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Yves Saint Laurent

Monday Jun 7, 2010
Yves Saint Laurent

These days, celebrities lending their name to a brand is commonplace, a practice that's become - in our humble opinion - vulgar. Whether based on greed, narcissism, or simply bad management, it seems like every other Hollywood leading lady (and more and more, leading man) has a line of clothing, home goods, energy drinks, [insert name of nearly any other item you can think of here].

For every dozen Hollywood starlets or handful of douchebags (Ed Hardy/Christian Audigier comes to mind) hawking cheap wares at Macys, Kmart and QVC, however, there are one or two designers who've actually given up their blood, sweat, and tears - not to mention learning the art and possessing genuine creative talent - to legitimately deserve the right to put their name to a label. Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Chanel, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton... timeless, classic, beautiful brands - all of which carry a name from an actual person. Standing strong among them, with a rich history of creative brilliance, is Yves Saint Laurent.

The first tome to celebrate the sheer design genius of the man, Yves Saint Laurent represents a comprehensive retrospective of the designer, the icon, the legendary god of fashion who helped create the industry that we know today as fashion. A celebrity among celebrities, from his first couture collection to his last, Saint Laurent's clothes were celebrated and his brilliance admired- as well they should be.

As vibrant, diverse and fascinating as the man himself, Yves Saint Laurent - the book - plays excellent tribute to the artist. An accompaniment to a retrospective exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris (featuring more than 300 garments; on view through August 29, 2010), it's a first-rate volume that's as full of history as it is photographs. Aside from his fashion, the volume highlights Saint Laurent's philosophy of style, with special attention paid to his muses- a select handful of women who he not only designed for, but adored.

Although he certainly created a few things that were a bit outside the norm (a perfect example being his knitted wedding dress from the mid-60s, which made the unfortunate woman wearing it look like an enormous tampon), Saint Laurent was known for his sophisticated style, albeit always with at least a touch of glamour. He understood women - and celebrated them; something instantly apparent in his designs. This volume brings that - as well as all the designer's nuances - to the general public, along with images of his hand-selected fabric samples, drawings, sketches, photographs, models... it would be exhausting if it weren't so exciting and enthralling.

At just under 400 pages with more than 200 full color illustrations, this is a coffee table book that should take its place at the top of the stack and remain there. Beautiful and fascinating from cover to cover, Yves Saint Laurent is the next best thing to a conversation with the designer himself.

Abrams; 388 pages. In bookstores for about $55; less at Amazon.com


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