A name dropper who was dropped, André Leon Talley’s latest memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, charts his life and career through the glittering war zone of fashion’s front row and his time at American Vogue. From his childhood in the southern states of America, raised by his grandmother, to New York, bouncing between there and Paris, depending on his roles at various magazines, it’s a who’s who (or who he knows) of fashion and society in one of the most exciting periods of 20th century fashion. Think the great 1970s period of Yves Saint Laurent.
Left - André Leon Talley - The Chiffon Trenches published by HarperCollins - £20
While I’ve never read Talley’s journalistic work, being pictured on the arm or by the side of American Vogue editor Anna Winter saw him enter fashion folklore. With his voluminous kaftans and capes he became a memorable fashion caricature alongside Wintour’s bob and dark sunglasses.
As a journalist, this is lite and while he thinks he’s describing things, throwing in a few French terms just feels a bit dated and doesn’t impress. Well, not this side of the pond anyway. It’s fluff.
The beef between YSL and Karl Lagerfeld is legendary and it’s interesting to hear about his dealings with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, but apart from that there’s no great insight other than continually reminding you how he knows his fashion history and what a great dresser Lee Radziwill (Jackie O’s sister) was.
Clearly used to the golden years of magazines, when you could expense everything, had a car at your disposal and got put up in the Ritz, he glosses over his failings, like losing his job at Ebony, they couldn’t afford him, or so he says, and then messing up a huge opportunity writing YSL’s book because he took much on and didn’t have the time. Doesn’t look good, or sound professional.
Wintour and Lagerfeld dropped him a few years back, so the reason behind writing this book was probably the death of the latter. He knew that his friendship with Lagerfeld was the reason Wintour held him so close.
This, along with his documentary, The Gospel According To André, has a feeling of still trying to stay relevant and visible. But, what does he do exactly? He seems to mostly accompany rich women when they go shopping. He loves ‘a strictly private invitation funeral mass’ and has to drop in how he’s always frow or got a select invite to something or another.
He hates it when others don’t like his chosen gifts. It’s a lot of giving and receiving special stuff. All about the alligator. It has to be the best, most expensive and this attitude feels again dated. He moans about people treating him badly yet carries on doing things for them or going to their launches and dinners. He wants to feel important. Has to.
He compares Naomi Campbell to Elizabeth Taylor. Really? #eyeroll And addresses Edward Enninful as a Sir, which he’s not. He has an OBE, and, for a man who think he knows everything, this feels like a stupid thing not to know. I'm surprised the publisher didn't pick this up.
Sycophantic, he’s like one of those people who hears something new then acts like they invented it. It’s all Goyard luggage and blacked out cars. He’s sucked in by breeding and heritage and he's spoilt by a free and expensed lifestyle. Those days are over.
The book is quite repetitive; Met Gala, Anna Wintour Costume Center, Diana Vreeland, Lagerfeld, Chanel, Chanel, Chanel…
There’s a best dressed list at the end of the book and even a ‘picture section’.
Takeaway - He’s a self-professed ’elegant walker’ and, while bitter about his detachment from Wintour, Talley has kept all the receipts, literally, and they are all here to read. Burn.
Marc, who? Exactly. Walk into the new Dior exhibition - Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams - at the Victoria & Albert Museum and you’ll be wowed by a glamourous exhibition dedicated to one of the world’s strongest fashion houses. A few rooms in, there’s a recap of the previous Dior Creative Directors, in order, from after Dior’s death in 1957 up until the present designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri. All getting equal billing and space is Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferrè, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Chiuri.
The least known, yet the longest there, is Marc Bohan. From 1958 to 1960, Bohan designed for the Christian Dior London line. In September 1960, Dior’s creative director Yves Saint Laurent was called up for military service and Bohan was promoted to replace him. He stayed at Dior until 1989 when he was replaced by Gianfranco Ferrè.
Left - Linda in Chanel. But, will we remember this in a few decades time?
Bohan’s career at Dior lasted over 30 years and yet he is almost forgotten about. Still alive, he didn’t create anything long lasting directly attributed to his hand at Dior. Or, that is widely known. And this is where I bring my comparisons to Karl Lagerfeld. He lead Chanel from 1983 up until his death. That’s a 36 year career, and yet in a few year's time, what direct influences will Lagerfeld leave on the French house? Will Karl Lagerfeld become the Marc Bohan of Chanel? #Discuss
Dr Kate Strasdin, Fashion Historian and Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Falmouth University, says, “I think he will be remembered just because of the length of time he was at the helm and that his time coincided with the expansion of mass media. He talked about being a caricature of himself, creating his own distinctive self-image.
