurent's legacy, which I wasn't really aware of before reading this book. I believe that the only one who has come closer to what he achieved with his dresses, the way he makes women feel, was Oscar de la Renta. ...more
5

Oct 01, 2007

Not necessarily about fashion itself (my one criticism is that there's not enough description of the designers' actual work), The Beautiful Fall paints a detailed portrait of the extravagance of Paris fashion in the 1970s, focusing on the rivalry between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Drake writes in an over-the-top style that sounds exactly like how fashion people talk, and the voice complements the story beautifully.
2

Jul 02, 2009

Even their undeniable talent and creativity can't hide the fact that fashion designers are incredibly shallow people. Don't believe me? Read this book. The book itself is entertaining enough but it left me with the feeling that those who really want into the fashion business don't really have anything else to offer society than their good looks.
5

Dec 31, 2017

ABSOLUTELY RIVETING BRILLIANT read , this truly is MONUMENTAL , thank you Alicia Drake from the very bottom of my heart . ABSOLUTELY RIVETING BRILLIANT read , this truly is MONUMENTAL , thank you Alicia Drake from the very bottom of my heart .❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ ...more
3

Jun 29, 2013

an intriguing look into the genius, excess and tragedy of YSL and Lagerfeld
4

Nov 08, 2009

Lagerfeld, YSL, the 70's, and Paris...please sir i'd like some more.
5

May 21, 2019

Meticulously researched and matter-of-fact without being sterile, this is no flimsy fashion article, but it preserves the engagement of more excellent accounts of real-life events. The fashion world, which is anything but dull is perhaps susceptible to emotive rendering, but Drake is appreciative rather than bedazzled, nuanced rather than gasping, and the result reads like a marriage between the caution of a serious historian-biographer and the pen of a literary writer.

(Aside: This reader wishes Meticulously researched and matter-of-fact without being sterile, this is no flimsy fashion article, but it preserves the engagement of more excellent accounts of real-life events. The fashion world, which is anything but dull is perhaps susceptible to emotive rendering, but Drake is appreciative rather than bedazzled, nuanced rather than gasping, and the result reads like a marriage between the caution of a serious historian-biographer and the pen of a literary writer.

(Aside: This reader wishes to be enlightened on Victoria Beckham's curious endorsement of the book, printed at the back of this edition, as 'bedtime reading', when the experience of reading it has been so thrilling it would've been impossible to sleep afterwards.)

The writer repeatedly withholds personal judgment, and instead, the void created by impressive reserve is filled inch by inch with detailed accounts of wild lifestyles, jealousies, drug habits, car accidents. Her observations are incredibly unattached to praise or criticism, the sense of impersonality is commendable and hard to believe when what is mentioned is far from delicate. The facts, however, are sensational enough. The book succeeds in doing a precious thing: letting its subjects speak without impoverishing these interesting people of their mystique, and it does so by drawing heavily from published interviews but more interestingly, interviews personally conducted by the writer. These reflections (usually decades after the actual events) of Pierre Bergé, Betty Catroux, Helmut Newton, Pat Cleveland, and Corey Grant Tippin (to name a few on the long list), tinged with the haze of recollection (nostalgia/relief/insight), are a fascinating backward glance at a period of heady vibrancy and reckless transformation.

The impact of the aptly chosen quotation lingers along after the finished chapter:
'Fashion feeds you. You are there, it's your moment and fashion starts to feed you this extreme elation, adrenalin and this belief that is like divinity. Then suddenly just as quickly as you have gotten it, after you are used to believing it, you are chewed up and spat out and it's over. That is the hell of fashion. Then the hard reality of it is knowing it's all a lie. [...] I got out because I was forced out. I didn't want to go, but I just knew I couldn't show up any more. I couldn't do it, I was dying. ... This thing had such a hold on me. This glamour, this fashion thing, I didn't know what else to do. I didn't have another world. I was lost, I was twenty-four and I kept saying again and again: "My life is over."' - Corey Tippin
'People think decadence is debauched. Decadence is simply something very beautiful that is dying.' - Yves Saint Laurent
'I am the man who is the most important in his life; is that because he loves me or because he needs me? I don't know.' - Pierre Bergé

The author's personal encounters with her subjects, however briefly mentioned, are tantalising. There is no sense of the eager self-insert in these accounts, but one may feel a sense of awe at, metaphorically-speaking, being close to divinity. That emotion however is perhaps just the reader's own. (Documented at the epilogue, Drake's court case with Karl Lagerfeld, who wrongly accused her of inaccuracy and wanted this book banned in France, suggests for all the precision, knowledge and admiration for the artist, the author had no personal illusions about the stuff of life.)

