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The History and Debate Surrounding YSL's Branding

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Saint Laurent is considered one of the most revolutionary and iconic brands of all time. In 1961, Yves Saint Laurent redefined womenswear.   He was inspired by the structure of menswear and the sense of power that came with wearing it. His approach was a celebration of gender fluidity that rocked the fashion world.  Since then, designers like Hedi Slimane and Alber Elbaz have interpreted Saint Laurent's vision for the company. Since 2016, Anthony Vaccarello has sat at the label's helm. 

YSL launched in 1961 with a logo designed by Ukrainian-born French painter Adolph Jean Marie Mouron, professionally known as Cassandre. Cassandre rose to fame during the interwar period by creating a Cubist and Art Deco style that became instantly recognisable. His posters advertised and celebrated the prosperous, modern lifestyles of the roaring 20's - drinking, innovations in transportation, and travel to fantastical cities. 



Jean Marie Mouron became one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th Century and his work was in very high demand. Yves Saint Laurent knew that he needed his logo to convey the modernity and elegance he was bringing to fashion, and so in 1961 he commissioned Cassandre to design a logo that reflected this philosophy. 


It was perfect. Sensual, luxurious, sophisticated. The brand continued to use this logo for over 40 years.

But this was not the only identity that Saint Laurent had. Towards the late 1960's, society had evolved in such a way that the norms enforced by Haute Couture - or High Fashion - had largely become obselete. An increasing number of Women wanted to dress elegantly and affordably. The trendy, young Saint Laurent followed his passion to make clothing for everyone, not just the super wealthy. And so, in 1966 he launched Saint Laurent Rive Gauche at a more accessible price point, and in doing so pioneered the concept of ready-to-wear. 


The logo, which was designed in collaboration with perfume designer Pierre Dinend featured a tightly kerned Helvetica font and two red blocks. The overall design was in stark contrast to the elegance and luxury of the Cassandre logo, which when you consider the attitudes of the late 60's-early 70's was assumingly right on target. 

It was in 2012 that the controversy and debate surrounding Saint Laurents branding really began. This was the year that designer and commercial merchandising guru, Hedi Slimane was brought in as Creative Director to breathe new life into the brand and ignite sales. At the time, the brand had been suffering years of dwindling sales; no one was getting excited over Yves Saint Laurent. What upset people the most about Slimanes rebrand is his bold decision to scrap the 'Yves' from the brand name and design, leaving the house formally known as 'Yves Saint Laurent'  as it is now known 'Saint Laurent'. Fashion enthusiasts truly grieved over this change and many saw the move as disrespectful the Yves himself. In response to the uproar, Slimane claimed that the brands rename was not only symbolic of the new chapter that would commence under his direction, but as an ode to Yves also.


"Historically, Yves decided with Pierre in 1966 to name his revolutionary ready-to-wear 'Saint Laurent Rive Gauche,'" Slimane said in an interview with Yahoo back in 2015. "It was for him a distinctive sign of modernity, and a drastic change from the Couture label...Rather than 'dropping the Yves' the restoration of a spirit of Couture was intended a few years down the line…With the House now completed, the two names exist as they always did historically, next to the monogram designed by the artist Cassandre."

Most recently, sometime last year current creative director Anthony Vaccerello casually switched up the logo again, landing halfway between the original 1961 design and Slimanes rebrand. Vaccerello's version welcomes the return of Cassandre's iconic design, but this time minus the 'Yves'. Overall, the reception for this update has been positive. I personally love this version. After the last decade saw brands such as Balenciaga, Burberry, and Balmain all switch to Helvetica fonts, it's refreshing to see some of Saint Laurents individuality and character returning. 



TREND: Pockets

Thursday, February 23, 2023



In the 1970s, when second-wave feminism gained ground and the Equal Rights Act was ratified by the US Senate and the Roe v. Wade decision marked a success for women across the America, the utilitarian look made a comeback. The military-inspired look then saw a second renaissance in the 1990s and early 2000s. Now it's back in style once more and this time the key detail is pockets - BIG pockets. The utilitarian style is functional and convenient; influenced by the military and menswear. When we think of functional style, the immediate image can be unflattering, however this season designers are proving that functional fashion can be sexy and feminine.






