When W launched in 1972, Yves Saint Laurent had recently posed nude for Jeanloup Sieff in an ad for YSL’s first men’s perfume (left); New York socialite Nan Kempner had outraged society when she wore an Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo to Manhattan’s La Côte Basque (the maître d’ told her she could not enter wearing trousers, so Kempner doffed her pants and dined only in her jacket); and after nearly four decades in publishing, Diana Vreeland was out of Vogue and replaced as editor in chief by her former assistant, Grace Mirabella. Fast-forward to 2012, and New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn is being called “a stale three-day-old hamburger” by Oscar de la Renta. Plus ça change... Horacio Silva takes a look back at some of the most delicious fashion feuds, foibles, and face-offs in W’s history.
THE WAR OF THE POSES
In 1973, five American designers—Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, and Oscar de la Renta—stormed Versailles, stealing the thunder from their more esteemed rivals—Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Marc Bohan, Pierre Cardin, and Emanuel Ungaro—in a joint American-French fashion show. The days when Paris sneezed and the rest of the fashion world caught a cold were officially over. Yankee fashion was finally on the map.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s (above) adoring public was shocked—clutch pearls!—to discover that the first lady of fashion and recent second-time widow had sold her Valentinos, YSLs, and Halstons for cold hard cash at the New York consignment store Encore in 1975.
GONE TOO SOON
Biba, the London store often called the “most beautiful in the world,” went the way of the miniskirt in 1975 after a nasty protracted dispute between its founder, Barbara Hulanicki, and new majority shareholders. “With it,” lamented The Face magazine years later, “died the last vestiges of the sixties dream that the revolution would be stylized.”
YVES OF DESTRUCTION
Amid rumors of his failing health, a 1977 report mistakenly announced Yves Saint Laurent’s death. The designer, whom partner Pierre Bergé once described as having been “born with a nervous breakdown,” was promptly whisked off to Paris’s American Hospital for treatment of alcohol and cocaine addiction. Later that year, he introduced a new perfume, Opium, with an advertising campaign shot by Helmut Newton and featuring model Jerry Hall reclining in purple harem pants on gold lamé with the line OPIUM, POUR CELLES QUI S’ADONNENT à YVES SAINT LAURENT (Opium, for those who are addicted to Yves Saint Laurent).
SELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
Controversy came between 15-year-old Brooke Shields and her Calvin Kleins (next page) when she appeared in an infamously provocative 1980 television commercial for the nascent jeans line. Gloria Steinem was among the campaign’s many detractors, claiming it was likely to incite violence against women.