Boy Capel and Coco Chanel.
L’Amour l’amour! The temperament of artistic souls, poets, artists and the like, provide unrivaled fodder for epic romance. Fashion is no exception. If anything, the commercial pressures of the craft, the dizzying fashion calendar and unrelenting bottom line, pile on additional complexity to a romantic partnership – either an outlet for strain or a vehicle for devotion, and surely, in many cases, a bit of both. The management of a fashion label is particularly suited to a division of labor; an arrangement that necessitates a degree of trust that pushes partnerships to weather life’s incessant uncertainties. In honor of the month that celebrate love, we look back at fashion’s love affairs for the ages, from the ardent passion of a new flame to the tender consistency of a lifelong companion.
Paul and Denise Poiret
In September 1913, at the very height of his dominance as the self-proclaimed King of Fashion, Paul Poiret set sail for the United States. In anticipation of his arrival, the American press lauded the astonishing trousseau of his wife, a dazzling collection of 100 exquisite custom-made gowns. Denise Poiret was more than a pretty mannequin; her slender, boyish figure and dark exotic beauty anticipated the brazen charms of the following decade’s “la garçonne”. By the end of the month-long lecture tour, she was as big a hit as he, “a living example of his artistic experimenting. She wears amazing clothes that suit her style, devoid of ornament, but brilliant in color.” (NYT Sept 21 1913). Poiret would boast to Vogue, “My wife is the inspiration for all my creations, she is the expression of all my ideals.”
The nineteen-year-old daughter of a provincial textile retailer from Elbeuf married the flamboyant showman in 1905. Side-by-side, they grew a business, reared a family of five and cultivated an aesthetic that shook the basis of western dress by infusing it with orientalism and modernity. Surviving photos paint a life of stylish domesticity amongst silken threads, leafy wallpaper and misty gardens. After twenty years, they parted ways. But their synchronous bond lives on. To her he owes the bulk of his legacy, the meticulous trove of costumes, inventories, and photographs she safeguarded for posterity.
(L) Paul and Denise, 1911. (R) Paul and Denise, 1925.
The Poiret Family
(L) Paul and Denise, 1911. (R) In Costume.
Coco Chanel & Boy Capel
The details of Coco Chanel’s life are purposely hazy. As fiercely independent as she was successful, she relished any opportunity to rewrite her own story. She never married, choosing instead a revolving list of luxurious lovers to mine for patronage and inspiration. But if there was one who came close to fully capturing her heart, surely it was Boy Capel, the dashing and brilliant polo-playing bon vivant.
The two met as the young Chanel had taken up with Etienne Balsan. They fell quickly and deeply in love. Capel financed her first shop in Deauville and continued onto Paris. She quickly assumed his sporty style as her own, developing the Chanel look along the way. Moreover, he opened her eyes to the larger world, literature, the orient and the esoteric. They spent nine years together, and even after his marriage to Lady Diane Wyndham, remained devoted to each other. In December 1919, Capel died tragically in an automobile accident en route to a Christmas rendezvous with Chanel. She mourned his death soulfully, crying publically for the first and last time. Ever the fighter, the loss of her great love spurred her to greater heights. “Either I die as well, or I finish what we started together.”
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Boy Capel in front of Chanel’s Deauville Boutique.
(L) Gabrielle Coco Chanel & Arthur Edward Capel, 1913. (R) One of Chanel's many lovers Serge Lifar, 1937.
Pierre Cardin & Jeanne Moreau
Pierre Cardin has worked diligently over seven decades to singlehandedly amass one of France’s most vast fortunes. The candid provocateur has boasted proudly of his singular achievements and unfettered dedication to his career above all else. Except, perhaps, for one exception. In 1966, he offered to dress actress Jeanne Moreau of Jules et Jim fame. The spark was instant, and within months they were living together (as a result, her friendship with arch rival Coco Chanel came to an abrupt halt). As decreed by the laws of celebrity, the coupling of two stars equals a super nova of fame. For the next five years, the handsome pair was chased all over France by the paparazzi. And truly they posed a striking picture: fashion’s gallant enfant terrible with the blonde bombshell on his arm. She remained his muse after the split, dressed on his dime and to his taste for years. He was by her side in 2001, when she was the first woman inducted to France’s Academy of Fine Arts. (To the audience that night he shared, “In Venice, at the Hotel Danieli, in that large room where Musset and George Sands lived, we made love. Is there any more beautiful reason to exist?”). After a lifetime of radical innovation and daredevil promotion Cardin lives with only one regret, not having children with Jeanne Moreau.
Pierre and Jeanne, Photo by Douglas Kirkwood, 1965.
Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé
To witness the tenderness of a principled partnership, one need look no further than the life of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. To the good fortune of the world’s movie going audience, the essence of their storied love is captured with heartrending nuance in 2010’s L’Amour Fou. The film chronicles the historic sale of the extraordinary art the men amassed over a lifetime of collecting. Watching the habitually reticent Bergé through the process is a moving glimpse of the final stages of grief.
The two met on February 3, 1958 at a dinner organized by Marie-Louise Bousquet to celebrate the young designer’s first collection at Christian Dior. Within six months, they were living together. When YSL conscribed for mandatory military service, the job was given away. Upon his return, the two men struck out on their own. Saint Laurent was a sensitive soul, tending toward manic-depressive, and Bergé functioned as his benefactor in every sense of the word: economic, emotional, mental and physical. And he remains so even after the famed designer’s passing. The primary recipient of the sale’s funds was the foundation, aimed at preserving YSL’s legacy as one of the foremost designers of the 20th century. From Bergé’s eulogy, “I remember your first collection under your name and the tears at the end. Then the years passed. Oh, how they passed quickly. The divorce was inevitable, but the love never stopped.”
(L) Yves Saint Laurent and PIerre Bergé, Photo by PIerre Boulat, 1962. (R) Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, Photo by Derek Hudson, Paris, 1998.
Pierre Bergé & Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakesh, 1982.
(L) L'Amour Fou Movie Poster. (R) Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, Dar El-Hansh, The House of the Snake, Marrakesh.
Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren
In 1971, a young Vivienne Westwood was determined to leave her first husband, Derek Westwood. Her brother Gordon offered her his flat, a refuge that came with one condition, roommate Malcolm McLaren. Little did the wispy youths know that their fateful meeting would lead to the birth of the throbbing Punk subculture. McLaren would go on to manage the Sex Pistols, while Westwood would develop the signature subversive style of the rockers, all out of their 430 King’s Road boutique.
Their initial meeting was anticlimactic. McLaren paid little heed to the provocative Westwood, who would saunter around the place in little or no clothing to get a rise out him. Then one day he appeared ashen, complaining of stomach pains. She put him to bed, and, after a quick run to the pharmacy, slipped of her clothes and in beside him. The rest was music (and fashion) history.
Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller
Entertainment executive Barry Diller met Diane von Furstenburg when she was 28 to his 33, all cheekbones and fiery determination. The fledging designer had just separated from her first husband, and was taken aback by the intensity of the new affair. Five years later, the passion dissipated and the two agreed to go their separate ways. Except they never did. Despite numerous dalliances, each found a way back to the other’s loving arms. Twenty-six years later, they wed at an intimate ceremony at City Hall. Diller presented DVF with 26 bands for every year they were not married. Today, they travel the world by boat, as lovingly constant as they were once violently passionate.
(L) Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller at Studio 54, New York, 1977. (R)Von Furstenberg and Diller at Studio 54, 1970s.
(L) Von Furstenberg and Diller, March 1976. (R) Von Furstenberg and Diller's Wedding.
Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana
If any duo exemplifies the yin and yang of a fashion partnership, surely it is Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The men met in 1980 while working for the same fashion atelier in Milan. Two years later, they established a design-consulting firm together. By the early 90s, their sultry, Sicilian inspired designs won acclaim the world over. In 2005 the two ended their romantic entanglement and flirted with the idea of embarking solo professionally as well. Could Dolce exist without Gabbana? In the end, the idea was as preposterous to them as to the rest of the world. So closely have the two forged a career that even their names have become one. Void of any sexual imbroglios, they coexist with emotional acumen, “We are each other’s minds”.
Marpesso with Dolce & Gabbana.
Tom Ford and Richard Buckley
Twenty-five year Tom Ford had an exacting ten-year plan for his meteoric rise to fame. What he had not accounted for was the enthralling eyes of Richard Buckley. “They’re not blue, they’re not gray, they’re a color you’ve never seen before – they approach silver. They give away absolutely nothing, yet they are completely mesmerizing.” They spotted each other from across the room at a fashion show in New York in 1996. Ford shied away and Buckley was left wondering about the debonair stranger. Two days later, Ford was sent by then boss Cathy Hardwick to Women’s Wear Daily’s offices to pick up garments and ran into Buckley. They shared an elevator and were both instantly smitten. “It wasn’t a physical thing as much as a psychic wave.” Three years after they started dating, Buckley was diagnosed with cancer; the crisis brought forth a mutually scrupulous devotion. Together they have grown the Tom Ford Empire from his glory days at Gucci. This is one love story best told in each man’s own words. (Out Magazine)
All Credits Unknown.