Shop The Trend: High Budget 







Shop The Trend: Lower budget








Sadness First-Aid

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


Growing up, I was consistently described as moody. I've never been a naturally charismatic person, I'm prone to sadness. My brain has never been very good at giving me regular boosts of serotonin and is quick to pump me full of adrenaline the second I have a negative thought. As I've gotten older and the worries have gotten scarier, it's been easier than ever to give in to the sadness - to mope in it and let it take over my life. I've found that since I've been able to stick a nice label on it - 'mixed anxiety and depressive disorder' - I often feel helpless to it, victimised by it. I am a work in progress when it comes to my own happiness. Through a mix of self-help books and trial-and-error, I've established my own first-aid kit to get myself through the rough patches.

Clean room, clean mind

When I'm depressed I live in filth. This is a common side-effect. Clothes get left on the floor, coffee mugs remain on the desk and the bed goes without being made from night to night. Shockingly, it makes things worse. 

The most crucial part of the cleaning ritual is the changing of the bedding. Somehow, a fresh bed makes the nights softer and the mornings lighter. Sometimes there's nothing more comforting than fresh, taut sheets, plumped pillows, and the clean smell of laundry detergent. Plus, it improves your sleep. A 2012 survey showed that 73% of people sleep better on clean sheets.

The satisfaction I feel after doing the big weekly clean on a Sunday is genuinely the most fulfilling part of my week. Its a symbolic reset on the week  For something that's relatively free, the little boost of comfort that it gives me is worth the effort. 

Parks

One of my favourite things about living in London is that you can get the tube and choose from a seemingly neverending selection of parks to explore. You can take a friend and put the world to rights as you meander, or - equally as fulfilling - you can go solo. Most of the time, we walk because we need to get from A to B, but there is a real pleasure in just wandering at your own pace. 

I'm a person who looks out for the small things that bring me joy, and for this parks are a treasure chest. Dogs. Tiny ones. Massive ones. 'Ugly' ones. I don't discriminate. Couples in love. Gorgeous people in gorgeous outfits. Pretty flowers. Enormous trees. Though slightly sadistic, children falling over. Different people have different examples but I can almost guarantee there's something to observe in a park that will spark a little happiness in everyone.

Put it in the diary

I am not naturally organised so I rely heavily on my planner. I use the weekly pages for work; I write down my to-do lists and my deadlines so that when it comes to the dreaded 1-1's with my manager I don't look like a total unqualified idiot. However the monthly pages are for me. I put in when I have tickets for a show, a planned night out or a trip home. All the fun things that I can look forward to. Every day when I'm sat at work, I catch a glimpse of all the good stuff I have to look forward to.

When its looking a little bare, that's also the prompt I need to plan things. The list of things you want do but just never seem get planned. The restaurants that you saw on Tiktok. The plays you see advertised in the tube station. The markets, the gardens, the rooftop bars. Put it in the diary. 

Stop listening to sad music

I have a playlist for crying. A playlist for when I feel numb and want to lie with my eyes closed, music blaring at full volume. A playlist of every single Beatles song in a minor key. My top artist of 2022 was Phoebe Bridgers. It's safe to say that I listen to a lot of sad music. The guardian conducted research on why some people enjoy listening to sad music - because not all people do. They found that people who scored highly on empathy were more likely to enjoy the sad music. When asked about how they felt after hearing a melancholy track they reported feeling moved, which is something I can relate to as someone who actively seeks out things that will make them cry. However, what I found to be key in this research is that enjoyment was reliant on the participant's ability to self-regulate and distance themselves from the sadness. 

Right there, that was the lightbulb moment. If I enjoy sad music so much why can't I listen to it when I'm sad? Because when I'm depressed I lose the ability to self-regulate, to distance myself from Phoebe Bridgers' grief. 

