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Yves Saint Laurent's Quiet French Revolution
adrienneanderson | June 10, 2008 at 11:08 amby
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Still, this is only part of the Yves Saint Laurent story.
What most people outside of the couture world don't know is that Monsieur Laurent was a revolutionary on another front: he tore down the barriers which excluded Black women from the world of high fashion.
After hearing of his death supermodel Naomi Campbell told New York's Channel 4 News that, "My first Vogue cover ever was because of this man, because when I said to him 'Yves, they won't give me a French Vogue cover, they won't put a black girl on the cover' and he was like 'I'll take care of that,' and he did."
The New York Times online was flooded with responses, and comments from around the world, regarding Laurent's death. Deborah Ward of Chicago, Illinois, summed up his impact on Black women in fashion, “I became of a fan of Monsieur Laurent when I was a young girl. I awed at his fashions on Black Models on the pages of Ebony Magazine. Very few designers showcased their fashions on Black Models. He was the first. ” Laurent was also regularly featured in the Ebony Traveling Fashion Show, based not only on his clothing, but due to his friendship with the matriarch of Black publishing, Eunice Johnson, who is also the producer of the annual 50 year old show.
Monsieur Laurent was also the first couture house in Paris to feature Black models on his runway, which opened the doors for such models as Iman, Pat Cleveland, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb, Alek Wek, Liya Kebede, and, his muse, Katoucha, who preceded him in death, with a mysterious fall into the Seine on February 29, 2008. According to Target Market News.com, African American women spent more than $20 billion dollars on apparel, yet fashion houses continue to ignore them on the runways, and as important customers. Yves Saint Laurent not only used Black models on the Paris runways, but he used them in print ads, and also considered Black women when designing his top end cosmetics. His commitment to positive representations of Black beauty gained him devoted followers, including celebrities like Halle Berry, who was recently seen carrying his luxe purse, the Downtown Tote.
With his passing, the absence of Monsieur Laurent's presence will mean much more than the loss of a great designer, but also one of a brave social revolutionary.
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