Article by Marlene Naicker

Pierre Berge, the longtime partner, of the late Yves Saint Laurent once boldly stated, “We living in a time of vulgarity,” alluding to the spiral decay of the old school nuances that no longer exist. I can only assume he was nostalgic over a time when creative masters and their muses ruled the realm of fashion. A purer time, when the avant-garde, daring and flamboyant, magical and mystical were all equally revered from shore to shore, and celebrated as patrons of true fashion icons.

Or am I regurgitating the old school ramblings of someone stuck in the past? Is it common to yearn for and reminisce over the old school glamour of past fashion greats, such as: Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, Paloma Picasso, Lou Lou de Falaise or Mitzah Bricard? The masters left us a legacy that is quickly being blemished next to the explosion of fashionistas, fashion bloggers and young critics–who consistently opine the names of brands in the hopes they’ll receive privileges in the form of freebies and access.

I look to my past as a child of the 70”s growing up reveling in old copies of Vogue, where names such as Richard Avedon, Diana Vreeland, Carmel Snow, Jeanne Paquin, Bill King were all people that came into my life. They molded your design thought, your feeling for color and your inherent love for the history of fashion. They challenged your thought processes and made you imagine a world of impossibilities.  This was the passion that they evoked. Passion that led the way for the remarkable Anna Wintour and the rebellious, but spirited flame-haired Grace Coddington to build take Vogue well into the 21st century, while maintaining its old school charm.

But the passionate souls of fashion that were before really are now a dying breed. Our current trend of madness seems to be, whilst heartfelt in its openness, is that anyone can be a designer, but that we all can be a designer, or a fashion critic, or a fashion editor. It leaves me reeling and thinking of the Chinese entering the leather-making industry and taking on the craftsmen countries like Italy, France & Spain. What we are then left with is not an idealistic Open Market, but rather a poor quality saturation of the market and a lowering of industry standards.

I cannot help but to wonder – if this new breed of fashion-mongers will be the death of the Fashion World as we new it in the past?

Paying Homage to Great Names

Loulou da La Falaise: Old school is still entrenched in my heart; the love affairs of fashion greats such as Yves Saint Laurent with the indefatigable and unflappable LouLu De La Falaise. A muse, a partner and confidant – who defined and helped steer the world of YSL as we now know today. LouLou, who was imaginative, remarkable and intriguing, was a walking embodiment of her own quirky style. She helped create the most magical concoctions together with Yves. Using their combined rich imagination and fantasy into ready-to-wear dresses. Hedi, please do him proud!

Elsa Schiaparelli: With her artsy love and surrealistic flair, Elsa Schiaparelli really was fashions favorite maverick maven—even more so than her rival Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Elsa was extravagant in conceptualizing the most avant-garde of pieces. She could not sew or sketch and astounded the young couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, by her ability to create in her mind and then give instructions to more classically trained designers, who then interpreted the pieces—but no piece was complete or brought to life until her hands came on them.

She was singular, bold and in the early 1920`s, her marketing ideas made her a visionary. There was passion, theatre and a genuine and deep respect for the love of art, which would transcend into her designs, Today, her traits can be seen in the diminutive contemporary counterpart, Miuccia Prada!

Diana Vreeland & Carmel Snow: True beacons of fashion journalism, who have stood the test of time and remind us of the bittersweet relationship between Anna Wintour and the extraordinary Grace Coddington are Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief of Harpers Bazaar and the mentor of Diana Vreeland. The story begins like a fairytale, with Carmel describing Diana as a young dark haired woman, gliding across the dance floor at the St Regis Hotel, in a Chanel lace dress, bolero jacket and heavily rouged.’ Carmel was entranced and offered the woman a job and`The Divine Mrs. V` came into her being.

Diana Vreeland was a pioneer, visionary and always pushing for the impossible and unattainable. Together, thier photo shoots at Harpers and later on, at Vogue – were about transporting the imagination through imagery. Fashion was redefined from being only for the high society, but also for the working, modern day woman. Under their editorship – their magazines were not just pretty pictures but told stories, built design legends and they lived life – more than anything else with drama and joie de vivre! They were passionate, innovative – dedicated to their work. A marriage made in fashion heaven, it endured an honorable decade for both of them to go down in history as the most remarkable and formidable arbiters of elegance and fashion.

It is to this woman that we today should be defined – as they are true doyennes of fashion.  As Diana Vreeland herself as said …

“The only real elegance is in the mind, if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”