Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Breakfast at YSL

It is only on very rare occasions that I find myself getting out of bed at 8am in the morning so that I can stand in line for a museum. However, exceptions must be made when it is to visit the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Petit Palais.

Veruschka in safari suit, 1968, by Yves Saint Laurent French Vogue

My obsession with YSL started when I first saw the ad featuring Veruschka in a YSL Safari suit in 1968. The ad was fierce and, although the photo was shot by Franco Rubartelli in 1968, I found that it was edgy and modern enough to be featured in Vogue today.  Thus, as I anxiously anticipated my turn to enter the exhibit, I chatted with my friend about our most favorite YSL moments. She was especially excited to see the famous photo of Yves Saint Laurent by Irving Penn. Interestingly, the moment we entered the exhibit, we were greeted by the portrait of YSL hidden behind his hand. I found it an appropriate welcoming because Saint Laurent was thought to be shy and reclusive, yet he would reveal just enough so that we could see his personality. This also translated into his creations. Most of his famous pieces revealed skin just at the right places, and I could imagine that his muses felt particularly feminine and elegant in his creations.

Portrait of Yves Saint Laurent (Irving Penn)

My favorite collection in the exhibit would have to be his Indian inspired dresses! I was amazed that he could translate the shape of a sari into a gown. His jewel-encrusted jackets and coats were as elegant and royal as a maharani's ceremonial robe. I could tell that YSL didn't have inspirational boundaries. From Monet to Andy Warhol, anything that caught his attention found a place in his designs.

Saint Laurent gave freedom to haute-couture and paved the way for today’s designers to express themselves freely through their designs. More importantly, YSL democratized fashion. He took the male suit and gave it a feminine silhouette in the Smoking, created a controversy when he inaugurated the fragrance Opium, and surprised and entertained his audiences by continually changing his mode of expression. He was just free.

Africa Inspired Collection YSL (1967)

Le Smoking (1966)

I felt sad as I was leaving the exhibit. Although he had created over 15,000 haute-couture pieces, it saddened me to think that there will never be another dress designed by YSL. However, it is reassuring to know that YSL continues to carry Saint Laurent's daring vision as its core.

Photographed by Jean-Loup Sieff in 1971 

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