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The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris
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The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  959 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Drake presents a sublime and dramatic narrative about the high-chic fashion wars of 1970s Paris where two titanic geniuses and rivals, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagefeld, collided and sparked a tumultuous decade.
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
alicia drake has written the non-fiction version of the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay. this book, a bildingsroman in the truest sense, does a wonderful job of painting the human side of yves saint laurent, karl lagerfeld and their respective coderies, which serves to highlight their dizzing rise to superstardom. by turns hilarious and tragic, drake offers an impressive litany of sources to flesh out this poignant tale. we see saint laurent at the glittery heights of his creativity, a p ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a gift and it took me some time to get to it, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. It reads like a mix of biography and dishy tell all and takes you deep into the glorified and narcissistic worlds of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s.

Beautifully written, extraordinarily researched ( with over 500 interviews), you are transported back to the lavish excesses of the 70s at every turn of the page. Although the book concentrates on fashion as lived by
Amar Pai
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about the crazy lives of Yves Saint Laurent and (especially) Karl Lagerfeld. It was really funny to see the evolution of Lagerfeld's look over the years. Would have loved to have seen his various apartments and chateaus. The man has an iron will. At least, when he's not drinking 20 Coca-Colas per day and eating pounds of chocolate cake.

The one thing this book needed was more pictures. WAY more pictures. I'm sorry, I just don't have the capacity to visualize half of the crazy ou
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
A mesmerizing read about the rise, fall, and triumphs of St Laurent and Lagerfeld, about the evolution of the Parisian fashion world from the fifties to nowadays, about the the drug-filled parties of the seventies and the eighties, about the dreams and heartbreaks that shaped the lives of those visionary designers. You don't have to be especially interested in fashion to read this book, which is really the portrait of two tortured and complex artists as well as the portrait of an era. For those ...more
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The fun and the tragedy of Paris in the 70's. The people who redefined fashion from a historical and political point of view, and all the bitchiness that ensued. I enjoyed reading this immensely and felt I needed to drink more champagne afterwards. Recommended for fashion lovers.
Michael Armijo
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a 'must-read' for anyone in the fashion industry or one who has any interest in fashion, trends or the success of marketing and 'making a brand'. Author Alicia Drake provides extensive validation of her research and disclosures at the end of the book. It gives so much history about Yves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. It will take you to 1970s Paris and on to the 1980s. There are eyebrow raising quotes and insight on what has worked to be a successful fashion designer. It takes persisten ...more
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fashion disciples, francophiles, culture literati
Shelves: who-are-you, chic-lit
A very dishy transcript of the highs and lows of the lifetimes of the Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld clans and the fierce rivalry between them as well as a very dishy storytelling of the inevitable rise of the fashion world. In the heady times of the 60s to 80s, big changes such as the whole shift from haute couture to ready-to-wear happened as well as some of the more smaller firsts (i.e., elevating the catwalk, women wearing menswear, celebrities receiving invites to shows, etc). With YSL taking ...more
Oct 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I've become the world's slowest reader and this book has been a victim of my creative distractions. I probably would've rated the book higher if I'd read it straight through.

