The House Yves Built: Musee Yves St. Laurent

“The boy might become something one day, if he would simply cut his hair and follow me.” (Coco Chanel speaking about Yves Saint Laurent)

This exhibition was very personal for me. When I first arrived in Paris years ago, I discovered the way I dressed myself throughout my teens and 20’s was unconsciously, inspired by Yves Saint Laurent. I wore copies of the Mondrian dress and accessorized it with go-go boots, made my own safari jacket to wear over straight legged trousers, loved my paisley printed skirts and boleros and was the first to rush out to buy a fur trimmed flared coat (inspired by the designer’s Ballet Russes collection). Within two years of arriving in Paris, I landed a job writing fashion for a magazine, where from time to time, I was sent to pick up press materials from the press attache of Yves Saint Laurent. Each time I attended a fashion show, or walked through the doors of this famous right-bank mansion, I felt overwhlmed with great reverence--as if I had entered a temple. So now, with the passing of both the couturier and his business partner, a visit to this newly opened museum was a way for me to pay my respects to one of the greatest designers of the 20th century.
Three iconic looks made famous by St. Laurent: the tuxedo, the Mondrian dress, the safari jacket
Housed within the historic setting of the late couturier’s couture salon, the Musee Yves Saint Laurent is a shrine entirely dedicated to the late designer’s work. On the ground floor are videos of him explaining his work as well as those assistants, workers and press people who manned the ateliers and offices. They recounted their experiences and even revealed a few secrets as to how certain signature looks were constructed. Upstairs, a 450m2 space over two floors serves as a showcase for 50 garments accompanied by accessories, jewelry, sketches, photographs and videos. A very special treat awaits visiters on the top floor. The atelier complete with the desk of Mr. St. Laurent and his team, wall art, bolts of fabrics, trims notes and sketches have all been preserved for the public’s viewing pleasure.
Classic fashion by the master

Master of refinement, elegance and perfection in style, Yves Saint Laurent—the man behind the famous initials: YSL-- dominated the fashion landscape throughout the latter half of the 20th century. His career began at Dior as an assistant before taking over the reins of the house after Christian Dior’s sudden death in 1957.
The 1971 "scandalous" collection featured fashions from the 1940's. It was a huge success!
Jackets almost like jewelry, they were so ornate!

He was only 19 years old at the time but his time there was cut short. After two successful seasons of designing pretty little silk dresses, he broke rank and frightened Dior’s administrators by introducing “street” inspired garments: pea jackets, leather jackets and other ideas deemed unnoble) in Dior’s Haute Couture salons. Consequently he was unexpectedly drafted into the army and tossed out of his job.
Inspired by exotic lands.
Inspired by movements in art

While suing for reinstatement, he met businessman, Pierre Berge who found investors and soon launched Saint Laurent’s own namesake couture house. The young designer made headlines with ground breaking looks that inspired a generation: the Mondrian dress (1965) for fashionistas in the “swinging sixties,” the Tuxedo pant suit (1967) that put menswear on the backs of women and the Safari jacket (1968) that thumbed his nose on Haute Couture, and made off-the-rack fashion front page news!

The 1970’s would further cement St. Laurent’s place in fashion history with exotic looks inspired by foreign lands: Les Ballets Russes (fur trimmed coats with patterns from Russia), Persian printed peasant dresses, and Bambara—a collection of whimsical, African inspired raffia and beaded dresses. But all good things eventually come to an end. In 2002, an ailing Mr. Saint Laurent retired, closed his Couture house, sold off the ready to wear business and sadly, passed away six years later in 2008.

For anyone visiting Paris, the Musee Yves Saint Laurent is a rare opportunity to not only see the interiors of what was once one of the most prestigious couture houses in France, it is also a place to explore and immerse yourself in the timeless elegance of a brilliant talent.

Musee Yves Saint Laurent
5, avenue Marceau. 75116
Open Tues-Sun 11am-6pm (Fridays  until  9pm)
Entrance : 10 Euros

Photos and text: Fashion Doll Stylist. 2017. Please do not reproduce without prior permission or crediting my site.

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