Nobody knew much about the new girl. She was from Russia and had gorgeous green eyes, full sensual lips, dark blond hair and beautiful figure. Kristina Semenovskaya was discovered in Moscow and signed up by Karin Models Paris as soon as they saw one of her photos.
The agency quickly realised that they found a very special girl. The newly discovered 14-year old gem was invited to Paris where she could finish her education and learn the language at one of the international school.
As soon as Kristina celebrated her 16th birthday the agency introduced her to the fashion industry and the young model soon signed her first contract, this time with Levis. In 1995 she featured in the company’s Spaceman advert for 501 jeans.
Within a year Kristina Semenovskaya moved into a new universe. She became a face of Classique, a new perfume by Jean Paul Gaultier, appeared on a cover of French Elle, was photographed for Pirelli calendar in 1997 and signed a contract with Christian Dior.
Her first Dior campaign was for “Dune”, the fourteenth Dior fragrance introduced in 1991. Created by Jean-Louis Sieuzac, a nose behind “Farenheit” and “Opium” the new perfume became a new must-have fragrance for many and received a Perfume of the Year award.
Angelica Wallgren was the original face of the fragrance, but her look didn’t suit the idea of the campaign and Kristina was chosen to replace her in 1996.
The beautiful model looked innocent, fresh and radiant on her photos taken by Nick Knight and became most associated with the perfume and adored by men and women around the world. The campaign was such a success that Kristina received an offer to become a face of all Dior cosmetics. She signed the contract in 1997, same year when Galliano became the new Dior designer.
Kristina had the most amazing look: both classic and modern, the image was beyond any fashion rules, it was timeless.
By the end of 1990s Kristina Semenovskaya was working with Guerlain, L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton, Benneton, Stefanel, Mango, Morgan and Naf-Naf and appeared in many fashion shows including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Lanvin, Christian Dior, Kenzo, Nina Ricci, John Galliano, Herve Leger and Christian Lacroix.
She stopped modelling in 2004 after appearing in Madame Figaro for the last time. The world was changing and so were the demands and tastes of the fashion industry.
Photo sources: Kristina Semenovskaya Vogue Paris September 1996, Kristina Semenovskaya on a cover of Elle Russia November 1998, Kristina Semenovskaya photographed by Nick Knight for Christian Dior Dune 1996 campaign, Kristina Semenovskaya in Christian Dior Beauty campaign, Kristina Semenovskaya in 1998
I’ve found this piece of advice in the January issue of Vogue 1973! Yes, I know, it’s been a looooooooooooooong time since that article was published, but this simple tip for achieving beautiful glossy polished hair without using any chemical solutions or heated appliances is so brilliant it must not be forgotten. Perfect for girls with a bob hair-cut or those with long straight hair.
Use a small silk scarf, rub the hair from roots to ends briskly, but gently. The silk will absorb any surface oil or dust, keep stray hairs in place, but won’t disturb the perfect line…
I just love it.
Photo source: Ruslana Korshunova in W November 2004 (photography: Mario Sorrenti)
I thought it would be a good idea to publish this editorial before we all get into sparkly full-on Christmas spirit and our excited minds would probably crave something easy-breezy-beautiful (sorry, borrowed the easy-breezy from Covergirl, hense feel like I must mention Covergirl brand. Twice.)
This story is one of my favourite Natalia’s editorials. I think she looks like a frightened innocent princess who, however, never loses her ability to flirt whenever she senses the camera lens capturing precious moments of her life. So very captivating, if slightly haunting, and special.
Photo source: Natalia Vodianova in The girl of singular beauty | Vogue Italia September 2004 (photography: Paolo Roversi)
A very precious documentary from 1992 that tells a story of Yves Saint Laurent and gives a wonderful and intimate insight into the life of the designer and one of the most magnificent fashion houses in the world. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I would also like to mention a couple of books that you may find interesting. The first one, Yves Saint Laurent: a biography, is one of the most informative and fascinating tomes about Yves Saint Laurent and the world of fashion. The second one, Yves Saint Laurent, is one of the recent additions in my library. Although it contains stories and interviews, it is the photographs that are particularly special.
“Why Yves Saint Laurent? Because he is a genius, because he knows everything about women.”
In summer 1977 the novelist Anthony Burgess made a special trip to Paris from his Monte Carlo home to interview Yves Saint Laurent for the New York Times magazine. Once the interview was over, Burgess, who was fascinated by palmistry, asked Saint Laurent to show him his hands. Most people’s left and right palms have a different pattern, but this time Burgess saw something truly unique – Yves’s palms were virtually identical. “His career had been worked out in the stars,” Burgess wrote later.
Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was born on 1 August 1935 at the Jarsaillon Clinic in Oran, the second largest city of Algeria. From the very first day, Yves became the darling of the family, especially his mother whose love for her son “has always been something very strong and very special”. His childhood was divided into two world: the blissful and secure one at home where he would spend hours sketching, writing and staging performances in his toy theatre and the world of abuse and bulling that existed at school. No matter how bad things were for him, the boy chose not to tell his parents about the horrors of school. Instead he’d rush home to yet again be absorbed in his art and imaginary world of beauty, theatre and fashion that came alive from the pages of Vogue and his own drawings.
When he was 17, Yves saw a competition for young fashion designers in Paris-Match organised by the Wool Secretariat and decided to take part. The winner would get a chance to work for one of the competition judges including Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. A letter the came a few weeks later brought the most wonderful news: Yves’s sketches of a coat, a dress and a suit won the 3rd prize and he was invited to Paris for an award ceremony. Although Paris saw Saint Laurent as an outsider, he was incredibly happy to be there and discover the city of lights. Before leaving for Oran, Yves was introduced to Michel de Brunhoff, editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue who saw great potential and suggested that Yves finished school and then came to Paris for one of the fashion courses.
Saint Laurent followed his advice and enrolled in the Chambre Syndicate course in September 1954. That autumn he also re-entered the International Wool Secretarial competition, won the first place and three out of seven prizes. A few months later he contacted de Brunhoff again and the two met again. As soon as Saint Laurent left, de Brunhoff picked up the phone and called Christian Dior asking him to see the young boy as soon as possible. Yves didn’t know it yet, but the sketches he showed to the editor-in-chief didn’t just make an impact on Bruhnoff, he found them astonishing. Yves’s designs looked exactly like the new “A Line” collection that Dior had prepared for his spring 1955 haute couture collection and privately showed to de Brunhoff that very morning.
Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was offered a job on the spot. He was 19 years old. The job offer came from Christian Dior himself.
The world of Dior was Yves’s element. It was elegant, inviting and reminded him of the wonderful and happy times spent at home with his family. His first task was to decorate the shop, but he was quickly moved to designing accessories and then submitting sketches for the couture collection and although Dior was distant with his young employee, he recognised and respected his talent and decided to include one of Yves’s designs in his new collection. A dress was then chosen by Harper’s Bazaar and featured in “Dovima with Elephans” editorial photographed by Richard Avedon.
In 1957 Dior chose not just a few, but thirty-five of Saint Laurent’s designs. “Yves is the one who will succeed me” the designer said to his mother a few weeks before he left for Italy where he had a heart attack.
10 days after his furneral Yves Saint Laurent was made responsible for designing a new haute couture collection for the house of Dior. The collection was a triumph.
Then came September 1960. Yves Saint Laurent had to join the army for two years. The situation was so wrong in so many ways that Yves only lasted for 19 days before he was admitted to a military hospital with a nervous depression and then sent off to Val-de-Grâce, a mental hospital in southern Paris. The days at the hospital were a blur. Overdosed with tranquilisers, treated with electric shock, surrounded by manic and violent patients and isolated from his family and friend, Yves was frightened and alone. The only thought that kept him alive was his dream of getting back to Dior quarters, but Saint Laurent’s illness was too much for Dior and Yves was quickly replaced with a thirty-four-year-old Marc Bohan who didn’t possess the magic of Yves Saint Laurent, but was able to produce solid collections close to Dior’s traditions.
Eventually everyone gave up on Yves. Everyone but Piere Berge who continued fighting for Saint Laurent until one day he had him released from the hospital. After a long and much needed recovery process, the two decided to launch Yves Saint Laurent couture house.
The timing was perfect. The world was hungry for something new, young and fresh, a new designer who would become a star. Yves Saint Laurent and his perfect, exciting and impeccably made clothes were the ideal choice.
From the incredibly beautiful couture collections to ready-to-wear Rive Gauche, Yves Saint Laurent made women fall in love with his clothes over and over again.
The smoking, the blouse, the trench and the pea jacket, it was all Yves Saint Laurent. The Mondrian dresses made of pieces of fabric stitched together by hand a night before the show, the Ballets Russes inspired by Bakst costumes, the Van Gogh Iris and Sunflower beaded jackets and dresses decorated with the Picasso-inspired silhouettes are unique pieces of art nobody else thought of creating before.
What truly made him different from other fashion designers was his versatility and ability to be ahead of his time and yet designing clothes that were timeless.
Fashion was his dream world, but it was also the place full of demons. The most famous designer in the world was suffering from depression and had to combat addictions.
One day he grew tired of everything. In 2002 he left the world of fashion.
On 1 June 2008 Yves Saint Laurent fell asleep forever. His ashes were scattered in Majorelle Garden in Morocco, a place where he could always find peace and inspiration.
