Today, friends of Yves St. Laurent will say a final goodbye to one of the great couturiers of the 20th century.
It’s hard to figure out what place fashion holds in a world that is changing so quickly. With oil prices soaring and a large part of the world just barely able to eke out an existence, perhaps the whole concept of fashion might seem trivial and superficial.
Yet, when one devotes an entire lifetime to creating wearable art – otherwise known as haute couture, it would be good to think that a lifetime hadn’t been spent on a frivolous past-time.
What is the point of fashion? Is it merely a bizarre human mating rite that drives women (and some men) to fret over which shoes will send the right message? Are we trying to send messages by what we wear?
Is it a way of creating castes in republics that no longer have castes?
Last week we drove up to St. Vaast la Hougue in Normandy to visit an elderly acquaintance who is quite ill. She is in her late eighties. She rested on the sofa while we sipped tea and I sat close to her so we could talk quietly and not have to raise our voices. Although she was quite ill, her eyes sparkled with incredible energy.
While we chatted, she kept looking at what I wore – a daffodil yellow tunic and billowing, floral skirt.
“That’s the prettiest outfit I’ve seen in ages!”
I was so surprised that anyone battling for life (because in your eighties, every day is a battle for life) would be at all interested in something so superficial as clothing.
Curiously, no words I could say would be much use to our friend. Yet I had brought her solace by simply wearing a bright cheerful color designed in such a way that brought her pleasure.
All I know is that seeing a friend smile, and knowing that such a simple gesture of choosing to wear something that could brighten her day has made sense out of fashion for me.
I don’t know whether Yves St. Laurent ever questioned the meaning of his work but, for me, the message of fashion is quite clear – make your friends lives a little bit brighter.