The dual biography structure left this reader indecisive at the beginning whether to read this book, since my interest was in one and not the other, but as the book progresses it becomes clear that this demarcation was never meant to hold these two characters apart, but functions rather as a preliminary attempt to sketch out two different but frequently overlapping paths, and highlight their differences in personality, intimate circle, and artistic temperament. By placing two designers side by side, the book ends up with a fuller picture of their lives and the lives of the people around them. The bibliography is a sumptuous spread of texts, interviews, film and documentaries that will satisfy the appetites of the curious for a long time to come. ...more
4

Oct 29, 2018

This was a joy to read, though I had to take regular breaks from all the partying and lavishness. A dense, amazingly well-researched book which also managed to be fizzy and gossipy and full of great quotes and entertaining anecdotes about Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld and their entourage of beautiful cocainey dance-all-night muses. As fun and glitzy as it all was it also had a profoundly sad edge as the 80's and the AIDS crisis hit and the party came to an end. Also Karl Lagerfeld is ridiculous This was a joy to read, though I had to take regular breaks from all the partying and lavishness. A dense, amazingly well-researched book which also managed to be fizzy and gossipy and full of great quotes and entertaining anecdotes about Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld and their entourage of beautiful cocainey dance-all-night muses. As fun and glitzy as it all was it also had a profoundly sad edge as the 80's and the AIDS crisis hit and the party came to an end. Also Karl Lagerfeld is ridiculous and hilarious. ...more
4

Nov 26, 2019

SO in-depth and evocative of that time and place that was Paris fashion in the second half of the 20th century. This book is a sumptuous exploration of glamour, neurosis, and the art of design. I would highly recommend it to any fashion devotee or anyone that is obsessed with the heady qualities of the 1970's. This book is very well researched and written, I enjoyed it immensely.
4

Jan 17, 2011

This is a 'must-read' for anyone in the fashion industry or one who has any interest in fashion, trends or the success of marketing and 'making a brand'. Author Alicia Drake provides extensive validation of her research and disclosures at the end of the book. It gives so much history about Yves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. It will take you to 1970s Paris and on to the 1980s. There are eyebrow raising quotes and insight on what has worked to be a successful fashion designer. It takes This is a 'must-read' for anyone in the fashion industry or one who has any interest in fashion, trends or the success of marketing and 'making a brand'. Author Alicia Drake provides extensive validation of her research and disclosures at the end of the book. It gives so much history about Yves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. It will take you to 1970s Paris and on to the 1980s. There are eyebrow raising quotes and insight on what has worked to be a successful fashion designer. It takes persistence and 'never giving up'. To be in the fashion industry one needs to 'breathe it, think it, live it, watch it' and always be one-step-ahead. The success of YSL was to never follow the crowd. He kept a private focus on his very own inventions, sketches and designs.

The one thing that YSL and Lagerfeld always had was a 'muse' (someone who inspired them just by what they happened to wear each day). Yves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld were never interviewed for this book. Although on October 26, 2006, Karl Lagerfeld filed a legal lawsuit against the author, Alicia Drake. Karl claimed an invasion of his privacy under French law. He demanded that the book be banned in France. The author proved that the book was NEVER authorized for distribution in France and only '50' books were sold by bookshops in Paris (seven of them had been bought by Karl Lagerfeld himself). On January 15, 2007 the court dismissed Lagerfeld's claim against the author and ordered Lagerfeld to pay 6,000 EUROS in costs. Karl Lagerfeld never appealed.

I loved the book but only give it a 4-STAR because it's an older book and doesn't offer limelight views for NOW and TODAY; however, every quote is worth reading.

There were so many great lines and quotes in the book but here a couple that I specifically recall:

"Without a doubt one has to be anguished to be inspired. The more I work, the more I suffer and the more I suffer, the greater the success."
-Yves St. Laurent

"I'm never totally pleased. I am a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm. I'm always expecting something from the next time."
-Karl Lagerfeld

"You know what Proust said, nothing can interest a creator other than a work which is his own."
-Yves St. Laurent

"You felt you were on top of the world when you were working for Yves St. Laurent. There was this calm confidence of perfection."
-Helene de Ludinghausen

