The Londoner Travels North

I’d like to think that Yarm, a small Town in the North East of England is my northern home in the UK. Every Londoner needs a getaway location, away from the craziness of the city to escape to every now and then, to enjoy the peace, tranquility and the beauty of the British countryside with family and friends. A few weekends ago, I did just that. 
I took the train from London Kings Cross and wasted no time arriving in Darlington and went straight to Lotus Bar in Yarm for drinks. Over that weekend, the York races were taking place, therefore the bar and club across the street were filled with merry men in suits and women glammed up coming from a day at the races. We had a few drinks and left early enough as we were going to Manchester the next day.
Why Manchester? The restaurants… York was covered in rain downpours, thankfully we hadn’t chosen to go that Saturday! And ironically, in Manchester, known as the ‘rainy city’ to us Brits, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was sunny all day. And warm. Seriously, no one could believe it.

We had lunch at a San Carlo restaurant in Selfridges called Bottega.

We browsed the stores until we resigned for cocktails at The Alchemist Bar.
The cocktails are really special creations. The Passionfruit Meringue Martini is my favourite so far.
Natalie was recommended a restaurant to go to for dinner called Tattu. An Asian restaurant with an amazing interior, we arrived early for a cocktail and ordered a few dishes to try. The menu looked amazing, we tasted as much as our stomachs could handle and we were annoyed we didn’t have more time to spend there.
Manchester left a good impression with me. The sun, which surprised everyone and their taste in good food, were excellent factors. Would I return? Probably not. (Or maybe just to try more dishes from Tattu restaurant!)

We started our lazy Sunday with an ‘Arabic’ breakfast. My favourite part of this breakfast is having warm pita bread dipped in date syrup mixed with tahini, absolutely divine!

I had heard about a Yves Saint Laurent exhibition coming to the UK for the first time in Paris and was quite surprised that is wasn’t going to be held in London. Instead, it was exhibited in the Bowes Museum in Durham. The old house was beautiful and a perfect setting for the brilliantly curated exhibition.
The Bowes Museum: YSL Style is Eternal, explored five themes.
“Elegance is a way of life, a way of moving through the world. Isn’t elegance about completely forgetting what one is wearing?” Yves Saint Laurent 
Haute Couture
One of Yves Saint Laurent’s favourite designers was Elsa Schiaparelli. They shared an interest in Surrealist art. His ‘Broken Mirror’, 1978 is one of his surrealism-inspired designs shown here with an evening gown of 1932, attributed to Schiaparelli, with a surrealist design of twisted serpent-like tails.
Yves Saint Laurent’s first trouser suit from 1967 is placed alongside tailored skirt suit from the early 20th Century. Masculine tailored styles were first adopted for outdoor activities ad with increasing numbers of women going out to work the skirt suit became accepted. But it was Saint Laurent, who first gave women stylish trouser suits for day and evening wear.


Chantilly lace inspired the theme of transparency. Yves Saint Laurent’s daring design is shown with examples of French Chantily lace from the 1850s, including a bodice worn by the Empress Eugénie of France. In the 19th Century black lace was a luxurious addition to fashionable dress. Saint Laurent continues this tradition in a new and provocative way.


The theme of Art is introduced here with his ‘Homage to Picasso,’ a dress inspired by one of Picasso’s ‘Harlequin’ paintings. The recognizable lozenge pattern is placed with an 18th Century lozenge print dress and a 19th Century patchwork quilt. Saint Laurent was fond of using patchwork fabrics; in 1969 he designed a patchwork print blouse and evening skirt for the Duchess of Windsor. By having a woman embody a painting in the form of a garment, he democralised the high art usually found only in museums and contributed to giving it the more widespread appeal that was typical of 1960s pop culture.


The theme ‘Spectaculaire’ is represented by a flamboyant design, which Yves Saint Laurent called his homage to William Shakespeare. He complements the rich gold and silver embroidered and woven brocades of 17th and 18th Century on show. Through his vision and creative approach to colour, shapes and material, Yves Saint Laurent constantly renewed his artistic vision while respecting the principles of classic European elegance. Saint Laurent designed clothes that were themselves a spectacle, and each new collection presented the opportunity to bring his dreams to life.