“As for Lagerfeld’s legacy, many people criticised his work as derivative. but actually I think he was astute at managing a heritage brand, treading that line between designs that were recognisably ‘Chanel’ and simultaneously relevant for over 30 years....I would argue that was his distinctiveness.” she says.
Looking at Lagerfeld’s Chanel, he brought the house’s tropes into the late 20th century, but they already existed. The tweed, the camelias, the quilting, the interlocking Cs and gold chains all existed within the archive. The most famous bag shape, the 2.55, was created in 1955 and is still a juggernaut today.
Benjamin Wild, Cultural, Historian, Writer and Lecturer, says, “For sure, there are many similarities between the men - longevity and the ability to contemporise classical styles, not least - but it is interesting to note the increasing number of voices that are coming forward to comment on Lagerfeld's less savoury social attitudes and comments. In a week where major fashion brands have withdrawn items from their Spring/Summer collections because of their perceived racism and insensitivity, it seems to be a sign of the times that Lagerfeld's character and creations are also being examined in a forensic manner as people recognise that person and portfolio cannot be - and should not be - so easily disentangled; if we are to understand Lagerfeld's contribution to fashion, we need to be frank about who he was, and this will, I think, leave for a more accurate, but disputed legacy.”
Lagerfeld’s tenure at Chanel was through the boom of designer brands and luxury clothes. Bohan’s was in a much smaller industry and no doubt had to design few collections than the six Chanel creates every year. Lagerfeld’s Chanel was much bigger, so it’s interesting that even fewer designs of Lagerfeld’s have stuck. But, also, today, there is now so much more competition.
It’s often what comes after and how good it is that really pushes a designer into the background. When Galliano created his Dior, it was a fantasy of couture, yet still managed to leave behind his strong DNA - the Masai neck, the saddle bag and the famous Dior newspaper print are all Dior signatures still attributed to him today.
Chanel is privately owned by Alain Wertheimer and Gérard Wertheimer, the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who was an early business partner of Coco Chanel. After Lagerfeld’s death, Virginie Viard, fashion studio director and Lagerfeld's right-hand woman at Chanel, was announced as taking over the creative leadership. No doubt she’ll be in charge to offer a respectful gap to Lagerfeld’s legacy, but, ultimately, this is one of the plummiest jobs in fashion and many designers would kill to fill those shoes and offer their own take on Chanel’s future. Like many brands, it may take a few goes to find the perfect fit and I’m not sure anybody would stick around, or be allowed to stick around, for over three decades today.
“I think to get the best out of Chanel, it now needs to push the brand boundaries - not in a Balmain or Balenciaga ‘sell out’ begging-for-attention from the Instagram generation manner, but it needs to become more relevant. I feel Chanel has sunk into a comfort zone that rich women seeking affirmation or middle class basic bitch types aspire to.” says Katie Chutzpah, Fashion Blogger.
Lagerfeld is, of course, respected for his prolific and long career, but, what left is distinctively “Lagerfeld”? You have to separate the man and his designs. When his domineering character is quietened by his death, it will be his designs and collections which will have to fight with what went before, and what will, now, come after.
“If Karl Lagerfeld had just concentrated on Chanel, then I think he would've been forgotten, but his influence was so pervasive across popular culture. Despite his work at Chanel, he was actually a modernist and early-adopter of technologies. From fashion to art, photography, product design, and even music, he was always there at the edge, and I think that will be his true legacy, not reinventing a tweed jacket every three months.” says Lee Clatworthy, Fashion Writer.
This isn’t about trashing Lagerfeld’s career, it’s an unemotional look at the things we can directly attribute to him. Clearly, Chanel has been a huge success under his guidance, but it had very strong foundations on which to build. In a few decade's time, will Lagerfeld’s chapter at Chanel be remembered as vividly and fondly?
It turns out Christian Dior liked English food. Clearly a charmer and a man who knows his audience, Dior had a strong relationship with London and the British royal family. Many of you probably saw snippets of this exhibition on people's Instagrams when it was in Paris last year. This is the same, but with an added room explaining his relationship with London. The Victoria & Albert museum did the same with Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty.
This giant Dior exhibition, the largest ever in the UK, charts the miraculous growth and influence of Christian Dior up to the present day.
The staging and room sets are stunning. The lighting and displays make everything look sumptuous. The only negative is, the space will quickly become congested, as there isn't much room to move, so I would recommend visiting this early or later in the day.