The first week of my breakup I isolated myself and listened to exclusively devastating music. To me, this felt right. I was so depressed that the mere concept of joy felt obnoxious. I only wanted to listen to other people that were hurting, almost like a sadness support group, except no one actually heals. I lived like this until desperation took over and I listened to a podcast on how to get through a breakup. For the most part, the advice was trivial and obvious, but it did convince me to ditch the sad music, at least for a while. Instead, I replaced it with music that was obnoxiously happy. I swapped out Bon Iver for Stevie Wonder. Adele for Bee Gees. It helped.

Exercise

This is one that has only recently clicked for me and I think it has everything to do with mindset. We all know the benefits of exercise, I won't waste my time telling you about endorphins but it is true. It is scientifically proven that exercise improves mood. However, I think the key to actually making exercise an effective tool long-term is your reason for going. In the past, I'd almost always go to the gym because I wanted to lose weight, and whilst this is obviously still a goal of mine, forcing myself to exercise because I hate my body has never helped my mental health. This time, I decided to try something different. I now go to the gym because I enjoy it. I go because I want to. I approach it like a treat after work. A fun activity. This mindset did not come naturally - I had to consistently convince myself and eventually you start to naturally believe it. 

Making progress is also a huge boost. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a leg press set after you've upped the weight. The relief when you get to return to a walking speed after your longest run yet. That feeling is golden. That feeling is why I keep going back day after day. I highly recommend the couch to 5k app. When I started I couldn't run for a solid minute, now, in week 6, I'm running for a solid 25 minutes. Its a really great way to get into running and I don't think I would have been able to have made the progress I have without it.  

Can fashion effectively convey Catholicism?

Friday, October 1, 2021


INTRODUCTION

The relationship between Fashion and the Catholic faith is complicated, riddled with contradictions. It is unclear from The Bibles teachings whether fashionable dress symbolises honour and dignity or an attachment to worldly goods. Which begs the question, is fashionable dress capable of conveying faith? The 2018 Heavenly Bodies Met Gala illustrates how the depiction of faith through fashionable dress can be both effective and ineffective, but is the depiction always positive? Instagram collective I NEED GOD and their online clothing brand demonstrate how Catholicism can be communicated effectively to a younger generation in a way that presents faith positively. On the contrary, fashion house Dolce and Gabbana show that whilst fashionable dress can effectively depict faith, the hateful, religiously-charged opinions of its designers can tarnish the garments impact, creating negative associations.


HEAVENLY BODIES

The Costume Institutes Met Gala - Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination - set out to explore the dynamic relationship between fashion and the church. In doing so held one of the most celebrated and yet heavily criticised nights the institute has ever seen, illustrating how the depiction of Catholicism through fashionable dress can be both effective and ineffective. Chadwick Boseman effectively conveyed the Catholic influence on western fashion through his papal inspired, all-white Versace tuxedo and cross cape, adorned with gold beading and crosses. Lurie’s thesis, as outlined in The Language of Clothes, argues that clothing is a form of communication and that by wearing a certain colour or style a person is subconsciously expressing their views and ideas (Lurie, 1981). In Catholicism, the all-white of Boseman’s ensemble suggests purity, whilst the gold crosses are a symbol of Christ himself and the faith of Catholics. In western fashion, Boseman’s tuxedo suggests elegance. This combination may seem incongruous, but the various connotations demonstrate how Catholic symbols have become embedded in western fashion. 




However, this is not to say that all heavily adorned, priestly garments are an effective depiction of Catholicism. Designed by John Galliano and taking over 750 hours to construct, Rihanna’s ‘sexy pope’ mini dress, beaded and bejewelled and complete with mitre (Alexander, 2018) received scathing criticism for reducing such sacred vestments and what they represent to pure eroticism and pageantry (Carnes, 2018). When questioned about the look, Rihanna told Vogue “it feels expensive. It would be a sin not to wear it” (Vogue, 2018). It is clear that Galliano's design seeks to mimic, or rather exaggerate, the grandiose nature that papal attire has long been associated with. Conspicuous consumption such as this better conveys prestige and status than it does Catholicism. This is supported by Veblen, who argued in his book 'The Theory of The Leisure Class' that expenditure on fashionable dress is driven by the maintenance or acquisition of “honourable repute” (Veblen, 1899). 