“Yves Saint Laurent invented everything, revisited everything, transformed everything to the service of a passion, to let woman shine and to free her beauty and mystery”
Photo sources: Yves Saint Laurent at his apartment on the rue Babylon photographed by Duane Michel, Yves Saint Laurent holding a sketch on 11 December 1954, Yves Saint Laurent at Christian Dior 1957, Dovima et les elephants - evening dress by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955, photographed by Richard Avedon, Yves Saint Laurent and the "Trapeze" collection at Maison Christian Dior 30 December 1958 photographed by Sabine Weiss, Yves Saint Laurent at the Christian Dior studio photographed by Mark Shaw and with his mother Lucienne Mathieu-Saint Laurent in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge photographed by Pierre Boulat in 1961, Yves Saint Laurent at his first own couture show in 1962 photographed by Pierre Boulat, Yves Saint Laurent with Victoire Doutreleau in 1962 photographed by Pierre Boulat, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge at the rue Jean-Goujon in 1961 finalising the "YSL" photographed by Pierre Boulat, Yves Saint Laurent with Carla Bruni in 1988 photographed by Jean-Marie Perier, Yves Saint Laurent at his studio, Yves Saint Laurent cork board in the studio at 5 avenue Marceau photographed by Alexandra Boulat in 2002, Yves Saint Laurent memorial atJardin Majorelle, unless noted all photos are from Yves St Laurent and Yves Saint Laurent
Although Opium was a perfect accompaniment to the most beautiful Saint Laurent’s The Ballets Russes couture collection that defined him as an artist, it was Saint Laurent’s love for Asian love, his memories of Japan and his vision of the 18th century China that inspired the actual fragrance.
The perfume was also available to those who couldn’t afford haute couture or Rive Gauche clothes, but still wanted something classy, elegant and magical. The $80 bottle of perfume was an opportunity to belong to the world of Yves Saint Laurent without spending a fortune. For the company every sale meant a profitable affair: a 14ml bottle would only cost $4 to make, $6 to package and $8 – to advertise.
In the mid 1970s French perfumes, particularly Chanel No. 5 and Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, were the most popular in the world because they were associated with the centuries of expertise of the Grasse “noses”.
Traditionally, a new perfume would start with a formula, the “juice”. If it felt special enough, a name and suitable advertising campaign would be designed to match the fragrance.
Opium was the first French perfume that followed an American model: its creation began with a name and an image for the fragrance and only then the formula was created to match the idea. The “juice” was also constructed in a way perfumes were made in the States where proportions of one part oil to four parts liquid helped to achieve a stronger scent.
It turned out that the name “Opium” was already registered by two elderly perfumiers years before Yves Saint Laurent, but they happily sold the rights to the company for $200.
The formula was created by Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac of Roure. It was based on a deep warm mixture of woody tones made of sandalwood, cedar, myrrh, patchouli, musk, vetiver and amber mixed with fruit and spices including mandarin orange, pepper, plum, clove, bay leaf and coriander followed by the middle notes of jasmine, rose and Lily of the Valley combined with carnation, cinnamon and peach.
The packaging was inspired by a replica of a Mandarin lacquered bottle encased in a brown box embossed with hold lettering and sprigs of Chinese flowers that was a part of Saint Laurent and Berger’s collection at rue de Babylone. The beautiful flacon holding a sensual mysterious fragrance was designed by Pierre Dinand who took inspiration from the Japanese inro and decided to avoid frilly crystal designs and let the perfume inside speak for itself.
What was toned down in packaging, was made up for in the advertising campaign featuring Jerry Hall lying on a lamè sofa beneath a Ming buddah in the Oriental room at rue de Babylone wearing a black and gold Mandarin jacket lined with red satin over a gold vest and purple satin harem trousers with a red braid belt, high-heeled strappy sandals and handfuls of jewellery. Saint Laurent not only designed the outfit, but also insisted that campaign shoot took place in his apartment. Before everything was photographed by Helmut Newton, every detail was adjusted by Yves himself – he even showed the model how to lie on the cushions and made sure that every piece of jewellery was placed perfectly.
The ad said: “Opium, pour celles qui s’adonnent à Yves Saint Laurent” / “Opium, for those who are addicted to Yves Saint Laurent.”
France loved the perfume and so did the Europe. In 1977 the sales of Opium in just one month generated more sales than Chanel No. 5 did in the entire year! When the perfume was launched in the States, Diana Vreeland who attended the Opium party held at the Peking was asked what she thought of the fragrance. “I like the smell of money,” she replied. She was right: no matter how much controversy it caused, very quickly Opium became one of the best selling perfumes.
Photo sources: Opium bottle 2011, Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps 1976 & Chanel No. 5 1975 vintage ad campaigns, Chinese dining room at rue Babylon via Mark d. Sikes, Jerry Hall photographed by Helmut Newton for Opium ad campaign 1977, Opium 1984 campaign. Linda Evangelista in Opium 1988 and 1997 campaigns, Nastasia Urbano in Opium 1992 campaign, Kate Moss in Opium 1993 campaign, Natalia Semanova in Opium 1999 campaign, Maria Carla Boscono in Opium 2006 campaign, Karen Elson in Opium 2010 campaign