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Yves Saint Laurent Paperback – September 1, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

British journalist Rawsthorn capably depicts the neurasthenic personality of France's famous fashion designer, born in Algeria in 1936. She really excels, however, in her savvy account of the industry's transformation as emphasis shifted from haute couture handmade for the rich to ready-to-wear designed for the (fairly affluent) masses. Saint Laurent and his astute lover/business manager, Pierre Berg launched many trends, including the licensing of his name to adorn everything from sheets to sunglasses. A business book as much as a biography: nice work on both counts. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Rawsthorn brings to her subject a combination of experience as a financial journalist (Financial Times) and as a member of the British Design Council. Her hero, Yves Saint Laurent, joined the venerable house of Christian Dior in 1955 as a junior assistant. His subsequent career has mirrored profound changes in both fashion and society. Rawsthorn chronicles the inexorable shift away from the exquisitely handcrafted clothes of haute couture, shown only to the rich and famous in Paris shows, somewhat like royal audiences. YSL was among the first to realize the opportunities of mass production, pret a porter. He opened his chain of Rive Gauche stores to sell his fashion vision to the woman in the street. Accompanying the detailed portrait of an industry in turmoil is the tale of a frail genius, his ferocious and savvy lover, Pierre Berge, architect of much of the YSL licensing empire and the company's several changes of ownership. There's a supporting case of international jet-setters many of whom?like Andy Warhol, Catherine Deneuve and Rudolf Nureyev?stayed loyal to YSL throughout his anguished retreats to Morocco and the world of drugs and alcohol. This is a powerful story, told with a winning combination of passion and objectivity. Rawsthorn writes with strong narrative flair and instinct for the vivid detail. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Publisher (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006383963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006383963
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,292,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loved this biography. After reading it, I felt I knew Saint Laurent personally. Plus the exciting time he lived in. I loved the statement given by his long time lover, Pierre Berge who said St. Laurent is a "man of exceptional intelligence practicing the trade of an imbecile." It was easy to see how after a while, St. Laurent was bored by having to constantly create fashion but by then he was making so much money and their lifestyle was so astronomically expensive, he couldn't quit. Often in the later years when St. Laurent was so heavily into drugs and alcohol, while installed in his lavish Moroccan estate, Berge had to physically force him to come back to Paris to create a new show. A rare treat. Helps one understand not only the man and his times but the business climate of France with its intricate liaisons, rigid rules and political intrigue. Berge comes off as a promoter par excellence. Laurent, his sensitive genius find. Enjoyed beaucoup!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this is a wonderful biography of Yves Saint Laurent. The research the author has done is thorough. Yves is one of the great designers of the 20th century, and one of the most intriguing. It was such a delight (and sometimes painful) to go through his career and personal life in a real in-depth look at the man. I disagree with some prior reviews about there being too much emphasis on the financial aspects and not enough on fashion... I found the author explaining the impact on the fashion world when it was relevant, and the business side of the story is vital to why YSL was such a success. Let's face it... without the business savvy of Pierre Bergé, Yves would not have been able to continue to design for as long as he did. Wonderful read, well written, and very well researched. A must for anyone interested in the man, the design house, and/or the fashion world from the 1950's through the 1990's.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book but as the other reviewers have pointed out it emphasizes the financial aspects of the fashion business. It does not delve too much into why the designer was so innovative. Also, you don't get to know the designer very well through the book. If you are interested in the history of the fashion business from the 1960s through the 1990s, this book is for you.
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Format: Hardcover
After watching a documentary about Pierre Berge's auction of his and YSL's art collection, I was intrigued to learn more about this designer. This book is a thorough look at not only Saint Laurent himself but at the couture house he headed and the transformation of the Parisian and worldwide fashion industry from 1958 when he took over the House of Dior to the 1990s, when the book ends.

In fact, one might say the weakness of this bio is the absence of Saint Laurent himself from much of it, as after a young adulthood spent abusing drugs and alcohol, dealing with the fallout of earlier psychiatric drug treatments and suffering from his own nervous temperament, he essentially became a recluse after age 40 or so. Perhaps one can't blame the author for not unearthing more details about the personal habits, thoughts and philosophy of someone who barely spoke to even his closest friends. Instead, Saint Laurent becomes a ghostly figure kept alive by the efforts of his former lover and business partner Pierre Berge and the ministrations of the types of servants who cater to the ultra rich.

I expected to be bored by lengthy details about French government, culture and business transactions such as takeovers and IPOs, but it all related to the story of what happened to YSL. In addition, the author deftly weaves in historical information about how haute couture began to die out after the 50s and in its stead designers had to rely on pret-a-porter, ancillary lines such as perfume and licensing to keep the fashion houses going.

There was also a fair amount about Saint Laurent's groundbreaking innovations like Le Smoking, his Russian era and more which, even though I was a preteen when they came out, I remembered reading about in fashion and news magazines.
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Format: Hardcover
Alice Rawsthorne has done a breathtaking job researching the complexed life of Yves Saint Laurent. When finishing it I felt wiser about YSL, about the man and his carrier, also about the fashion industry from Diors heydays up until today. I've learned a lot about the industry, the people and the pressure a designer is under during the preporation of an haute couture or a prêt-à-porter presentation. It made me feel happy I chose fashion journalism and not fashion design. If I should say anything negative it would be that Alice Rawsthorns journalistic interest in finance is a bit boring. Especially for the fashion interested readers, that are the ones who will read her book. Imbicile as it may sound, all the money I care about are the ones I spend at Rive Gauche Homme.
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