The expansive history of the church and its relationship with fashion meant that the Heavenly Bodies Met Gala and the looks that stemmed from it can be viewed from many perspectives, whether that be one of western fashion or theology, but overall it proved that fashionable dress can be both an effective and ineffective depiction of faith.


I NEED GOD

Instagram collective, I NEED GOD, and their 29.5k following demonstrate through their online clothing collections that, by utilising irony and humour, fashionable dress can effectively and positively depict Catholic ideologies and inspire faith in the younger generation. Irony can be broken down into layers. At layer 0 is sincerity, at layer 1 is irony as we know it (e.g. dramatic irony, situational irony), and at layer 2 is post-irony, which can be seen as the return to sincerity (Bourne, 2020). Post-irony is how Gen-Z use humour and how I NEED GOD communicate their message of faith. An example of this is the sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “God loves me and there’s nothing I can do about it”. To the majority of the younger generation, religion is seen as uncool, therefore the sporting of such designs is done so in the name of irony. Though what makes I NEED GOD’s designs post-ironic is that it is unclear whether their message is sincere or not. Growing up with social media, Gen-Z have not had the privilege of establishing their identity before proclaiming it to the world. The intricate network of irony within I NEED GOD's garments enables them to evolve and adapt while being observed, allowing them to experiment with ideas of identity and faith in a time when public opinion is heavily weighed in a cancel culture. This may be why Amanda Glover, Melanie Cress, Yaki Kostelec, and Kyle Hide started the collective and why it has become so popular amongst this particular generation. 




As religion becomes less prevalent in Western Culture, young people are less likely to think about faith. However, the humour embedded in I NEED GODs clothing forces the wearer to use their knowledge of Catholicism in order to connect with the joke. When you tell a joke, you elicit information from your audience, almost against their will, and they end up supplying the background information that makes the joke work. As a result, they join you. Then, if the joke succeeds, they join you again in their reaction, and the two of you become a community, a community of laughter. Cohen refers to this as the intimacy of joking (Cohen, 1999). Thus, beyond causing the wearer to ponder their knowledge of faith, the joy evoked has the ability to sustain the wearers desire for it (Houck, 2016). I NEED GOD clearly demonstrates that the key to depicting faith through fashionable, particularly to young people, is to combine it with the power of humour.



DOLCE AND GABBANA

The effective depiction of Catholicism in fashion is not always one with positive connotations. For fashion house Dolce and Gabbana, ecclesiastical motifs are integral to their brands DNA. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s shared Italian Catholic upbringing has never influenced their creations more than in ‘Tailored Mosaic’- their 2013 collection inspired by the Byzantine Cathedral of Monreale. Models walked the runway in golden dresses decorated with religious figures and adorned with jewellery reflecting the opulence of the once powerful Christian Empire. 




Many would argue that fashionable dress illustrates an attachment to worldly goods and that a detachment from such goods signals a person’s devotion to Christ. Such examples of renunciation include Saint Francis – the son of a wealthy merchant who devoted himself to a life of poverty (Gallo, 2018). Paradoxically however, members of the Catholic faith continue to use grand, expensive churches and art as material proof of their devotion therefore could fashionable dress such as the ‘Tailored Mosaic’ collection not also be used in such a way? On top of the religious figures displayed on the garments, the sheer luxury and finery in itself effectively depicts Catholicism. 


