Friday, March 12, 2010

YSL Toujours

In the future, little children will hear the name "Yves Saint Laurent" and think this man was actually a saint. This is because he is not a designer, he is a legacy. The first ever comprehensive exhibition of Yves Saint Laurent is being presented at the Petit Palais in Paris March - August 2010.

YSL joined Dior at 21, released the tight waist and suddenly made Dior's "new look" old. Then with his own design house, he gave women the right fashion at the right time, both more masculine and more feminine forms that satisfied their demands for freedom of expression.

The exhibition unveils the design process from sketches, color palette, fabric swatch to final product. The historically linear presentation is combined with a room of evening wear from all eras. While some of YSL's designs look decidedly 60's, 70's or 80's there is a cord of excess across all eras. His relentless study of glamour was expressed in all forms.

Raffia coat and dress from Saint Laurent’s African collection, SS 1967

The exhibition also gives an overview of the man. YSL's personal life was an extravagance that matched his designs. Both his belongings and designs are archived by the Foundation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent. No longer just a man, designer or brand, YSL is protected as a French cultural asset.

In the 19th century, Charles Fourier wrote of utopia and feminism but in the 20th century it was YSL who enacted these ideologies. YSL met needs that were invented in dreams, augmented needs of late capitalism. Many pose by contrast that YSL's simple elegance transcends his era and that his work is timeless, as the best of all arts. The proposition of timeless fashion however is contingent on the idea that fashion has always existed and will always exist, which primitive societies disprove. YSL's creativity connects to the human experience but his type of expression is historically and culturally specific.

Also worth considering is the ancient style of presentation evident in fashion exhibitions. Like Valentino's retrospective in Italy, YSL's retrospective uses classic white body forms as mannequins. The forms bear similarity to ancient Greek and Roman statues. Like the Greek and Romans, we too have made our temples but we do not allow anything to be set in stone. What is worshipped is production, variety and a feeling of the new, all of which YSL delivered.

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