...more
4

Jun 16, 2008

A very dishy transcript of the highs and lows of the lifetimes of the Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld clans and the fierce rivalry between them as well as a very dishy storytelling of the inevitable rise of the fashion world. In the heady times of the 60s to 80s, big changes such as the whole shift from haute couture to ready-to-wear happened as well as some of the more smaller firsts (i.e., elevating the catwalk, women wearing menswear, celebrities receiving invites to shows, etc). With YSL taking A very dishy transcript of the highs and lows of the lifetimes of the Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld clans and the fierce rivalry between them as well as a very dishy storytelling of the inevitable rise of the fashion world. In the heady times of the 60s to 80s, big changes such as the whole shift from haute couture to ready-to-wear happened as well as some of the more smaller firsts (i.e., elevating the catwalk, women wearing menswear, celebrities receiving invites to shows, etc). With YSL taking influences from exotic destinations, other time periods, and art, I breathlessly raced along the author's captures of each season's pre-show and post-show sights and sounds. Then, as I tried to catch my breath after one YSL show, Drake would show the tireless efforts of Lagerfeld simultaneously designing for Chloe, accessories for other houses in France and lines for brands in Russia.

Towards the end, it started to drag a little bit with the rather redundant and depressing account of the depth of YSL's melancholy in his august years. A star, who started off at Dior and rose to the top so quickly, is reduced to a sad, sedentary figure that can no longer display any of the previously brandished genius. This harsh reality is sharply contrasted with the rise of the Kaiser and his incomparable success of taking on the monumental legacy of Chanel with some of his best collections to date.

Overall, I thoroughly relished this bit of Fashion History 101 and seeing how the elevation of the designer/model/fashion photog came about. According to Drake, all of that was laid out with either YSL and Lagerfeld paving the way, and I enjoyed reading all about it in all the detailed descriptions of the two legendary designers' personalities, grandiose self-proclamations, entourages, apartments, lifestyles, etc. I'd say this book is a must for anyone who has a thing for fashion, Paris, the revolutionary decades of the 60s to 80s, Us Weekly, or unordinary bios. ...more
3

Dec 29, 2016

This is possibly the first and only time that I've been happy about seeing a movie prior to reading a book on the same subject. Thanks to the fact that I'd already seen the Yves Saint Laurent movie (2014), this book was already alive in my imagination instead of being a fashion history textbook featuring a riot of twirling, swirling fancy names that meant nothing (besides YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, and Paloma Picasso, of course).

The author's exhaustive research left no stone unturned in chronicling This is possibly the first and only time that I've been happy about seeing a movie prior to reading a book on the same subject. Thanks to the fact that I'd already seen the Yves Saint Laurent movie (2014), this book was already alive in my imagination instead of being a fashion history textbook featuring a riot of twirling, swirling fancy names that meant nothing (besides YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, and Paloma Picasso, of course).

The author's exhaustive research left no stone unturned in chronicling the rise of both YSL and Lagerfeld. The trajectories of these two designers couldn't be more divergent, but both were at the absolute top of the game.

Also, I need to step up my style game. My rotation of hoodies and cardigans would leave YSL, Lagerfeld, and everyone in their respective crews aghast. I would surely be discarded immediately.

"Saint Laurent was now the youngest couturier in the world and heir to the kingdom of Dior. How strange, how vertiginous to be aged twenty-one and watch your dreams already rushing to fulfillment, dreams that you are still dreaming." p. 22

"Neustadt was unprepared for Karl's level of sophistication. Kurt Lagerfeld remembered: 'Uncle Otto had invited all of the farmers and one farmer got talking to Karl and took him to the bar and said, "Let's have a drink together, let's have a beer," and Karl replied, "I only drink champagne."'" p. 73-74

"The older generation were nostalgic for a youth they had lost, longing to feel the surge of desire and possibility of youth course through their own veins, while the younger generation yearned for a past they could not recall." p. 111-112

Pierre Bergé on YSL: "You know it is like every artist, every creator; they invent their own solar system just as he has done and the whole world turns around this sun and the sun is him. Voilà! And the sun is not there to ask how the satellites are doing. He could not care less." p. 142

Loulou de la Falaise: "That is what creativity is: you use people to open doors that are your own. Yo do not copy other people, but they make things accessible within you." p. 146

"Taste is a peculiarly Parisian preoccupation, not least because it is regarded as the ultimate proof of being a successful Parisian. Ideally one's taste should be multi-layered, cultivated and all-encompassing, informing every aspect of one's home from bookshelf to the choice of tea leaf." p. 152

"Could it be that Yves' mental anguish was also the source of inspiration and renewal he so relished and craved? What if he sought out these dangers, if he chose self-destruction as his destiny, as his deliberate route to greater creative glory?" p. 216 ...more
3

