Saint Laurent’s story “pure haute couture”

Ze Fashion Party before screening of the film Saint Laurent at the Palace Cinemas last night was a little light on fashion, (there was none) but made up for it with delightful pastries and chocolates – and plenty of French champagne and red and white wines.  There were also hair stylists and make-up artists to do “make-overs’ for anyone brave enough to site in front of the crowd.

And there, in a blast from the past (my days as celebrity columnist) was a familiar male face…. But firstly, as a lone woman, I teamed up with the delightful and beautiful Gabriele Kelly, the French teacher at Walford Girls School, who, after one or two champagnes,said she knew how to find out who the mystery man was. And, to my surprise, she waltzed up to the man in question and dropped the give-away line “Don’t I know you”.  To which, Mr older charm himself, announced himself as none other than the renowned Richard Zacharia.  “Well Hello beautiful. I’m Richard Zacharia.  but I don’t think I know you.”

When I introduced myself, I asked if he had flown into Adelaide for the night. “No, I live in Woodside now,” he said. “But we are selling up right now to move closer to the city.”

“Who was that man?” she asked.

“He was once married to Maggie Tabberer,” I said.  “When he left her, Maggie wrote a very revealing memoir and so he then followed with his version of things.” I explained. “It was very much dirty linen”.

Gabrielle did not know who Maggie was.

“She was a very beautiful photographic model for many years and was born in Adelaide.”

“I have never heard of her,” said Gabrielle. Such is the sad reality of the generation gap.

It was so exhilarating being in the company of such a sparkling personality because Gabrielle danced off with me into a photo booth where we had our photographs taken like giddy teenagers – and the feeling sliced all those years away.


Luckily for us, the viewers, the spectacular display of covetable garments designed by Saint Laurent in the film which followed, made up for the  no-show at Ze Fashion Show.

No-one in the Adelaide audience would have been  prepared for the explicit portrayal of promiscuous homosexuality on screen and there were rumblings of discontent from viewers behind me. However, I was riveted to the screen for two and a half hours as a stellar performance by the charismatic Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent at the zenith of his fame exposed his relationships, neuroses, alcoholism, drug addictions and vulnerabilities.

What made this film so poignant for me was that I was in Paris, outside the Yves Saint Laurent headquarters the day he died and the media scrum was on the pavement right where I sat in my car wondering who famous had died.  That night French television was consumed with stories of Saint Laurent and his impact on fashion.

Saint Laurent’s folly was his misplaced love for the vacuous preening male model  performed by Louis Garrel, which contrasted  with the steady, solid-as-a-rock love of Pierre Berge played to perfection by Jeremie Renier.   What was so refreshing was that the women in his life -his mother, his muse Lou Lou, his favourite model – and the head of the fashion workshop – all had strong life-long relationships with him.  Louise “LouLou” Le Bailly de la Falaise acted as Yves Saint Laurent’s creative partner, confidante and sentinal for three decades from 1972 until 2002.

All the ugliness of his life – his disastrous fall from grace, his hospitalisation – contrasts with his spectacular redemption.  Most striking though, were the contrasts in his own personality – his flambuoyant fashion genius and his fragile vulnerability.

Also confronting were the scenes of Saint Laurent as a damaged old man, surrounded by luxury, but alone.

The Bertrand Bonello’s version of Yves’ tortured life was the French entry for Best Foreign Film in the Academy Awards 2015, following its official selection in the Cannes Internaitonal Film Festival 2014. No wonder. It was a true work of art – like Saint Laurent’s Haute Couture.