Uploaded by Hanna Matkovska

Yves Saint Laurent Folk Tale

Yves Saint Laurent Folk Tale
Yves Saint Laurent was passionate about working with models and muses
who defied the white, “all-American” runway ideal of the 1980s. Writer
Carmen Maria Machado takes inspiration from the real lives of four of Saint
Laurent’s favorite models—Khadija Adams, Mounia Orosemane, Kirat
Bhinder, and Daniela Ghione—and from a look book of the designer’s
spring/summer 1985 couture collection, which resides at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Library, to reimagine the golden era of
go-go ’80s style, when high fashion was a private and cosseted world, and
modeling was often a springboard for a larger and more powerful life.
Khadija: It is too cold to snow, too cold to think. Khadija has the distinct
impression that she is freezing from the inside out, that the cold has crept into
her and is turning her organs to stone. It’s not that she doesn’t understand
needing to show off spring and summer lines in the worst month in Paris—but
there is something almost funny about it. All of those journalists, all of those
industry professionals, watching her, admiring the way she carries herself
through space, the effortless, effervescent radiance of her, and she is freezing.
She can’t shake the winter out of her, but no one can tell. Again, almost funny.
Yves is at the end of the catwalk, smiling at her. She loves Yves, she loves the
way her body makes his outfits sing. Like a queen’s body would. When she was
crowned Miss Africa, she remembered thinking, The queen of a whole
continent. And isn’t that what she was? (The judges told her she was too radical,
which is why she didn’t get to be Queen of the World.)
One day, she’ll go home. She’ll start a company near the River Tana and mine
gypsum from the depths. She loves gypsum because it is beautiful and practical
both: the source of concrete, of plaster of Paris, of alabaster. The industry’s men
will laugh at her boldness, get angry, and eventually give in to her drive and
impeccable business sense. After that, they will call her “The Gypsum Queen of
the Desert.” Many years later, her scientists will discover gypsum on Mars;
then, she’ll be queen of that, too.
Mounia: The chandelier is too low. It is bothering Mounia; it has been bothering
her for the past two hours. She tells her makeup artist, but the makeup artist tells
her to stop talking because she is going to wreck her face. Even as her hand
passes over Mounia’s eyes, lips, cheekbones, she is thinking about the
insufficiencies of the room outside. This has long been Mounia’s problem.
Things are always a little too close, a little too tall, a little too long. She calls it
her “tension” because she doesn’t know what else to call it; a sense that the
world around her is slightly off in ways she has difficulty explaining. Off, and
also boring. She is afraid to fix it herself—she has good reason—but Yves gets
her. He gives her color, verve, silk, scent, feathers. Things to play with and
shape to her will.
When she was a girl, everything she drew came to life. A mouse roughly
sketched with pencil in the back of her schoolbook: soon running around the
house, tormenting her mother. A boy with a sweet smile outlined in chalk on
her bedroom wall: he dropped a kiss to her forehead before walking off into the
night. She stopped drawing because she was afraid of her own power; she did
not think she wanted to be a god.
Every time she passes under the chandelier, she expects to hit it, though she
never does.
One day, she’ll become a painter. The minute she faces her first canvas she’ll
feel her whole body relax; like she’s found something she’s been searching for
her entire life. She has been on so many magazine covers, so many ramps, and
only here, in front of an empty space, does she feel this kind of control, this
kind of contentment. The truth of it fills her, like wine or rage or love: Muse or
artist, god or subject, she wants, always, to be both.
Kirat: Kirat loves shows, the way feminine energy washes over the dressing
rooms. It reminds her of boarding school at Welham; the elemental intimacy of
it, the soft burbling pond of laughter, sweat, powders.
On this night, she is slipping on her heels when she remembers, suddenly, her
friend Deepa, and the cool winter night they stole the groundskeeper’s car. They
drove to Guchhupani, Robber’s Cave, and stood in its narrow length under a full
and radiant moon. Kirat remembers the way the thin and radiant light slipped
and pooled, and she had a brief moment of panic that it would drown her. But
then Deepa took her hand (Deepa, kinder than her reputation) and said: “Let it
fill you, don’t be afraid.” And she did. After that, they drove to the Song River
and swam in its shallows. They got back to school by sunrise; no one was the
After that, Kirat was constantly finding light everywhere: sparks of it tangled in
her hairbrush, a glow smeared on the edge of her water glass, silver dust under
her nails. Even now, even tonight, as she stands and finds her balance in her
shoes, the light is pricking her from the inside.
One day, she will find love and lose it and find it again and then have it taken
from her and then find it once more. This is how her life has always been—
everything gained and lost and gained again, sometimes overlapping like waves.
And through it all, the light singing to her, high and solemn: Don’t be afraid.
Daniela: This is Daniela’s theory: She is immortal and has cycled through many
existences. She does not tell anyone, for fear that they will disbelieve her, test
her, or hang her for witchcraft. When she was a teenager, a palmist took up her
hand at a fair and after a moment of scrutinizing slapped it away as though it
was on fire. Daniela tried to get her to explain, but the woman refused, and after
that Daniela began to have dreams: She was the handmaid of a queen of an
ancient nation; she carried lilies for her mistress’ late husband after his heart
stopped in Bangkok; she modeled for a minor Flemish painter.
On this night, she has the realization that she has been here before. Not recently,
not in this lifetime, but somewhere in history she walked on a narrow length
before many eyes over French soil. Was she a cat? A bride? A servant? There is
no way of telling.
One day, she’ll find a stone on the sidewalk outside of her flat, and when she
turns it over, the answer—the answer to her immortality, to her many pasts and
many futures—will be etched there, simple as anything. And she will carry it to
the river and launch it over the water with an expression only her lovers would
recognize: hard, and laughing.