Pierre Berge, the old devil, has released a new book, “La Revolution de la Mode,” about the beginnings of Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche, in 1966, and its impact. Not only are we having a 1960s revival, but the industry also seems to be waking up with a crushing hangover or a severe case of doubts, and, well, people don’t like the feeling. The book is actually a catalog of images – and splendid they are – from the archives of Fondation Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent, where an exhibition about Rive Gauche and its first boutique opened at the foundation’s headquarters.
The “Beatle of Rue Spontini” and his business partner opened the boutique on Sept. 26, 1966, at 21, rue de Tournon. Saint Laurent was a couturier, and he was going to offer fashion at roughly a tenth of the price of his haute couture. In a photograph taken around the time of the opening, Saint Laurent is seen making a mock adjustment to the bow tie of his friend Catherine Deneuve’s tuxedo. The picture, made in front of a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture, confirms how much of the YSL code was already in place – the modern but unfussy interior, the agitating squares of deep pink and bright orange and, of course, the forward-slanting logo by Cassandre. What I find so touching about the photo, in view of everything that has gone on with John Galliano’s dismissal from Dior and the questions it raises about the industry, is that they reveal some extraordinarily happy clothes. True, it was simpler time, but if designers really think that women want more novel or complicated fashion, then why do they continue to copy ’60s YSL?
There’s something more at work here than postmodern borrowing. I laughed to myself when I saw a photograph of a bench-lolling young woman in a horizontally striped dress. Naturally, I thought of Prada’s striped outfits for spring. But I can think of many other items for spring and fall that the publication of this book foretold: the amount of wool gabardine and velvet, small geometric prints, tunics and self-belted shifts, coats with sleeves in a contrasting material. We saw a lot of simple cotton dresses for spring, and Roland Mouret opened his fall show with a chic olive wool hopsack blouson and a slim black skirt slit in the front. At the Mouret show, many of the writers looked pasty and exhausted, because they are straddling so many media platforms and churning out copy and tweets with hardly any time to reflect. Under these extreme conditions, it will not be surprising if the copy starts to lose the thread of connection to readers, not unlike the clothes. “All surface, no emotion.” Or, as Mr. Formichetti, who works as stylist with Lady Gaga, told Ms. Menkes, “I just wanted to bring the fun back. It’s not so much about the clothes.”