YSL in Film...

Fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent passed away on June 2, 2008. Yves may not be with us today, but his influence will continue to live on. Not just through his work for the masses but also in the people, music and movies that have been influenced by him.

Yves Saint Laurent, a shy introverted person, brought about an extroverted change in the very weave of the fabric and the cut of the costume. Yves believed that the actor was the soul of the character that he or she portrayed and the costume its vessel or body. It played as much a part in creating that sense of belief for the audience as the actor did. At the age thirteen he attended a performance of L'Ecole des femme staged by Louis Jouvet and with sets and costumes by Christian Berard, the young French designer’s fascination began. The door to his future had been opened.

Count Hubert de Givenchy had already treaded onto the silver screen earlier with the 1954 romantic comedy, Sabrina. Though Givenchy would establish Audrey Hepburn in the now classic film as a sort of unearthly and unattainable beauty, Yves Saint Laurent would bring that fleeting sense of beauty within the reach of every woman.

His tryst with the silver screen began in 1963 with Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther. Yves Saint Laurent was hired to create wardrobes for the beautiful Claudia Cardinale and Capucine, and his designs impressed critics and audiences. Though the general audience may have overlooked the designs and wardrobe, the fashion world stood up and took notice.

He was 17 when he started working for a fashion house and at 24, still at House Dior, he started designing costumes for movies. It was however with The Pink Panther that he truly branched out with his own name and flair. He would go on to design fabulous wardrobes for Leslie Caron in A Very Special Favor and Jean Seberg in Moment to Moment.

In 1966, Spanish director Luis Buñuel hired Yves Saint Laurent for his motion picture Belle de Jour. In it Yves found his muse in the form of actress Catherine Deneuve. The friendship they formed on the set of the film was to last a lifetime, Deneuve would go on to model for the designer and her physical demeanor became the base of all his designs. In turn, the actress insisted on wearing only Yves Saint Laurent dresses for her movies, she would don his creations in such films as La Chamade, Mississippi Mermaid, Liza, Un flic and The Hunger. Yves Saint Laurent’s distinct fashion sense and Deneuve’s sense of character complemented each other in a marriage of beauty and temperament.

However, it is not just the world of cinema, music and fashion that have felt his influence. His largest influence has brought women onto the same level of power as men. Women like Hillary Clinton, for example, exude a sense of confidence and power that is helping them to possibly become the single most powerful person on the planet. What has given her that sense of power and prestige? Her trademark business suit. In actuality, it wasn’t even Yves Saint Laurent that brought the suit to the women, it was Coco Chanel. Yves Saint Laurent made the suit an every woman’s suit.

So whether it’s the business woman walking down the street or the lavish design in a motion picture, the legacy of Yves Saint Laurent continues to live on.

The Fashionable Algerian: The Man Who Knew What Women Wanted.

Designs in fashion come and go. Like the passing of a season, when the colors of nature change, so do the colors of fashion in the changing of trends. The industry and the nature of fashion itself are so volatile that the change can be either a slight tremor which overwhelms the present or a violent tsunami that erodes the landscape of fashion.

Through it all, there are very few constants. Fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent is such a constant. No matter how far the industry expands, such is the scope of his work that it will never escape his shadow or legacy.

The son of an insurance company president, Yves Henri Donat Dave Mathieu-Saint-Laurent left home at the age of 17 and found his calling in the world of fashion. He arrived in Paris with a portfolio of design sketches which was quickly swept up by Vogue editor Michel de Brunoff. The editor published the sketches and recommended the young Algerian to Christian Dior who ultimately hired him as an assistant.

His tenure at Dior was to weave his future in fashion, almost immediately after the death of Dior in 1957; a young Yves was put in charge of the faltering fashion house. With his flair for the excess and bravado, Yves managed to please and outrage House Dior during his short tenure there. Ages before John Galliano and Alexander McQueen he was considered fashion’s enfant terrible and years before designers like Calvin Klein and Tom Ford pushed the envelope between fashion and obscenity, Yves was shaking the sensibilities of the fashion world.

In 1960, things took a drastic turn and Yves was drafted into the French Army. Though his time there was short, it was excruciating painful for the shy Algerian, and his comrades in the army looked for every excuse to torture and tease him.

Two months later, having suffered a mental break down, Yves returned to fashion and it would be this stretch between the 60s and the 70s that he would truly leave his mark. Fashion historian Valerie Steele commented, “Most people would be lucky enough to leave a single contribution.” Yves’ contributions would literally shape the history of modern fashion. He went on to popularize a sensibility that was bohemian-chic, ultimately giving way for the hippie aesthetic that would come later on.

He drew inspiration from cultures around the world, welcoming such vastly different influences such as the traditional prints of Africa to Russian folkloric costumes. It wasn’t just culture and influence that he welcomed, Yves broke boundaries in all aspects of fashion. The designer was the first to use colored models on his runway, not as a gimmick but symbolizing them as unattainable beauty, valid and as enticing as any other. This move was bold and audacious, considering the times.

Yves was part of a quartet of designers, along with Christian Dior, "Coco" Chanel and Paul Poiret, who revolutionized, revitalized and reshaped the word of fashion. Without Yves ready to wear would not be what it is today.

Perhaps the single most powerful expression as a result of that is the woman’s suit. Of course the most Iconic of these is the Le Smoking tuxedo suit. Created in 1966, the suit established a minimalist, almost androgynous, style for women which put them on the same level of power as men.