This is pure fashion escapism and is a visual feast, illustrating womenswear from the second half of the 20th century.
From the "New Look" of 1947 to Maria Grazia Chiuri's present incarnation of Dior, every Creative Director is covered.
John Galliano steals the show and illustrates how he took Dior couture to the maximum of its creative possibilities. It leaves you wanting a solo Galliano exhibition.
Everything in the exhibition is couture and handmade and there's a beautiful rainbow display showing all the accessories and costume jewellery.
Dior is one of the biggest brands in the world, today, and while this is a fantastic display, I didn't leave knowing anymore about the man himself. The exhibition is fairly light on information, but I guess the idea is for crowds to flow and for the museum to really pack in the numbers.
Dior sent the benchmark for mid-20th century femininity and it's fascinating how the brand continued to grow even though he died just over a decade after the company was established. Dior is one of the most coveted of French fashion houses and, while the last two creative directors haven't been particularly inspiring, it's interesting to see how that shape of 1947 continues to resonate.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams - Until 14th July 2019 - £20
While you're at the V&A, you could visit the Mary Quant exhibition.
It would be hard for a documentary about Alexander McQueen not to be good. His talent was such that, twenty year’s later, the clothes and production can still hold their own against anything produced since.
I can remember watching CNN Style with Elsa Klensch - fashion, beauty and decorating! - this was the 90s remember: no internet and hardly any fashion on TV or in the media - when the ’13’ show with Shalom Harlow being sprayed by the robots was shown and I can remember looking at the TV and feeling the energy through the television. This was fashion as performance, as art, yet relatable and totally modern and contemporary. It opened my eyes and raised the bar.
This documentary is much more personal than the sell-out exhibitions at the Met and, subsequently, at the V&A, and that’s the joy of fashion documentaries - read #ChicGeekComment Is ‘Peak Fashion Documentary’ Killing The Fashion Tome?
The ‘brand’ doesn’t dominate and this is McQueen’s life story split into different sections while highlighting specific shows. His family features heavily - his sister and his nephew - who talk open and honestly about McQueen and things that shaped him, affected him and motivated him.
It was interesting to be reminded of the raw yobbishness of 90s McQueen. The Burberry check shirts, the gold necklaces and the complete lack of self image. For somebody with such good taste in designing and cutting clothes, it never really moved onto him or around him He didn’t seem interested in dressing the part or living that kind of life surrounding by beautiful things and I think this is where Isabella Blow came in. She was everything he wasn’t: obsessed with how she looked, aristocratic, living surrounded by antiques and beautiful heirlooms in her country house.
Opposites attracted, but they had an affinity with their darker sides. Both committed suicide and would use their creativity as a mask as well as a crutch.
This documentary is intense and it’s comprehensive - about 95 minutes - I think by the time it hits Netflix I would split it into 2 episodes. People like looking forward to watching a second instalment.
What Alexander McQueen had was not only imagination, but the technical skills to make clothes worth spending money on. As Tom Ford says in the film, when the theatrics and show-pieces were stripped back what was left on the hanger was some of the best cut and more stylish clothes ever.
Eight years after his death we’re still just as fascinated by his life and his place in the fashion history books alongside people like Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga is assured. It’s just a shame his career wasn’t as long, because, being selfish, I wanted so much more.
What they’ve done with, I’m guessing, limited visual material is remarkable. Even a featured Andy Warhol art film/doc is of such bad quality it looks like the first season of Rupaul’s Drag Race. So they’ve done well to find enough contemporary film footage or pictures to fill this and keep your attention. Obviously, there are new interviews with people who were there at the time, but it’s sad and disappointing that the two main characters are no longer with us.
Left - Antonio & Jerry
I’d heard of Antonio Lopez before and was aware of his style of drawing. I knew the era he was producing in, but that was about all. I didn’t really know who he worked with and for whom.
James Crump’s documentary centres on Paris and New York between 1969 and 1973, viewed through the eyes of Antonio Lopez (1943-1987). A native of Puerto Rico and raised in The Bronx, the story centres on him and his personal and creative partner, Juan Ramos (1942-1995).
Being an illustrator Lopez would never have been in the public eye personally, unlike many of the designers he was copying. His illustrations were well known, but it felt like he was always at the mercy of the commission, whether that was for a magazine or fashion house.
