Mary Wells: I Started Buying Yves Saint Laurent Couture Before I Could Afford It

I started buying Yves Saint Laurent couture before I could afford it and stopped buying it and all couture by the time I could. I was never interested in expensive clothes, but I was in the process of creating a wide-span image for the agency of Success and the City – it was important because we wanted to ride the increasing applause we were getting for breakthrough ideas and steady creative shocks and aftershocks.

We reached high and dared big to break through every expected presentation of a client and what he or she had to offer. And we often asked clients to change what they made and sold in what it could achieve or just in how it was packaged. To gain the confidence of others, I made the agency a class act in how it was furnished and what food and wine a client could expect there and in the overall look of the employees. Some were wildly groovy and others looked rich — but everyone looked sure of their costume.

I met Yves in one of his little fitting rooms. He had one of the world’s best tailors and a fabulous seamstress who made the clothes on your skin. Yves would tiptoe in like someone’s uninvited child and he would smile nervously at me because I wasn’t a buddy. Only once he changed into somebody else for a minute and narrowed his lids and slyly suggested I lose five to seven pounds so that I could buy his runway samples; size four to six then when models were fat — size zero to two now. Those runway samples were sold at the end of each season for birdseed and that is how a lot of women who weren’t rich looked rich.

I rarely needed a ball gown but once, when I did, Yves suggested one and let me steal it.

I never saw him again to thank him. So I am thanking him now. I loved that gown and I wore it to everything around the world until Estée Lauder started inviting me to dinner saying, “I know you don’t have good jewelry, Mary, so wear a good dress. Wear that dress of Yves’s. Is it still in one piece?” Yves, wherever you are up there, thank you. And Estée, I loved you.

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