From our files: Yves Saint Laurent and team succeed Dior
In 1957, the Monitor covered the launch of the career of Yves Saint Laurent, who died on June 1, when he became head of Christian Dior's couture house at age 21. He would go on to become of the most influential fashion designers of the past century.
(Page 2 of 2)
Widely influentialSkip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
About 100,000 people have seen Dior fashion shows each year, and his taste has influenced millions of women who will never cross the elegant threshold of 30 Avenue Matignon.
Though the immediate future of the Maison Christian Dior has now been settled, M. Dior's passing has brought to the surface preoccupations never far from the thoughts of those interested in the continuance of Paris prestige. This prestige has always depended upon the effectiveness of Paris couturiers as a group. And will illustrious name plates taken down one by one from Paris doors in recent years - Molyneux, Lelong, Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath and others - there is natural concern and speculation as to who can replace them.
Among the half dozen talented youngsters who have come to the fore, three names are most often mentioned. Hubert de Givenchy, young, handsome, trained by Schiaparelli, who burst into the headlines in 1952; Guy Laroche, whose establishment is only 9 months old; and Jierre Gardin, who cut his style-teeth chez Dior.
But though some of the their clothes as smart and exciting, these young "vanguardists," as they are called, have followed Balenciaga's lead out of touch with both press and general public. They are more interested in revolutionizing the feminine figure than in dressing women. They would like - or so it appears - to put woman in a box and keep her there.
Nowadays a few extremists will follow any leader, but the mass of cash customers, who keep the twenty-million-dollar yearly profits rolling in, will no longer do so.
One reason for Dior's supremacy was that his point of view was universal. He said: "There is no such thing as one new line. The apparently prevailing tend is the choice of clients and journalists." He launched each season from five to seven basic motifs. Besides that he tried to design dresses for all types of women in the dozen countries where his selected mannequins put on fashion shows once or twice yearly.
Too many young European designers seem unable or unwilling to face the fashion facts of life: that chic is no longer the monopoly of a few "best dressed women" but of women everywhere and in all walks of life. These women lead busy, active lives. They want to look and feel at ease in clothes that can properly rise to any occasion from morn to midnight. And they want to look like women, not like "Little Monsters," "trussed turkeys," or "sad sacks"(to quote some of the season's Paris headlines).
A firm grasp of these fashion facts has been one of the most important factors in the almost incredibly rapid development of our American fashion industries. American designers, particularly those of the West and Southwest, responded to our need for casual, becoming clothes that could go anywhere without looking out of place. But the casual approach has by no means ruled out elegance. They now stress more formality, without sacrificing freshness, becomingness and grace.
But Paris still has a lively prestige-bearer in Gabrielle Chanel, chose by Neiman-Marcus for their Golden Anniversary Award as the "most significant fashion influence of the 20th century." And the would-be dauphins might be well-advised to follow her counsel. Says Mademoiselle Chanel: "The smart dress depends on the woman who wears it." And "to be practical is to be elegant."
"Women are too busy now," she adds, "for all those fittings." And so, Chanel believes, the future, even of the Paris couture, lies in ready-made fashions.