Right - Lopez's partner, Juan Ramos
Unlike Warhol, who also started as an illustrator, Lopez didn’t push himself centre stage. Warhol knew there was money to be made in people’s narcissism and vanity. Lopez seems to stick to the safety of what he knows. Maybe there wasn't enough time, well, between all the shagging, at least!
I like how the documentary moves between New York and Paris, but I wanted more from the main disco time of the late 70s and early 80s. The disco is Paris’ Club Sept, but you don't really get a feel for the place.
It gets wrapped up quickly at the end without the same level of detail. What was he working on? Did he fall out of fashion?
There is a brief moment when you feel like you’re watching a documentary about YSL and Karl Lagerfeld. (Love the beef between these two). These giant fashion planets pulled many different stars into their orbit and Lopez and his entourage of models and lovers were just some of them.
It was fun to see and hear from the group of female models Lopez championed - there's one who reminds me of Angie Bowie - and would have looked mega diverse even by today’s standards. The documentary is worth watching just for Jerry Hall’s arrival. Man, was that one beautiful woman. There are models and, then, there are supermodels. She’s like Botticelli’s Venus combine with a classical Greek siren with a dash of Texan Barbie. She’s captivating, especially in this where she's just starting out on her modelling career. This is where the film starts to end. It’s a shame, along with Grace Jones and Karl Lagerfeld, that she isn't interviewed for the film.
Lagerfeld seemed to distance himself at the end of Lopez’s career which is probably why he’s lasted so long in the fashion business. I imagine you have to be pretty cold and heartless in order to maintain your position. In the film he uses Lopez to illustrate his work at Chloe, and, being good at what he does, he knew they were the zeitgeist of the time and then when to drop them, accordingly.
Upsetting the photographer, Bill Cunningham, who is a prominent interviewee in the film, Lagerfeld wasn’t there when Lopez was diagnosed with AIDS.
The film is definitely an extensive insight into Lopez's fashion circles of the late 60s, 70s and early 80s: who knew who, who fucked who and who made it through. There are, annoyingly, not enough recorded visuals of his process and you want to hear more from the man himself. You don’t get a feeling of how much he produced and how his magazine illustrations complemented the fashion of the time. The artworks look like a mix between 70s Art Nouveau and porn illustrations, but you can see his precocious talent.
The film, again, illustrates how much talent we lost during the AIDS crisis and also fulfils our insatiable thirst for retro glamour. We live in age where we are obsessed with looking backwards at talented and beautiful people, quenching our need for what we feel today's modern landscape is sadly lacking.
Left - One of Lopez's illustrations
See #ChicGeekComment Is ‘Peak Fashion Documentary’ Killing The Fashion Tome?
Arguably the greatest fashion designer of the 20th century, Yves Saint Laurent, is synonymous with Marrakech and North Africa. I’d wanted to visit Marrakech for a while, now, and when the new YSL Museum opened in October, it was definitely the thing that cemented my reason for going.
Left - Take your ChicGeek selfies before you go in because the exit is on the side
Located on the same street as the famous Jardin Marjorelle – it was acquired by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980 to stop it being developed into a hotel. The new owners decided to live in the Villa Bou Saf Saf, which they renamed Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden in order to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle,” - the new museum is testament to Saint Laurent’s talent, his 40 years career and his connection with the city. Built by the Fondation Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s life and business partner, the two museums bearing his name - there’s another new one in Paris BTW - are preserving his archive and legacy.
The 4,000 m² building includes a 400m² permanent exhibition space devoted to the work of Yves Saint Laurent and designed by Christophe Martin. The museum also includes a hall for temporary exhibitions, a research library with over 5,000 volumes, a 140-seat auditorium, bookshop and terrace café.
Right - The iconic Mondrian dress welcomes you into the main exhibition space
The new building has something of the Frank Lloyd Wrights about it. The low-rise, concrete and brick finish, designed by French architectural, Studio KO, has a 20th century modern feel and is beautiful in its simplicity.
As you enter the circular entrance you’re greeted by the timeless and elegant YSL logo - take all your pictures and selfies now, as you won’t be coming back this way - once inside there is a green tiled fountain in a glazed courtyard.
There is a small, temporary exhibition space, painted Marjorelle blue, currently showing the paintings and illustrations of Jacques Majorelle, the creator of the garden. This space will change up to three times a year with different exhibitions and it was interesting to see what a talent Majorelle was. Think Art Deco Arabia.
In the main exhibition space, everything is dark and meticulously lit. The first thing you see is Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Mondrian dress, an item of clothing so simple, yet original, and part of the explosion of pop we saw in the mid-sixties. This is, rightly, one of the greatest items of women’s fashion from the 20th century.
