Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris
7 December 2017
Meet the Man Behind the Modern Woman’s Wardrobe
Emblazoned above the historic address of 5 Avenue Marceau, the letters YSL make no secret of the mansion’s former occupant. But what was once a strictly-off-limits sanctuary - where the late, great couturier fashioned his strokes of genius - now invites you to step inside and discover the iconic collections which redefined the modern woman’s wardrobe.
The Iconic Collections of Saint Laurent
In his lifetime, Yves Saint Laurent rewrote the way women dressed, empowering them in trousers, trench coats and genderless designs.
At the centre of it all was Le Smoking, a series of tuxedos tailored only for women, which were popularised by powerful figures like Nan Kempner, Betty Catroux and Bianca Jagger. In the museum, the sophisticated suits are instead modelled by mannequins - which while less animated, still carry an imposing air which is backed-up by accompanying sketches, photographs, videos and voice-overs.
On the ground level, a small room reveals another of YSL’s influences over fashion - his marriage of art and clothing, where collections are displayed alongside the painters from which they were born. The most conclusive of these is Piet Mondrian and the dresses he lends his name to, which at the time of their creation in 1965, captured the spirit of an entire generation in the modernist contrasts of thick black lines and colourful blocks.
Van Gogh is also never far from your gaze, where a projection of sunflowers accompanies the emblematic jacket from 1988; while a Picasso original - Instruments de Musique sur un Guéridon -rests on a table alongside the undulating designs it inspired.
And these are just two of the iconic collections which await your discovery; which for four months every year will make way for a series of temporary exhibitions, beginning with Yves Saint Laurent’s Imaginary Asia in October 2018.
Inside the Artist’s Studio
But beyond the clothes, perhaps the best understanding of Saint Laurent is achieved with a visit to his studio. Expressly as the bright, floor-to-ceiling windowed room has been redesigned down to the last thimble, as it would have been when the designer relentlessly sketched, fashioned, fitted and refitted his collections here, for the best part of forty years.
Yves Saint Laurent’s favourite opera even plays through speakers to recreate his preferred working conditions, such is the attention to detail of designers Nathalie Crinière and Jacques Grange. But simply surveying the contents of the couturier’s desk - filled with photographs of friends, Catherine Deneuve, Bianca Jagger, Paloma Picasso and his beloved French Bulldog, Muzhik - offers plenty of insight into the inspiration behind his enduring collections.
Perched in a corner, a walking stick hints at another of the designer’s muses, for it once belonged to Christian Dior - the man who would champion a young Saint Laurent as his natural successor. In 1957, this prophecy was duly fulfilled, following Dior’s untimely death. But with his passing came the emergence of the new kid on the block, and the rest they say, is history.
The Legacy of Saint Laurent
From the young boy who once advised the women of his family how to dress, to the man who aged just 21 sat at the head of a £20million fashion empire, before going on to revolutionise the modern woman’s wardrobe in the 20th century. The remarkable story of Yves Saint Laurent was one that needed telling.
Now, in the historic couture house of 5 Avenue Marceau, the iconic collections, keepsakes and inspirations of Saint Laurent do just that, as you embark on a journey through the life and designs of one of fashion’s most influential figures.
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