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‘I am a product of the YSL school of fashion’

Kirat Young, hand-picked by YSL to model his revolutionary Ballets Russes line, is the late couturier's only India connection

By Sudipta Basu

Posted On Friday, June 06, 2008

The statuesque Anjali Mendes has been a much celebrated Indian export to France, given her business association with couturier Pierre Cardin. But not too many people know about Kirat Young, who while on a holiday in Paris back in '76 landed a modelling assignment with the late Yves Saint-Laurent (YSL) and went on to be associated with the late haute couture designer for 12 years.

Kirat Bhinder's (now Kirat Young) parents - her father, an ex-Air Force man, and mother a doctor who worked for the UN - did not much care for their daughter's near-obsession with fashion. Back in the '60s Kirat's only reference point for fashion was Vogue. Even as she schooled in Welhams, Dehra Dun, she had pretty much made up her mind that her vocation would be in the field of fashion, although she did not have a cogent plan to pursue a career in this discipline.

That is until after her 'A' levels in London, while on a vacation to Paris the 19-year-old was urged by a French journalist Dominique Brebec to go see Yves Saint Laurent, who was then scouting for fresh faces for what was to become a revolutionary collection from the YSL house of fashion. The late Yves Saint Laurent was looking for models for the Ballets Russes line at the time, and soon after in the late '70s he did an androgyny collection. Kirat, with her tall and swarthy frame and what was looked upon as an exotic face was perfectly cut to fit that line. "It was a watershed collection. He thought I was just right for it. One thing led to another and I went on to work with him for many many years, apart from designers such as Valentino, Chanel, Armani, Versace, among others," says Kirat.

Kirat remembers the late designer as a graceful gentleman who loved women and the idea of dressing them up. "He loved to drape the woman's body and do different things with her," she says. "The clothes he made were made to celebrate them as also liberate them." Just as Coco Chanel was the first to put women in short skirts, YSL put them in a pantsuit and a tuxedo; it was unheard of at the time. "Women in those days would never go to work or to a restaurant in a pair of trousers," she says.

"YSL had a great sense of colour, given that he grew up in Algeria. He would often discuss the robustness of the north Indian colour palette," she says. The prevalent activities in the art and culture scene in Paris impacted Laurent's work, and Kirat has worn his iconic Picasso dress as also his Monet collection.

Speaking of India, although he never visited the country - "he did not visit too many other places either, and preferred to live between Paris and Marrakesh" - when Taj Palace was launched in New Delhi in the early '80s under the guidance of Camelia Panjabi, YSL sent a set of his top models, Kirat included, to showcase what was his newest collection, the Rive Gauche, at the time.

Kirat's association with couture played out in her life as well. Camelia remembers a time when she was invited for a lavish dinner at her apartment in Paris and only large lettuces graced the dining table. "It was an amazing dinner. There were these giant lettuce leaves that were laid out with such panache. I though it was the first course of the dinner; but I was told that it was the full meal. It took us an hour and a half to cut up the giant leaves into bite sized pieces. That's when I understood that this is what it meant to be a model. They eat lettuce and drink wine," laughs Camelia at the memory. "But what was spread out was a work of art, in true French style."

And since Kirat had become marinated in all things French (she was married to a French aviator for a while, and later an Australian hotelier who passed away a few years back) each time she would come to India back in the '80s, she would look upon the choreographed spectacle that went for fashion shows with much amusement. "I was at the right place at the right time. I was considered exotic. There were other Brazilian models who were colleagues and we meshed well together," she says.

Today Kirat, who is in her 50s, designs eclectic jewellery for Oscar de la Renta and Valentino and sells them across the world. Did she go to design school as well? "I could have gone to all the schools in the world and still not learnt anything," she says. "I am a product of the YSL school of fashion."

Article from mumbaimirror.com

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Thanks,Spiral. I miss '80-'90 runways :wave:

Me too! Runway shows back then were actual shows. The choreography, the lighting, and the overall presentation of the typical runway show back then was superb.

Here's a video of Kirat and other models in various YSL shows during the 80s.

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