Nonetheless, I liked the book. I like fashion history and any books that provide a deeper understanding of the industry and its personalities. Drake was extremely through in illustrating the rarified world that YSL and Lagerfeld inhabited. Besides being the biggest names in fashion, I liked that Drake presented them as two
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe there's no poetry in me, but this unauthorized biography of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld fell far short of meeting my expectations. While I appreciate the dramatic edge Drake attempted to apply to her "narrative," the overall story of the designers was often lost in a sea of quotes from friends and acquaintances. Using this technique to string together a story works well in abbreviated magazine articles, but I couldn't help but feel that her editor needed to have a heavier hand. E ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Controversial and fun. I learnt a lot about the political and social context in Paris and the world during the 70s and 80s. Fashion editors say that, sometimes, you can judge a society's political context by the cover of a fashion magazine more accurately than by the front page of a newspaper, and I agree to a certain extent.
As a huge fan of Lagerfeld's work and persona, I loved the sheer description of his life, which heavily influences his art. I'm in awe with Saint Laurent's legacy, which I
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Not necessarily about fashion itself (my one criticism is that there's not enough description of the designers' actual work), The Beautiful Fall paints a detailed portrait of the extravagance of Paris fashion in the 1970s, focusing on the rivalry between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Drake writes in an over-the-top style that sounds exactly like how fashion people talk, and the voice complements the story beautifully.
Sergio Florez
Even their undeniable talent and creativity can't hide the fact that fashion designers are incredibly shallow people. Don't believe me? Read this book. The book itself is entertaining enough but it left me with the feeling that those who really want into the fashion business don't really have anything else to offer society than their good looks.
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
an intriguing look into the genius, excess and tragedy of YSL and Lagerfeld
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-ish
Lagerfeld, YSL, the 70's, and Paris...please sir i'd like some more.
Brooke Everett
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brooke by: Melissa Scully
This is possibly the first and only time that I've been happy about seeing a movie prior to reading a book on the same subject. Thanks to the fact that I'd already seen the Yves Saint Laurent movie (2014), this book was already alive in my imagination instead of being a fashion history textbook featuring a riot of twirling, swirling fancy names that meant nothing (besides YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, and Paloma Picasso, of course).

The author's exhaustive research left no stone unturned in chronicling t
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read this before seeing the YSL exhibit at Seattle Art Museum. While I learned quite a bit from it, the writing was so dreadful that I kept wanting to throw it across the room. I also found the cast of thousands confusing and kept going back to see who so and so was, which camp they were in and why I should care. And instead of glorious, I found the excess shallow and tragic, particularly once the AIDS epidemic began to impact the story. There are sublime moments here -- Dovima and the elephan ...more
Leah Veritay
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who 'would love' a career in fashion
Shelves: debuts
Personally, I'm not that interested in haute couture. But who doesn't love a good story about the beginnings of the most famous rivalry in fashion history. The inspiration for reading this book came from Jalil Lespert's 2014 film 'Yves Saint Laurent'. But to have the added history of Karl Lagerfeld made this book so much more interesting than the film, even though it was brilliantly produced. The book was more in depth of the background noise for both YSL and Karl. Not just the fashion but also ...more
Victoria Moore
As I get older, and learn more about life, I find myself searching for inspiration that goes beyond instant gratification. Alicia Drake's book "The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris" fit that requirement beautifully. Extensive, to the point of oversharing in spots, after finishing it I discovered a new appreciation for how creative the 1970's were and how important it is to maintain an iconic style, which both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld did, ...more
Laurence Anne Wynants
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
En 1954, le concours du Secrétariat international de la laine couronne deux jeunes inconnus : Yves Saint Laurent, dix-huit ans, et Karl Lagerfeld, vingt et un ans. Tous deux, dotés d'un talent hors du commun, vont bouleverser l'univers compassé de la mode. Ils ont été amis, ils ne le seront plus. Saint Laurent et Lagerfeld ont sculpté les années 70 et 80. Bals costumés, nightclubbing délirant, créativité explosive marqueront à jamais ces décennies prodigieuses. Plus belle sera la chute... Bientô ...more
Randy Mcdonald
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I might not be familiar at all with the materials of the fashion industry that Paris-based journalist Alicia Drake uses in her 2005 The Beautiful Fall, but The Beautiful Fall tells the sort of well-crafted traditional moralist's tale that I could easily recognize.

It begins with a gang of awkward but talented outsiders, led by the intensely anxious pied noir Yves Saint-Laurent and the insecure north German social climber Karl Lagerfeld, has them take over the field of fashion and Paris high socie
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Drake's biography looks at the world of French fashion in the 1960s and 190s through the lens of Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld. She introduces all the characters crafting a beautiful story of rivalries and loves and how these two designers carved up and made the world of fashion. Enjoyable reading for anyone interested the world of fashion, style, design or cafe culture in this heady period. The only caveat is that the book lacks photos of the subjects discussed which is a loss in a book about the ...more
Mar 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended The Beautiful Fall by a couple who both had been completely smitten by it. The man, and a French man he is, said it was better than Proust. Could a book about Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld be better than Remembrance of Things Past? I guess I wouldn't know since I have had Swann's Way on my "Currently Reading" shelf for six months now. I don't need this to be an epic like Proust's just something on fashion that is more interesting and substantial than Judith Thurman's bo ...more
Jun 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
In order to truly enjoy this book from the first page, it's necessary to believe, as the author apparently does, that the excesses of the 70's and 80's fashion scene in Paris were indeed "glorious". I don't really think that, and so I cringed my way through many parts of this book. The accounts of friendships abused and obliterated, the intense rivalry between YSL and Karl Lagerfeld, the major drug abuse and the many lost to the AIDS virus are all topics covered in this book and can be
Aug 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, art, 1960-s, fashion
A modern tragedy full of sound and fury signifying 'little' or nothing(sorry, could not resist the allusion).