However, in 2015 when the designers shared their controversial, religiously charged opinions on gay adoption and IVF, the ‘Tailored Mosaic’ collection was tarnished with new associations of hatred and intolerance. In a Panorama cover story titled “Long Live the [Traditional] Family” Dolce stated “life has a natural trajectory, there are some things that should not be altered” whilst referring to babies conceived through IVF as “chemical children” (Panorama, 2018). Catholicism is a religion that has historically viewed homosexuality as a sin, and even in 2021 the church refuses to bless same-sex unions (BBC, 2021). Dolce and Gabbana’s preaching of these hateful catholic ideologies triggered a boycott on the brand. Elton John took to social media to criticise the “archaic” fashion house, stating they were “out of step with the times, just like your fashions”. It is because of these homophobic comments that, whilst the brand effectively conveys Catholicism, the connotations are that of hate and intolerance rather than faith. 


CONCLUSION

The relationship between Catholicism and Fashion is complicated, open to interpretation and always evolving. Rihanna’s Met Gala look acted as a caricature of the Catholic Pope. Its grotesque conspicuous consumption meant that it was ineffective in its depiction of Catholicism. Though fashionable dress is certainly capable of effectively depicting faith. Chadwick Boseman’s Met Gala look celebrated the influence that Catholicism continues to have on Western culture and in doing so effectively depicted faith. In a similar way Dolce and Gabbana’s ‘Tailored Mosaic’ collection acts as a material symbol of the designers devotion, effectively depicting their own faith. I NEED GOD demonstrates how fashionable dress can be used to convey faith to younger generation, adopting humour and irony as tools of communication. The effective depiction of Catholicism can however be positive or negative. I NEED GOD’s religious connotations are of love and acceptance whilst the ‘Tailored Mosaic’ collection is tarnished by the intolerance of its designers.   













The Little Black Dress: A Concept

Tuesday, January 5, 2021


Twentieth-century semiotician Roland Barthes believed that fashion is a form of non-verbal communication that is totally subjective. Barthes Vestimentary Code suggests that meaning is communicated through the interpretation of signs. The sign is a combination of the signifier (the tangible garment) and the signified (the mental representation). When clothing is translated into this rhetorical code, fashion becomes more than just clothing, but rather a reflection of society. When it comes to semiotics, the little black dress is a garment with an extensive system of signs spanning centuries of changing perceptions (Barthes, R. 1967).


The Little Black Dress is a fashion staple and one which is closely associated with Coco Chanel. Here, you see her in the 1926 little black dress. At the time, Vogue compared this dress to the Ford Model-T - the first car to be industrially manufactured. To reduce costs, the car was painted only in black, and so blacks association with the industrial revolution and modernism was born. In fashion, the 20s are often referred to as the Androgynous era because of the way that couture shifted towards cleaner lines and away from the emphasis on women's breast and butts. The signifiers of Chanel's little black dress are a long, straight cut with a flat chest and straight waist. The signified, therefore, is of an androgynous, boylike figure. The signifier black was used by Chanel as an unambiguous indication of sexual impropriety, modernity and authority, mimicking that of men, clearly demonstrating that women were prepared to enter the workforce. In this way, she shifted the signified of black from a purely male, authoritarian, and mournful colour to a mature, distinguishing, gender-neutral and authoritative colour (Marcangeli, S. 2015). In this way, the LBD became not only a symbol of feminism but a weapon for liberated womanhood. In recent history, I believe that this was no better epitomised than when Princess Diana wore her iconic black "revenge dress" following Prince Charles' adultery scandal.

Chanel claims to have invented the LBD, that's not true, she simply helped popularise it because it was greatly associated with the modern woman of the 20s and who better epitomised that than Ms Chanel?

It's often been said also that Chanel is the one who took the black dress from being a gesture of mourning to being considered fashion. That too was na├»ve. Black clothing in general has undeniably been associated with mourning for a long time. Here, we see a mid-19th-century painting of a governess who is sitting alone, wearing black, presumably in mourning. Notice how the other girls are in light, bright colours connoting carefree girlhood whilst she is in black. 



Black also had many extensive associations in the West with abstinence; members of the clergy, for example, will be wearing black as a signified of their submission to God and authority (Pastereau, M). Black became known as the colour of respectability.