Autumn-Winter 1978 Haute Couture collection

Diffusion of Style

The 1950s ultra-feminine silhouette with full skirts and nipped in waistlines heralded an age of optimism and consumption. This new style, available to all, paved the way for an explosion of youth culture. Teenage attitudes revolutionized fashion and the mini skirt became the trademark of the ‘Swinging Sixties.’

Simplicity of Design

The fluid simplicity of 1930s evening wear, achieved by bias cut fabrics which draped and clung to the body, contrasts with wartime padded shoulders and shorted skirts. The influence of Hollywood glamour was felt over both decades.


Spring-Summer 1967 Haute Couture collection

Simplicity of Design

By the early 20th Century, with increasing numbers of women going out to work, the tailored suit had become part of the fashionable wardrobe. Wider social horizons for women and economic dependence; together with the rise of ready-to-wear, meant that fashion was no longer only for the wealthy.


Autumn-Winter 1970 Haute Couture collection


Autumn-Winter 1979 Haute Couture collection


Autumn-Winter 1980 Haute Couture collection

Born in Algeria in 1936, Yves Saint Laurent moves to Paris in 1954 and enrolls in the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. His sketches impress Michel de Brunhoff who shows them to Christian Dior, of whom he becomes his studio assistant.

When Christian Dior died in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent succeeded him at the age of twenty-one, becoming the youngest couturier in the world.

He met Pierre Bergé in 1958 after revealing his ‘Trapeze’ collection and later opened his own house in 1961. Designing under his own name, he renewed the vocabulary of Haute Couture, abandoning all superfluous effects and ignoring the public’s expectations for a completely new silhouette each season.

In the 1970s, he began his Love series, which has become an annual tradition at the fashion house.

The following years, his work and company flourished establishing himself as a classic, household brand. It was only in 2002 that Yves Saint Laurent bid farewell to Haute Couture. He held a retrospective fashion show covering forty years of creation at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The Alchemy of Style

Each of Saint Laurent’s creations went through a complex process involving a genuine alchemy of style.

His detailed drawings specified fundamental characteristics and the ateliers translated these onto a white muslin toile, the working drawing of the design, which was then presented to the couturier on a live model. The placement of the embroidery and the choice of fabrics and adornments transformed the toiles into a design. Then the toile was flattened out to create a pattern which informed the cutting of the fabric.

It was the couturier’s special demand that the ‘heads’ of his ateliers had to excel in the techniques both of ‘dressmaking’ and of ‘tailoring.’ This dual skill marked his style, which comprised very constructed, but also supple, moving and comfortable forms. A show’s preparation would be finalized with the choice of accessories, hats, shoes and jewels, made at the suggestion of Loulou de la Falaise.

After the show, the designs were reproduced to the measurements of the clients. For this purpose, clients were invited to several fittings and have their exact figure recreated as a Stockman mannequin made of cloth and wood, which facilitated the work of the ateliers.

Here, the sketches, toiles, embroideries, buttons, hat blocks, patterns and clients’ mannequins, including one for Zizi Jeanmaire, all evoke the creative process.

Proust Questionnaire

What is your main character trail?


Your greatest drawback?


Your favourite quality in a man?


In a woman?

Same thing

Your favourite historical character?

Mademoiselle Chanel

Who is your favourite painter?


Favourite musician?

Bach. And nineteenth-century composers of opera

What writers, apart from Proust?

I love Proust so much that it’s hard for me to share him with other authors

Who would you like to have been?

A beatnik

Where would you like to live?

In sunny climes, by the sea

What is your ideal of earthly bliss?

Sleeping with the people I love

What is the height of misery?


What talent would you like to have?

Physical strength

What fault are you most tolerant of?


What is your favourite colour?

Black <something Yves and I have in common!

It is definitely worth the train ride to Country Durham to see this exhibition. The show highlights the defining elements of his vision, the significant influence it has had on fashion and the way we understand womenswear. The exhibition lasts until October, to get up there soon!

We ended the perfect weekend with a delicious meal at Natalie’s favourite restaurant, (soon to become my favourite restaurant up north,) The Bay Horse.

The Bay Horse looks and feels like a cosy cottage, welcoming with friendly staff, we felt like home. A prefect way to end the weekend in the country.

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