Apr 22, 2019

Alicia Drake did a good job of piecing together interviews, gossip, and research to create this book. However, the result is very empty and shallow. I waited to write this review hoping that I would change my mind or that I would gain some great insights to share. The IDEA of this book was good - the tale of two hugely successful fashion designers and the ways that their relationship changed them from friends into bitter rivals. I got the sense that the writer chose the easiest path - using Alicia Drake did a good job of piecing together interviews, gossip, and research to create this book. However, the result is very empty and shallow. I waited to write this review hoping that I would change my mind or that I would gain some great insights to share. The IDEA of this book was good - the tale of two hugely successful fashion designers and the ways that their relationship changed them from friends into bitter rivals. I got the sense that the writer chose the easiest path - using gossip and dishy interviews- instead of bringing any kind of insight or compassion to the piece. It is true that there was a lot of excess and shallowness in the 1970's. It was also a time of tremendous creativity and social change. This book was an opportunity to increase the level of understanding about all of this and that opportunity was missed. ...more
3

Apr 08, 2019

This book offers a lot of fascinating facts and insights for anyone interested in the history of fashion. As a biography, however, it never really gets inside the minds of its main protagonists, and fails to conjure their charm. The real personalities of Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and their friends remain disappointingly elusive. Perhaps the author should have done more thoughtful research, rather than just repeating gossip. The book is also written very badly. You have to suffer through This book offers a lot of fascinating facts and insights for anyone interested in the history of fashion. As a biography, however, it never really gets inside the minds of its main protagonists, and fails to conjure their charm. The real personalities of Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and their friends remain disappointingly elusive. Perhaps the author should have done more thoughtful research, rather than just repeating gossip. The book is also written very badly. You have to suffer through pretentious style ("a young man of cheekbones and intrinsic chic") and ridiculous mistakes (Cecil Beaton "captured the ancestors of Proust’s faubourg" at a 1971 ball; descendants, surely?). And what's up with all the anonymous sources? "Blah blah blah, says a former member of the couture house staff." That may be okay in a magazine article, but not in a "serious" book. ...more
2

Jan 02, 2017

I read this before seeing the YSL exhibit at Seattle Art Museum. While I learned quite a bit from it, the writing was so dreadful that I kept wanting to throw it across the room. I also found the cast of thousands confusing and kept going back to see who so and so was, which camp they were in and why I should care. And instead of glorious, I found the excess shallow and tragic, particularly once the AIDS epidemic began to impact the story. There are sublime moments here -- Dovima and the I read this before seeing the YSL exhibit at Seattle Art Museum. While I learned quite a bit from it, the writing was so dreadful that I kept wanting to throw it across the room. I also found the cast of thousands confusing and kept going back to see who so and so was, which camp they were in and why I should care. And instead of glorious, I found the excess shallow and tragic, particularly once the AIDS epidemic began to impact the story. There are sublime moments here -- Dovima and the elephants! -- but I would only recommend this book to die-hard fans of its two unsympathetic protagonists. ...more
5

Mar 18, 2017

Personally, I'm not that interested in haute couture. But who doesn't love a good story about the beginnings of the most famous rivalry in fashion history. The inspiration for reading this book came from Jalil Lespert's 2014 film 'Yves Saint Laurent'. But to have the added history of Karl Lagerfeld made this book so much more interesting than the film, even though it was brilliantly produced. The book was more in depth of the background noise for both YSL and Karl. Not just the fashion but also Personally, I'm not that interested in haute couture. But who doesn't love a good story about the beginnings of the most famous rivalry in fashion history. The inspiration for reading this book came from Jalil Lespert's 2014 film 'Yves Saint Laurent'. But to have the added history of Karl Lagerfeld made this book so much more interesting than the film, even though it was brilliantly produced. The book was more in depth of the background noise for both YSL and Karl. Not just the fashion but also the relationships, lovers, friends and foes. The two mirrored each other even though YSL achieved fame at such an early age and Karl achieving it and surpassing YSL later in life. There is a lot of information to take in, which is why it took longer to read than other books of this length. I feel fashion designers don't nearly suffer as much for their art as these two did. Like most things, commercialisation has become a massive influence on how fashion is produced and designers fall to their knees in the hope of impressing magazine editors. I say give the power back to the designers and let them dictate the future of design! ...more
4

Jun 07, 2019

"The Beautiful Fall" was excellent! Alicia Drake examines the early careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. In the course of presenting their dramatic competition, Ms. Drake weaves together an interesting portrait of fashionable society in mid-twentieth century Paris. Beyond the occasional magazine article, I do not know much about the world of couture. Still, I really enjoyed Ms. Drake's prose. I finished the book within three days.

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