In 1957, Vogue said, black is 'worldly, elegant, plainly alluring, indispensable'. This notion went back a long way. In the Middle Ages, black was not only seen as a colour for elite mourning but also as a very expensive, prestigious, elegant colour. Many aristocrats would wear black to indicate a sense of prestige - a dandiacal elegance which made them stand out amongst the peacock-coloured ensembles characteristic of the Middle Ages.

Black also very much had this sense of being an elegant colour in the 19th century. We think of the 19th century as all people in mourning black and that Chanel was the first to make elegant, fashionable black. Nothing could be further from the truth, black was already a colour which was seen as being extremely elegant. As

La Mode Paris put it in 1885, "Of course black, which can look very economical, can also be on the contrary, very expensive. And yet, the most distinguished dress, the most becoming dress that can be worn by any woman on any occasion is certainly a black dress".

But Black also, and for a long way back, was also associated with sex and power. So, in addition to the idea of death and mourning, it had the suggestion of the Devil (aka, The Prince of Darkness) and hell as the world was presumed to have started from nothing, just darkness (Pastereau, M). In one of Edith Wharton's novels, there is a woman who 'goes to bed' with a man and someone says of her, "What can you expect of someone who was allowed to wear black at her coming-out party?" Black had this connotation of sexiness and eroticism. We see it in the portrait of Madame X, a painting that caused outrage at the time of its reveal, and you see it as well in novels like Anna Karenina where the black velvet that she wears is contrasted with the ivory of her skin. Black's association with power, again goes right back to the Middle Ages to judges and executioners; it's been linked with crime and deviance. In Reservoir Dogs, there's a scene where Mr Pink asks why they can't pick out their own colours, and Joe remarks, “I tried that once, it don't work. You get four guys fighting over who's going to be Mr Black.” Black is associated with the charisma of deviance as well as with the idea of sexualised women. In politics, you have the black of fascism and the black of anarchy.

Furthermore, as Valerie Mendez, the fashion historian, points out, black was fashionable long before the 1920s. In particular, she writes that the little black dress was born in the early 1900s, especially after the death of Edward the 7th in 1909. Then, during World War I, black became ubiquitous for mourning but also as a fashion colour. Black was a symbol of the nations shared grief caused by the war, but it was also a more practical colour as women were joining the war effort through taking over industrial job roles.


Chanel emphasised the quote, 'Scheherazade is easy, the little black dress is difficult'. This was in retaliation to the brilliant colours which were popular in the early 19 teens - reds, greens, and oranges. She said they made her feel nauseous and she went over to the other extreme by only using white, cream, black, and dark navy blue.

Black also has long antecedents as a bohemian, artistic colour. You can find it associated with beatniks, or with black leather jackets. But then you had also the chic cocktail dresses, the high fashion, elegant blacks. Balenciaga, for example, was described as creating dresses in Spanish black which is described as like a deep night without stars. Or Audrey Hepburn - of course - famously wore a plethora of little black dresses.




Christian Dior said of black, you can wear black at any age under virtually any circumstances. He also pointed out, as have many other designers, the black dress is appealing for designers because once you take away the colour you can focus on the silhouette, the texture, and other aspects of the dress, just as you would with line drawing for an artist instead of colour.

In the 1980s, the Japanese fashion revolution made black the dominant avant-garde colour in fashion. Yohji Yamamoto said the Samurai spirit is black. The Samurai must be able to throw his body into nothingness, the colour and image of which is black. Rei Kawakubo put it more simply when she said there are seven shades of black. And, of course, again, as it always sounded cryptic, a black velvet dress is completely different from a black satin dress or a black linen dress, etc.


One of the reasons why black is such a powerful colour is because there are so many layers of meaning. It's like a palimpsest, everything from elegance, evil, desirability, sexiness, power. And for all these layers of meaning, it means that a designer can create a wide variety of clothes, all of which end up having some of the modernity and allure of the little black dress. The little black dress can be whatever the wearer wants, or needs, it to be. In a sense, the little black dress is not a style per se but rather a concept. They’re entirely versatile. There are many ways to design it. It's modern, it changes but it's always the same and it's always a kind of chic armour.