Iconic Yves Saint Laurent dress snapped up

A Mondrian dress by iconic French designer Yves Saint Laurent was snapped up on Thursday, star lot of a vintage sale held half a century after his fashion house was founded.

Sold for £30,000 (€35,000, $47,000) the dress was part of a capsule collection of nine Saint Laurent pieces, dating from 1962 to 1970, at a Christie’s clothing sale stretching from the 18th century to the 1980s.

Patricia Frost, director of Christie’s textile department, described the dress, inspired by the work of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian, as “a magic carpet piece, it takes you right back to 1966.”

The London sale came just ahead of the 50-year anniversary of the founding of Saint Laurent’s fashion house, on December 4, 1961. The couture house closed in 2002 when the designer stood down.

Since his death in 2008, the mystique of Saint Laurent’s name has sent prices flying at a string of record-smashing auctions of art and belongings accumulated by the designer and his partner Pierre Berge over the decades.

Christie’s intended the sale in part as a retrospective of Saint Laurent’s early career, at Dior from 1957 then striking out on his own aged 25. 

“Saint Laurent lives on everywhere you look,” said Berge, now 81, who co-founded his fashion house and helped run it for 40 years. “The most important are perhaps those you notice less,” he told AFP.

“Saint Laurent completely defined his era. Everyone has a Saint Laurent – although they often don’t realise it,” said Berge, who today runs a foundation created in Saint Laurent’s memory.

“He invented an entire masculine world that he fitted to women’s bodies: tuxedos, sahara jackets, the sailor’s jacket.”

Berge’s foundation has also sent travelling exhibitions of his work around the world, from Paris last year, to Madrid at the moment, and Denver, Colorado a few weeks from now. 

From theatre to dance and cinema, Saint Laurent cultivated close ties with the arts, creating tribute collections from Matisse to Cocteau, Van Gogh or Picasso, as well as his Mondrian and pop art dresses.

Other pieces in the Christie’s sale included an Indian-inspired green brocade coat, from Saint Laurent’s first own-name catwalk show in January 1962, that was snapped on the cover of Elle magazine that year, and sold for £2,000.

“Saint Laurent’s clothes happen to make people look wonderful but they also have more depth to them,” Frost said. “They should be looked at more as works of art. They are not really for wearing, they are more for museums.”


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.