LE SMOKING: BLACK-TIE MENSWEAR REINTERPRETED
Yves Saint Laurent first showed his now-infamous tuxedo as part of his Autumn/Winter ‘Pop Art’ collection in 1966. Le Smoking would not only mark a shift in fashion, but in power. In the words of Pierre Bergé, “It is a well-known fact that Chanel gave women their freedom; years later Saint Laurent brought them power.”
Yves Saint Laurent first showed the new tuxedo as part of his autumn/winter “Pop Art” collection in 1966, and yet, it was photographer Helmut Newton who elevated Le Smoking to an iconic status with his shot for French Vogue in 1975, taken in a dusky Parisian alleyway–Rue Aubriot–in pure elegant simplicity that remains the epitome of chic to this day.
Taking a step back from the chic obscurity of the little black dress, Le Smoking was a controversial statement of femininity – a sexuality that was not accentuated by ruffles or bare skin, but instead leaves suspicions beneath the sharp contours of a perfectly cut jacket and trouser. Of course, it was a sensation. Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minelli, LouLou de la Falaise, Lauren Bacall and Bianca Jagger: the most important style icons from the sixties onwards, all wore Le Smoking.
Yet, for all the celebrity acclaim, it was indubitably photographer Helmut Newton who made Le Smoking iconic; his extraordinary capacity to instil his subjects with powerful sexuality, has reached new heights when married to the shady YSL tuxedo. Shot for French Vogue in 1975, the story featured an androgynous woman standing in a dimly lit Parisian alleyway, with hair slicked back, crisp white cravat, cigarette, entwined with a model wearing only black stilettos. With pure monochrome simplicity, Newton created a piece of imagery that to this day has never gone out of fashion.
“For a woman,
Le Smoking is an indispensable garment
she finds herself
continually in fashion, because it is about style,
Fashions come and go,
style is forever.”
–Yves Saint Laurent
This image is one of over 200 photographs that range from Polaroids to vast canvases that are currently showing at Paris’ Grande Palais. Newton’s first retrospective in France since his death in 2004, it is curated by his widow June, who has also made a film about her husband to accompany the show.
Helmut Newton is currently showing at the South East Gallery of the Grand Palais until June 17.
Source: Another Magazine
Photo: Vibeke Knudsen, Rue Aubriot, French Vogue Paris September 1975, White Women series, © Helmut Newton Estate