A great story about an important transition in business from a customized world of illusion to the modern garment and clothing industry.

The cultural figures mentioned in this book are all fascinating (or at least they think are/were) and Alicia Drake handles them adequately. It is a shame that a book of this detail was not able to draw directly upon interviews with the two main character
Aug 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Actually, The Beautiful Fall is quite beautifully written and engaging, with scads of behind-the-scenes details of the personalities who controlled Euro-fashion in the 1970s. Drake's writing especially shines when she's describing clothing (as you might expect from a seasoned fashion writer), and my three star rating is only so low because of the frivolousness of the world being documented. Drake never gives us the idea that the people involved in making fashion have anything beyond themselves a ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Four stars for the dishy first half, three stars for the tepid second half. After seeing photos of the 1972 Rothschild surrealist dinner party, I wanted to know more about the tastemakers of 1970s Paris, and this book did not disappoint. But more than the glitz and glamour (and the theme parties!) is the sense that the 1970s were a pivotal time in French fashion & society - one last hurrah of l'ancien regime with Yves Saint Laurent, and the brash birth of a new type of culture with the rise ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Exhaustively researched, incredibly insightful & fascinating biography tracing the careers of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld through the prism of Paris in the 1970s--that last decade of unfettered excess and decadence before AIDS and hard drugs crashed the party and changed everything. Drake is incredibly astute in her analysis of Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld's careers and personalities, and the amount of research she did is staggering. This book is so rich in information I feel like I ...more
Aug 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Chapter One (1954-58)

Standing on stage were the three winners of the International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition of 1954. Two of them were young men dressed almost identically: dark suits, dark ties, white shirts, the very image of apprenticeship propriety. Yves Matthieu-Saint-Laurent, as he was called then, was aged eighteen, recently arrived from Oran, Algeria and winner of the first and third prizes in the dress category. He stepped forward to accept his prizes with all the padd
Jennifer Kay
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Seeing the film "Yves Saint Laurent" solidified my feeling that "The Beautiful Fall" is an excellent study of two creative processes: the tortured artist filled with angst and the artist who works his perspective into outside assignments. YSL was the former, and while I agree that his work and vision were brilliant, I thought the film could have used more Karl Lagerfeld. I would have been far more interested in a film exploring the tension between YSL and Lagerfeld, who was the latter sort of ar ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
i marveled at the book's exhaustive and painstaking research, worthy of a phd! at the same time, certain passages are filled w emotion and very beautifully written; like the description of the emotional pull of some ysl collections or the service for jdb. but overlong in the description of the corey tippin et al clique and here and there repetitive superlatives about ysl and kl, but otherwise microscopic and macro view of the topic. bravo, could not put it down. you end up disliking most of the ...more
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Anyone else reading this one? 2 18 Oct 28, 2008 11:05AM  
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“Corey was hanging out down by the port one afternoon with Karl and Jacques when a bus-load of american tourists drove by, and in a moment of clarity Corey suddenly perceived Karl in the light of reality rather than through the kaleidoscope of fashion: the tourists were staring open-mouthed through the bus windows, ice creams held in mid-air, gawping at the apparition that was Karl. Jacques was driving the mobylette and Karl sat behind riding side-saddle dressed in hot pants, long strands of pearls and dark glasses; he was wielding a raw frankfurter straight from the packet in one hand and a bottle of coca-cola in the other. I remember thinking "I am with this total freak," says Corey.” 2 likes
“And opposite Jacques sat Karl Lagerfeld, German ready-to-wear designer, lavish in wing collar and monocle, a fashion force in the making.” 0 likes
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