Today I'm taking a look back at Yves Saint Laurent's Fauve palette from the fall 2005 collection. It's a square compact filled with a shimmery leopard-print powder.
Fauve translates to "large feline" or "predator" in French so it's a fitting name, but I was curious as to why the company named it that instead of going with plain old leopard. So I asked City Girl, Brooklyn-based author of a very informative blog on city lifestyle (and whose first language is French!) if she could shed some light on this. According to her, the French have several words for this kind of creature: guepard, panthere and léopard. She hypothesized that since léopard is not usually used in the fashion sense, and Cartier has a "panthere" collection, and "fauve" is more encompassing than guepard, it made the most sense for YSL to name the palette fauve. Interesting, no?
Now let's look into why YSL chose a leopard print. The copy for the palette said that the palette was "inspired by one of the most distinctive fashion features of the legendary design house." While I don't think the use of leopard print is the number-one icon of YSL, the company does utilize it frequently (and wisely, I would say) on accessories:
(photos from ysl.com/us)
Although sometimes the brand ventures out and uses it on clothing:
(photo from style.com)
(photos from bergdorfgoodman.com - note that you can't actually click to zoom...these are screenshots and I didn't want to cut off the model's feet so I didn't crop out that part.)
Judging from these, I'd say it's appropriate for YSL to use the leopard print on a compact - it definitely goes with the fashion the company produces (even though Yves stepped down in 2002). Plus, in my opinion even in compact form there's something about leopard print that makes the wearer feel powerful, a bit dangerous and definitely wild. Call it the Fauve effect.
Speaking of which, now it's time for a little art lesson! The palette's name brings to mind one my favorite (though short-lived) art movements: fauvism. Starting around 1905 and led by Henri Matisse, fauvism was characterized by an unfettered use of intense colors, strong brushwork, and a flat, almost 2-d approach to the picture plane. Fauvism got its name from an art critic who, upon seeing the colorful work of this group mixed in with a conventional, Renaissance-type sculpture, exclaimed, "Donatello au milieu des fauves!"1
Andre Derain's Charing Cross Bridge, London (1906)
(photo from National Gallery of Art)
Maurice de Vlaminck's The River Seine at Chatou (1906)
(photo from Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904-1905) by Matisse - the title is taken from an 1857 poem by Baudelaire.1
(photo from wikipedia)
So what can we conclude from all this? Perhaps it's that in makeup as in art, the wild beast within us sometimes cannot be tamed. ;)
1 Arnason, H.H. and Marla F. Prather. History of Modern Art, 4th edition. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998) p. 132. For more comments on the title, see this essay.
2 Arnason, p. 131. For further reading: Whitfield, Sarah. Fauvism. (Thames and Hudson, 1996.) You can also check out this online exhibit of Fauvism at the National Gallery.