“I knew Yves Saint Laurent, and you’re no Yves Saint Laurent”

There was only one Yves Saint Laurent and there will never be another. While there are talents and visionaries to be sure (and a new generation of promising torch bearers), sadly, too many of today’s ‘designers’ don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Yves, Unfortunately, some are little more than overly hyped pretty boy (or girl) posers, egocentric control freaks with no talent, and blatant copycats with no original thoughts of their own (but who have at their disposal powerful publicists with lots of muscle).

And talk about timing. As if to heighten this reality and exaggerate the situation, on Monday evening, just as the eyes of the fashion world were to be focused on the ‘best of the best’ (the honorees, nominees, and recipients of the 2008 CFDA Awards), the one name that loomed large over the New York Public Library, casting its magic spell, was that of Yves Saint Laurent.

Diane von Furstenberg in a vintage black YSL tuxedo pantsuit

So influential and revered was this fashion legend, that WWD needed two consecutive issues (on Monday and Tuesday) to cover the news of his death, and chronicle his life and legacy. In addition to quotes from designers, social figures, and celebrities, who weighed in on what Yves meant to them, WWD ran some of YSL’s musings through the years. My favorites included:

“So they have crowned me king. Look what happened to all the other kings in France.” 1968

“In the future, men and women will dress more and more alike. I want to create clothes for women like men’s clothes.” 1968

“Classics continue all the time because they have style, not ‘fashion.’” 1981

“I have said before that the most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” 1978

“I’m happy to be copied, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job well.” 1998; “I have always done black. I don’t do ‘message’ couture.” 1968

“What a woman needs is a black turtleneck sweater, a straight skirt and a man to love her.”, 1989

His chic, elegant, intelligent muse was one who exhibited strength of character and true personal style and, as such, could not be more further removed from the self consciously mass produced, ‘sexy’ IT bag, stiletto heeled trio starring in “Sex and the City”, (a movie which met with rather unfavorable reviews but nonetheless found itself in first place after débuting this weekend. Further proof that public taste is, well, questionable at best).

With his innate fashion radar, faultless taste level, brilliant color sense, and master’s eye, Yves elevated street wear to couture and perfected wardrobe basics like trench coats, pea jackets, trousers and sweaters, bow tie blouses, safari shirts, black turtlenecks, leopard prints. Sounds like your closet? It sure sounds like mine. Speaking of which, would somebody please ‘reinterpret’ that iconic lace-up safari shirt modeled by Betty Catroux? (Actually, didn’t Banana Republic come out with one several years ago? Maybe it’s time to do it again!)

As if to perfectly illustrate the inherent modernity and ‘forever’ appeal of what Yves has proposed through the decades, all those attendees at the CFDA Awards who apparently changed their minds at the last moment and chose to pay homage to the designer by wearing vintage YSL or something in keeping with his fashion credo, not only looked better than anyone else but, looked better than ever. That includes Naomi Campbell in a vintage YSL long sleeved black sheer blouse and very au courant black pailleted ‘harem’ pants; Carolina Herrera in a white ‘le smoking’ of her own design; Ashley Olsen (who normally looks like a sad sack but looked terrific and pulled together in a Calvin Klein Collection black ‘le smoking’ worn with a white shirt); and, last but not least, CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg, who eschewed her signature busy prints in favor of a vintage black YSL tuxedo pantsuit. The androgyny of the pantsuit offset her curly mane perfectly and quite frankly, it’s the best I’ve seen her look in a long time. What a fitting tribute and testimony.

While the evening witnessed a true mixed bag in terms of fashion statements, one woman who was a disappointment to me was Anna Wintour. The editor-in-chief has her pick of anything and everything yet, I found her dress label unknown though I assume it’s by an American designer) to be rather boring and unexciting. Though she is always consistent, which is fine, I would love to see her break the mold just once and go against type. With her severe bob, she would have looked amazing clad in a fabulous tuxedo pantsuit with her nude nails painted red. Tres chic!

Mark my words, Yves Saint Laurent and his legend will loom large over the spring 2009 collections shown in the fall and there will be renewed interest in chic tailleur and timeless classics.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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