May 14th- Gettin’ High

I didn’t mean to sleep as much as I did today, but there’s no changing that now. Our day, although it started late, felt like it lasted a long time. It was actually really great. The hotel is super unpleasant in some aspects; there are cockroaches in some rooms, moldy ceilings in others, leaky showers and close quarters. On the plus side, the beds seem clean and are comfortable and easy to sleep in especially after we finish our busy days. Despite the guests yelling in a variety of languages throughout the halls, we’ve slept easy. It’s really great finally having a consistent place to sleep and not having to check out every morning for these next few days is a big relief, since we’ve struggled more than a little bit getting in and out of hotels.
We visited Yves Saint Laurent Foundation today, which was pretty interesting. I really enjoyed learning about Yves himself… Not really so much about the fashion. I think I’ll probably rent the movies about him once I get home. He’s a really important figure in France outside of his work; for example, the YSL foundation paid for the restoration of the obelisk in the big square in Paris by that one building and that bridge built from the prison walls. I know that wasn’t very specific but I can’t remember the name of it. Yves was very successful, despite discrimination he definitely faced during his lifetime.
Yves started young– he was an assistant to Christian Dior at 17, headed Dior at 20, and released his first collection at 23. I’m extremely impressed by how young he was and had already achieved so much. It’s very inspiring… Apparently it was Yves who made a bunch of things that are still super popular, fashionable. Trousers, for example, and retro. I was taking a few notes during the presentation and just wrote down “pants” so in glad I remembered that. Bringing back 40’s fashion during the 70’s with his “Scandal” collection (which we got to see aspects of, including some of the finished pieces, designs and some promotional videos)… the collection was not immediately popular, and actually caused some outcry because aspects of it evoked WWII. Although it faced a lot of criticism at the time, Yves still paved the way for retro styles to become fashionable. Our guide said that Yves said something like “fashion is always changing and dying, but style is eternal.” That definitely wasn’t the exact quote but I am struggling to remember exactly what she said. I really like that quote though, just because there are certain things that never go out of style- maybe a little black dress, a touch of red lipstick, black ties, tailored suits… Things like that maybe.  Visiting his old workshop was pretty incredible, because it’s frozen in time. It’s as if he could walk in at any moment and start designing again.

and… action!

It was really different than our visit to Emeric François’ workshop. He was more casual, more free flowing (in my opinion) and ready to go where anything might take him… but not interested in haute coutoure. Since we didn’t personally meet Yves (impossible, but I heard someone earlier wondering if they would get to meet him… I guess she didn’t know he’s no longer with us), I can’t say he wasn’t the same… but the atmosphere of his workshop and his absolutely lavish fitting rooms screamed haute couture. I learned the differences between haute couture, couture and ready to wear from the tour guide. Couture is (or was for Yves) two collections a year (apparently) typically with prototypes on the runway that are remade for a few specific customers who put in orders. This is very different from Emeric François because he only made a piece once for one specific customer, and his workshop and fitting rooms were absolutely relaxed and comfortable. Haute couture is typically one of a kind pieces made for really rich or famous customers. Also, there’s a kind of a high fashion council that decides if a designer or fashion house or brand can really be considered haute couture. Ready to wear fashion is basically just what I’m used to. Predetermined sizes, mass production (not necessarily that much, but on a much larger scale than 1-4 pieces) and mass sale. I didn’t know before this visit that YSL no longer makes couture, and only makes ready to wear, ever since Yves stopped designing in 2002. Overall, a really fascinating visit, even though I’m not a huge fan of the designs we saw. Oh well!
Today was also Ascension Day, a national holiday for France, similar to our Memorial Day. There were lots of people out and about in Paris, especially at the big landmarks. We got to visit the Arc de Triomphe, and it was ENORMOUS! It’s a really beautiful monument built by a really big megalomaniac as a tribute to himself… but it was interesting all the same. I was nervous that we wouldn’t see it on this trip just because we’ve had less time in Paris due to our stay in Reykjavik… but we did!

A new friend wanted to be in a picture with me

On this mostly rainy Ascension Day, we ascended the Eiffel Tower. What an incredible afternoon. The views from the top were absolutely breathtaking. I was freezing, and it was raining… But I could have stayed up there for hours. I’ll have to come back some day, I really will.
There’s not much more I can say about it… I’ll just need to let the pictures speak for themselves today.
Oh, and we saw an ostrich this morning.

Can you hear me? I’m talking to you



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