Left - There was a strict no pictures policy, I never quite understand why, so here's one of the museum's images of the beautifully lit main exhibition space
There’s a small sketch of the classic logo, designed by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in 1961, and, then, the room opens out into a timeline charting the life and career of the designer.
At the end of the room is a collection of classic, black ‘Le Smoking’ suits. Saint Laurent revolutionised womenswear by making it acceptable for women to wear black tailored dinner suits.
As you turn, a double height portrait of Yves surveys a collection of looks from his career. There is no chronology here, and even the worst type of 80s gypsy or Russian dresses look great due to the lighting. Towards the end there is a large display cabinet with lots of accessorises and fashion jewellery. The pieces with lots of embroidery and Braque-like birds really sparkle in the black space with the shiny floor adding to the sumptuous feel of the exhibition.
As you leave, you enter into the gift shop with its red lacquered walls. There’s a café across from the auditorium showing catwalk shows from Yves Saint Laurent’s career. The exit is here, with Prickly Pears lining the walk back to the street, letting the small museum flow with visitors.
There isn’t any menswear in the museum, but, if you like fashion, there’s plenty to enjoy. Small touches reinforce the power of this brand. I’m not sure if Kering, the parent company of YSL, had any input here, but they must be very pleased with the result. The brand definitely goes up in your estimation and puts itself in the enviable position of having lots of recognisable brand signatures and designs.
Even the subtle touch of two separate fuchsia pink and tangerine coloured glass windows reflects the small coloured squares on YSL’s ready-to-wear ‘Rive Gauche’ label and no doubt a colour combination taken and inspired by Marrakech.
Left - Born in Algeria, Yves Saint Laurent is synonymous with North Africa
A pioneer, Yves Saint Laurent was the only fashion designer of his generation to systematically archive his work, beginning with the founding of the couture house.
Beginning in 1964, Yves Saint Laurent decided to set aside for safekeeping certain pieces from every collection. The Fondation Pierre Bergé’s holdings include every entire haute couture collection made by Yves Saint Laurent between 1962 and 2002. The Fondation also safeguards 65 Dior garments designed between 1955 and 1960 while Yves Saint Laurent was Christian Dior’s assistant, before becoming the couture house’s creative director.
Right - TheChicGeek outside the recently opened museum
Unfortunately, Pierre Bergé died a few weeks before the museum officially opened. But, with his ashes now in the Jardin Marjorelle, along with Yves, they are both now part of an exciting and stylish cultural quarter in Marrakech which charts the career and development of one of the biggest 20th century brands in fashion. The museum is a definite must if you're visiting Marrakech and the Jardin Marjorelle.
Below - Designed by French architectural firm Studio KO, the museum has a feeling of a Frank Lloyd Wright meets Marrakech aesthetic
TheChicGeek was a guest at Le Palais Paysan around 25 minutes from central Marrakech by car with stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and surrounding countryside. See more here
Check out these Made In Morocco brands - here
Go bold, that’s TheChicGeek’s 2015 message for eyewear. Make a style statement in thickly rimmed retro style spectacles, this season. Perfect for the current vintage inspired looks, as seen on the catwalks for SS16, and the huge trend for facial hair and fuller hairstyles.
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
TheChicGeek has complied a scrapbook of his 5 favourite spectacles, available right now from SmartBuyGlasses, and a few special spectacle wearing style icons to give you some inspiration.
Left - Smart Buy Spectacles - Zack
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
TheChicGeek says, "Think about your favourite TV stars of the 1970s in their oversized frames. The best shapes to go for are the aviator/pilot or thick square or rectangular frames".
Below - Yves Saint Laurent doing his best 1970s safari look, Gucci Menswear SS16
Left - Yves Saint Laurent Spectacles
TheChicGeek says, "Fashion has entered a very fantastical moment full of dress up, patterns and prints. The types of spectacles help finish these eclectic looks".
Left - Elton John
Below - Cazal Spectacles
Left - Gucci Menswear SS16
Left - Yves Saint Laurent
Below - Gucci Spectacles
TheChicGeek says, "Be bold. Oversized frames ooze confidence. They are also fun. Think Elton, Yves and the new look from Gucci".
Far Left - An older Yves
Left - Gucci Menswear SS15
Below - Tom Ford Spectacles
Left - Young Yves
TheChicGeek says, "Spectacle frames reflect your personality. Standout and look confident".
Below - More 70s Yves & Elton
This article is brought to you in association with SmartBuyGlasses