Dauntless,“in the bone” style made Loulou de La Falaise one of the great fashion firebrands of the twentieth century. Descending in a direct line from Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, she was celebrated at her death in 2011, aged just sixty-four, as the “highest of haute bohemia,” a feckless adventuress in the art of living—and the one person Yves Saint Laurent could not live without.
Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) was the most influential designer of his times; possibly also the most neurasthenic. In an exquisitely intimate, sometimes painful personal and professional relationship, Loulou de La Falaise was his creative right hand, muse, alter ego and the virtuoso behind all the devastatingly flamboyant accessories that were a crucial component of the YSL “look.” For thirty years, until his retirement in 2002, Yves relied on Loulou to inspire him with the tilt of her hat, make him laugh and talk him off the ledge—the enchanted formula that brought him from one historic collection to the next.
“Her presence at my side is a dream,” Yves declares in Loulou & Yves. “I trust her reactions. Sometimes they are violent but always positive... I bounce ideas off her and they come back clearer and things begin to happen.”
Yves’s many tributes shape Loulou’s memory, as if everything there was to know about this fugitive, Giacometti-like figure could be told by her clanking bronze cuffs, towering fur toques, the turquoise boulders on her fingers and her working friendship with the man who put women in pants. But parallel to this storyline runs another, darker one, lifting the veil on Loulou, a classic “number two” with a contempt for convention, and exposing the underbelly of fashion at its highest level. Behind Yves’s encomiums are a pair of aristocrat parents—Loulou’s shiftless French father and menacingly chic English mother—who abandoned her to a childhood of foster care and sexual abuse straight out of “Les Misérables”; Loulou’s recurring desperation to leave Yves and go out on her own; and the grandiose myths surrounding her family. Loulou felt that her life had been kidnapped by the operatic workings of the House of Saint Laurent, and in her last years danced with financial ruin. Delving beyond the “official” version of her life, Loulou & Yves unspools an elusive fashion idol—nymphomaniacal, heedless and up to her bracelets in coke and Boizel champagne—at the core of what used to be called “le beau monde.”
On the theory that everyone loves a cocktail party, Loulou & Yves traces her life chronologically through the charming literary device of oral biography, in which the spoken memories of more than two hundred “voices”—husbands, lovers, extended family, friends, enemies, slightly less bitter detractors, colleagues, groupies, pundits, and hangers-on—are seamlessly interwoven with those of Yves and Loulou themselves. Readers mingle at the party as invited guests, listening in on Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfeld and collecting clues from Mick Jagger and Tom Ford as the narrative unfolds. Topping the A-list of figures who tell Loulou’s story in their own words, uncensored, are Cecil Beaton, Diana Vreeland, Thadée Klossowski, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Hubert de Givenchy, Manolo Blahnik, Diane von Furstenberg, Elsa Peretti, Betty Catroux, John Richardson, Alber Elbaz, Christian Louboutin, Grace Coddington, Ben Brantley, Bruce Chatwin, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, André Leon Talley, and Pierre Bergé. In a fluent round of sparkling conversation, author Christopher Petkanas brings them all together for a party that swirls around one of the most scintillating women the fashion world has ever known.
“She’s the sounding board,” Yves rhapsodizes of his second self in Loulou & Yves, a sweeping, waspish work of fashion and social history. “She’s never wrong.”
Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. Retailers are producing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.
But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?
In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retailers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of clothing castoffs end up.
Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative independent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable clothes at affordable prices.
Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, refashioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and mending and even making clothes themselves.
Overdressed will inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.
The Iron Lady, the definitive Margaret Thatcher biography, is available just in time for the movie starring Meryl Streep as one of the most infamous figures in postwar politics.
Whether you love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher's impact on twentieth-century history is undeniable. From her humble, small-town upbringing to her rise to power as the United Kingdom's first female prime minister, to her dramatic fall from grace after more than three decades of service, celebrated biographer John Campbell delves into the story of this fascinating woman's life as no one has before. The result of more than nine years of meticulous research, The Iron Lady is the only balanced, unvarnished portrait of Margaret Thatcher, one of the most vital and controversial political figures of our time.