His epitaph will not be written in stone or in words. Though the tributes are pouring in from all walks of life, from politicians to fashion gurus and from the world of music and film, none of these will do his work any justice. Instead his epitaph will be the dresses that fill the closets around the world and the stride put into the step of every woman through his designs. Yves Saint Laurent’s fashion gave freedom to women and it was Yves Saint Laurent himself who gave them the power to express that freedom.

The designer retired from the industry in 2002 and expressed his alienation at the current trends and industry. At the same time he fought a personal battle with depression and prescription drugs, which he came out of stating, "I've known fear and terrible solitude. Tranquilisers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I've emerged from all this, dazzled but sober.''

Yves Saint Laurent, one the top designers of the 20th century, died on June 2, 2008 in Paris.

(This Obit was originally published in the June 8th, 2008 edition of DAWN, Images.)

Woe to the Gmail.

Google's free email service, Gmail, revolutionised web-based email services trouncing both Hotmail and Yahoo! from their respective thrones when it was launched on April 1, 2004. It offered a mammoth one gigabyte of free space, with both POP3 and IMAP capabilities, and was an invite-only beta service at the time.

Fast forward four years, the free space is up to 6GBs, the service is free and open for all, the email service is linked to an online office application suite complete with a calendar and has a built-in chat service. With so many features, it is no wonder that Gmail has become a favourite among users worldwide. But being the best has a price: once Gmail achieved the status of an award winning multi-million user free email service, it became the target to the malicious hackers of the world.

People were blocked out of their own accounts, the data that they had stored online compromised — not to mention valuable information such as credit card details. Also, since Gmail was linked to other services such as Orkut, the vastness of the damage caused by such attacks can only be imagined.

Gmail uses a well-known web programming techniques called Ajax. These techniques use JavaScript to make function calls. At the same time, JavaScript transmits data such as emails and contacts in plaintext as data in the page source code. Hackers can then eavesdrop on this and become privy to personal and private information. But besides hackers, Google scans each and every email before it is open for the receiver. Users and critics alike have expressed concern over the fact that someone — even a computer — was reading and or scanning each mail that arrives. It puts the entire issue of e-privacy into question.

Consider this fact: each and every search query made into Google is saved. If you are logged into Gmail and searching on Google at the same time, then Google saves your search queries in particular, meaning that you build up a menagerie of your past searches and its results.

Not only that, Google combines the search queries with the information contained in the user’s email. No one knows why such information is gathered and Google states it is following industry-wide practices. One of the possible purposes derived by the critics is that such information is used by law enforcement agencies around the world. If that is not all, deleted information (such as mails) may take up to 60 days before they are removed from Google’s backup systems. Though Google has issued statements that it is actively restructuring its systems to remove deleted data faster, users are not that impressed.

With so much unsure information surrounding Gmail’s services, one can imagine it would be a pretty easy prey for hackers to target users and their Gmail accounts. But, the fact remains that even with all its shortcomings, there are plenty of users who are happy with its service.

Qasim Makkani, Associate Creative Director at an advertising agency, is an avid user of Gmail. His reasons for using Gmail are obvious, “It had unbelievable storage capacity, very convenient to use (very user-friendly), you can send and receive heavy attachments, and it's a darn cool brand,” he gushes about the services and offers suggestions on improving them.

But even Makkani has had bad experiences with the service when his account was hacked. "I tried logging in one day and my password didn't work. Someone had hacked my Gmail and used it to hack my Skype as well. This hacker was calling my Skype contacts and talking to my Gmail contacts, trying to get financial information out of them." Like many users, he tried contacting Gmail but got little to no response from them, besides automated replies.

Kiran Farooque, senior account executive at a PR firm in Dubai also uses Gmail. “I use Gmail because it is fast and efficient. I especially love the conversation threads which keep my mailbox organised.” But like most good users, she uses a simple technique which has kept her email account safe from the prying eyes and codes of hackers. “I believe in changing my passwords very frequently. I change them nearly every two weeks.”

Despite these insecurities, the fact remains that Gmail is an extremely popular service, and the number of users is growing. What is needed — until the Google team mends the loopholes in their security structure – is to keep strict vigil on our accounts and continue to enjoy the service and its many fun benefits.

Following are a few ways for users to save their accounts from being compromised and for staying safe.

It’s all in the “S”

When visiting Gmail, a simple addition of an “s” to the address directs the user through a secure service, instead of a public one. Hacker attacks rely on techniques called “sniffing traffic”; a basic SSL encryption in your traffic makes it impossible (or very difficult) to hack. The address will be https://mail.google.com/mail/ and you are off to your secure browsing.

Filter it

The time when you are logged on to Gmail in one window (or tab) and in the other window you are navigating other pages, is when you are the most vulnerable to hacking. A hacker uses this time to add a filter within your email and uses that as a gateway to obtain certain types of email. To avoid this happening, you need to just periodically check both the ‘Filters’ and the ‘Forwarding and POP’ sections. Make sure every filter and setting is one that you have entered

Gmail’s help centre

Though they may be sluggish in responding to your queries, there are a lot of helpful tips readily available on Gmail’s Help Centre.

(This article originally appeared in the June 7th Edition of Sci-Tech, 2008 - It was incorrectly attributed to another author.)
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