Eugenia Ahlas, S.F.’s ‘Goddess of Yves Saint Laurent,’ dies

Pamela G. Knowles

Eugenia Ahlas, a longtime type advisor at Neiman Marcus division store in Union Sq. and nicely-recognised figure in the San Francisco style planet has died. Ahlas was 71. The lead to of demise was phase 4 most cancers.

A petite and soft-spoken lady, Ahlas however manufactured a huge effect with her exquisite but often ahead-seeking fashion. Through her 40-as well as years in retail Ahlas was recognized as an skilled on the Yves Saint Laurent manner house. Her ensembles at galas and opening nights in San Francisco have been often understated but frequently nodded to Saint Laurent’s model signatures like jeweled elaborations, Maltese crosses and touches of spectacular textiles.

Just before her 25 several years at Neiman Marcus Ahlas worked at the legendary I. Magnin office retailer in Union Square, in which she was known as “Miss Eugenia” and was in cost of the store’s standalone YSL boutique. When Magnin’s closed in 1993 Ahlas moved with the store’s YSL license to Neiman Marcus, taking her numerous clients with her. Her affiliation with the French label was so perfectly-known in San Francisco’s design scene that a 1999 profile of Ahlas in the online publication Fashionlines named her “The Goddess of YSL,” taken from a nickname a French executive gave her at a vogue week get together.

“Eugenia’s dressing rooms were being like Ali Baba’s cave,” reported Christine Suppes, a buddy and longtime consumer. “She picked the most glamorous, glittering outfits from the ideal collections. And there was this gracious, fearless female at the center of all of it. She just obtained it.”

“Eugenia Ahlas was a rarity,” mentioned Ken Downing, the former senior vice president and style director at Neiman Marcus. “In the globe of style, populated with huge personalities and generally bigger egos, Eugenia was a supremely variety, mild and enlightened soul: A tranquil storm of beautiful flavor, profound awareness, with a marked loyalty that ran further than the Grand Canyon to individuals she kept around.”

Ahlas’ attraction to the work of Saint Laurent went over and above aesthetic appreciation. The designer’s collections in the 1960s and ’70s were lauded for the two their beauty and liberated wearability which helped popularize trousers for ladies among the other improvements. Jill D’Alessandro, the curator in cost of costume and textile arts at the Great Arts Museums of San Francisco, interviewed Ahlas in the slide of 2020 and said that she spoke at length about her perception that Saint Laurent empowered ladies via his patterns.

“She understood the influence of apparel that went over and above the individual,” stated D’Alessandro. “She considered that trend had the means to affect society and that it brought beauty into day-to-day lifestyle. She stated to me that, ‘Fashion is an artwork type: it evolves, we want it to shift forward. I feel that Yves Saint Laurent described the parameters for how we do go forward.’ ”

Ahlas was born Eugenia Mousalimas on Dec. 13, 1949, in Oakland to Andrew Mousalimas and Mary Mousalimas (nee Kumarelas) the next of five little ones. She was elevated with a solid Greek Orthodox religion which became a lifelong devotion. Ahlas’ more youthful sister Paula Gassoumis reported that Ahlas’ enjoy of the loaded hues, jewels and daring robes and vestments that had been visible signatures of the church directly translated into her like of apparel.

“Her like of artwork heritage and Byzantine artwork were definitely her segue into trend,” explained Gassoumis. “There was a correlation involving the Orthodox Church and her own fashion that she carried with her.”

In 1979 Ahlas and her mother were critical in the campaign to help you save the first Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption (Dormition) in Oakland, permitting it to be moved to its present-day locale at 928 Castro Avenue in advance of the 980 Freeway project. The church is now a selected Oakland Landmark, a California Historical Landmark and mentioned in the Nationwide Sign-up of Historic Destinations.

Ahlas attended U.C. Berkeley and initially studied political principle. Upset by scholar unrest on the campus in the 1960s, Ahlas left to are living in France for a calendar year, returning to Berkeley to research artwork historical past with an emphasis on Byzantine and early Christian art and Romanesque architecture. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Diploma in 1972 she was recognized to legislation college but chose to pursue a vocation in fashion, getting a task at I. Magnin in women’s hosiery. The retailer was then regarded as the major of the line in Bay Area retail, recognized for its exquisite Art Deco Timothy Pflueger architecture and Lalique crystal fixtures as its high end style salons. Downing worked with Ahlas at the retailer in the 1980s and explained it as “more like a motion picture set than a grand specialty retailer, it was a earth unto itself.”

