Mar 5th, 2022, 08:05 PM

Yves Saint Laurent aux Musées

By Cire Taal
Image credit: Unsplash/Aleksandra Rupar
Paris museums celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic fashion house.

Yves Saint Laurent, one of the greats of 20th century haute couture, is known for his daring and visionary contributions to fashion. The designer and his craft are now the focus of a retrospective exhibition, celebrating his art and designs across Paris.

Commemorating the brand’s first collection in January 1962, the exhibition is a collaboration between the Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and six different museums throughout Paris: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée national Picasso-Paris, and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Paris museums exhibit fashion of designer Yves Saint Laurent

As a designer, Saint Laurent is known for shaking up the status quo during the second half of the 20th century. Some of his accomplishments include popularizing ready-to-wear, introducing pieces like the safari jacket or the Le Smoking tuxedo for women, and bringing different countercultures like Beatnik style into the haute couture mainstream. At the Centre Pompidou, however, the curators introduce us to Saint Laurent as a designer deeply inspired by and in communication with other artists of his time.

Image credit: Cire Taal

Rather than in a special exhibition hall, the designer’s works are exhibited as a part of the Pompidou’s permanent collection. Saint Laurent's references, and his attachment to modern and contemporary art, are made apparent by this choice. This is the exhibit’s greatest strength, as it puts Saint Laurent’s designs into conversation with his contemporaries. 

Image credit: Cire Taal

As a frequent visitor of the Centre Pompidou and its National Museum of Modern Art, Saint Laurent’s work blends quite well into the broader landscape of 20th century art. Taking inspiration from artists like Picasso, Matisse, or even Andy Warhol, the designer was among the first to bring art directly onto the runway. The iconic Fall/Winter 1965 collection is an example of this, where the designer debuted 6 shift dresses inspired by Mondrian’s neoplasticist paintings. This collection would be a great success for the fashion house, with the designer’s work labeled as revolutionary by critics. These dresses, which became a trademark for the YSL brand at the time, helped Saint Laurent to construct the image of the modern women he strived for throughout his career.

Image credit: Cire Taal

The designer’s references also give his pieces a sense of heightened visual expression, as the garments begin to take on the messages of their original artworks. The simplicity of the Mondrian dresses, for example, can be understood to mirror the painter’s notion of pure beauty. It is the interplay between fashion and art present in Saint Laurent’s work that helps to elevate his designs. Perhaps it is also this interplay — in part — that keeps the designs fresh and interesting from a contemporary perspective.

The Yves Saint Laurent aux Musées exhibition is on display until May 16 2022 at 6 different museums: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée national Picasso-Paris, and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. Tickets range from €0 - €17.