On a bitter, but sunny day in Paris an enormous portrait of Yves Saint Laurent floated gently on the façade of the Petit Palais to announce the opening of the largest exhibition to date on the work of YSL. The exhibition runs until August 29. The show, designed by Nathalie Crinière and curated by Florence Muller and Farid Chenoune, includes more than 300 garments.
Yves Saint Laurent said, “My essential rule is to elongate women and above all, to make them look thinner. After that, all that remains is to make their jewelry look bigger and they are delighted." Viewing these vignettes from the career of the couturier who spoke those words is a feast. If you did not see the smaller exhibit at the de Young, San Francisco...or have not had the chance to visit the Fondation de Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, then you should not miss this one. While I have seen all of them, this one being the largest, there is no substitute for seeing it in Paris.
Chanel gave women freedom, Yves Saint Laurent gave them power. And he did that for over forty years, through eighty-plus collections.
In the 60’s Yves Saint Laurent feminized mens clothing and changed the world of fashion by creating smoking jackets, bush jackets, and jumpsuits for women. His imaginary journeys-- Yves was an immobile traveler, he was inspired by imagery and acquired a culture from books. The Maharajahs of India, the wild imagery of Africa, cigar factory girls of Seville - all defined his collections.
He felt his greatest achievement was the Russian collection of 1976 inspired by the Ballets Russes and operas of Verdi.
The year following saw the launch of his perfume OPIUM – at the time, 1977, a scandalous name and marketing slogan. The slogan would later be altered due to public pressure – the name, and the fragrance, one of the greatest perfume legacies.
An exhibition of intimate rooms, silent videos well-positioned and supported by a brief and informative audio guide, added to the total experience of those who attended. The final video, the one you could have watched over and over again, was of course, the last show – a retrospective.
I watched as some women approached a garment and viewed it as if to construct a pattern in their head or at least remember details - they smiled in approval, in awe, in respect, in silence –
The chiffon dresses in niches floating with the assistance of an invisible fan surrounded by swatch pages all on a black ground with a mirrored ceiling to double the effect – almost a superfluous note yet it created a total chiffon experience in a passage as you neared the end of the exhibition..
Le Smoking – subconsciously or not, the display of numerous versions of this iconic suit made you lift your eyes in reverence to an entire wall of variations – the female version of a man’s tuxedo that rocked the fashion world. It caused such a sensation, and gave couture a literal kick in the pants.
So, If you are in Paris – you must go –
If you are going to Paris, you must go-
If you were not going to Paris, now you have an excuse –
- Living for Design: The YSL Story, by Axel Madsen. (Delacorte 1979)
- Paris 1962: YSL & Dior, The Early Collections, Jerry Schatzberg. (Rizzoli 2009)
- Yves Saint Laurent Biography, by Alice Rawsthorn. (Doubleday 1996)
- Yves Saint Laurent: Forty Years of Creation, by Beatrice Dupire. (Int'l Festival of Fashion Photography 1998)
- Yves Saint Laurent the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Diana Vreeland. (Potter 1983)
- Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent and Glorious Excess in 1970's Paris, by Alicia Drake. (Littlebrom 2006)
- Yves Saint Laurent Style, by Hamish Bowles. (Abrams 2008)
- Yves Saint Laurent - Pierre Bergé Collection: Sale of the Century, by Pierre Bergé. (Flammarion 2009)
- The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé, by Robert Murphy & Ivan Terestchenko. (Vendome 2009)
- Collection of Yves Saint Laurent Boxed Set, 5 Volumes; Christie's Paris, February 23-25, 2009.
All available through Archivia Books at Lexington Avenue & 72nd Street! Call (212) 570-9565.
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