Yves Saint Laurent Enters the Spotlight, Again

By A. D. McKenzie

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Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition Photographer: A. McKenzie

Nearly two years after his death, French designer Yves Saint Laurent is still a major presence in the fashion world. Now, a retrospective exhibition of his creations is pulling in the crowds in Paris, proving that his designs have lasting relevance.

The show features more than 300 haute-couture and ready-to-wear garments, organized thematically. It includes Saint Laurent’s beginnings with Dior in 1957, and gives viewers a taste of his revolutionary early collections, including the famous trapeze dress and the pantsuit for women.

“It has often been said that Chanel freed women. This is true. Then years later Saint Laurent came along and further liberated women,” said Pierre Bergé, the designer’s lifelong partner who co-founded the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house in 1961.

“He took inspiration from the male wardrobe and gave women the trouser suit, the safari jacket and the smock suit,” Bergé told journalists. He added that Saint Laurent wanted to make sure that not only rich women could afford to wear his designs, so he also created special clothing for the ordinary working woman.

The exhibition covers 40 years of Saint Laurent’s work, and includes drawings, videos, and photographs of the designer and some of his famous clients such as actress Catherine Deneuve.

It is the first exposition of this kind at the Petit Palais (Paris’ Museum of Fine Arts), and organizers said that only someone of Saint Laurent’s stature could merit such an honor.

“In addition to being a fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent was a remarkable artist, and one whose oeuvre has a rightful place in the museum’s long series of exhibitions of the Masters,” said Gilles Chazal, director of the Petit Palais.

The clothing on display reveals that Saint Laurent himself was inspired by artists such as Van Gogh, Mondrian, Picasso, and Monet, among others. One of the first things that strikes museum-goers is his daring use of color and the artistic nature of the garments.

The exhibition runs until 29 Aug. 2010.

We wish to thank A. D. McKenzie for her contribution to the Paris Insights blog.

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