In 1975 she married restaurateur George Ahlas, her husband of 45 many years. Soon after getting a period away from I. Magnin next the births of her sons Harry and Andrew, she returned to function at the retailer and was put in demand of the YSL boutique.

“Not a large amount of men had been supportive of that at the time, he extremely considerably was,” mentioned Gassoumis. “It authorized her be as successful as she was and go on journeys to Paris for the collections for 5 times, seven times. He would go with her and be supportive, it would not have worked for other partners. They ended up progressive, in advance of their time.”

In 10 years at I. Magnin, Ahlas counted lots of observed and prolific Bay Area fashion purchasers in her guide. The women were being drawn to her taste, her access to the best pieces from the YSL showroom and her discretion — key for any stylist or revenue man or woman.

“She was of the old faculty,” reported Sally Debenham. “And most importantly, she did not push you.”

Normally, Ahlas’ tips went outside of just purchases.

“When I’d get one thing another person else bought she’d say ‘Now, a person else purchased this who is heading exactly where you are going,’ so we would not each dress in it,” said Carole McNeil, a 20-12 months shopper. “But she under no circumstances gave names, I never ever knew her purchasers except if they were being in a further dressing room and we’d see just about every other in the corridor. She was so private, that’s incredibly essential.”

Suppes started shopping with Ahlas in the late 1980s at I. Magnin when she was exploring for an ensemble to wear to the White House, exactly where her husband, laptop or computer schooling pioneer Patrick Suppes, would be awarded the Countrywide Medal of Science in 1990. Their shared enjoy of clothes and artwork led to a shut friendship.

“I realized I desired to wear Yves Saint Laurent for that event,” stated Suppes. “I loved Yves Saint Laurent, which is what she cherished, it was a fantastic motive to turn out to be pals.”

Suppes followed Ahlas to Neiman Marcus as a customer in the 1990s. In 2017 Suppes gifted above 500 ensembles to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, many of which she bought by using Ahlas. Suppes was the founder and editor of Fashionlines as perfectly as the writer of the 1999 profile of Ahlas.

“Many mental girls are drawn to YSL,” Ahlas said in the profile. “This woman does not want to conceal her mild beneath a bushel. Ladies now are starting to be far more resourceful and far more achieved and these qualities translate into ideal style.”

Ahlas was also a swimmer and devoted ballet lover. As an grownup she studied the artwork kind in Berkeley and San Francisco and was also a regular attendee at San Francisco Ballet performances. Ahlas danced right until the past years of her everyday living — in addition to gifting relatives members pieces from her intensive style assortment in her very last months, she also gave them pairs of her beloved pointe shoes.

One of Ahlas’ final jobs was placing alongside one another a ability level presentation for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in advance of a long run demonstrate celebrating the museums’ long lasting trend selection. In her job interview with curator D’Alessandro, Ahlas summed up what she had realized about how women dressed in the Bay Location.

“She definitely believed that women have been various in this article than in New York or an additional metropolis,” said D’Alessandro. “She said the dissimilarities were being ‘first the local climate, we do not get that truly very hot weather in San Francisco. Also, I believe our client was the most savvy. We are creative in San Francisco, the girls are more independent, improved educated and girls in this article want to dress in their clothing to impression culture.’ ”

Ahlas is survived by her spouse, George, sons Harry (Victoria) and Andrew Ahlas, her granddaughters, Anna and Valerie, her sister Paula (Dean) Gassoumis and brothers Sotiros Mousalimas, James (Diane) Mousalimas, her brother-in-legislation Lambro (Helen) Ahlas and a lot of nephews and nieces. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, funeral products and services have been personal. In lieu of flowers, the spouse and children appreciates memorial contributions to the Eugenia Ahlas Memorial Scholarship Fund or to the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral Basic Fund, c/o Ascension Cathedral, 4700 Lincoln Ave, Oakland, CA 94602.

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E mail: [email protected]

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