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Jun 13 2010

Paris: Yves Saint Laurent – Retrospective

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If you are in Paris before August 29 I can’t stress enough how much you need to see this exhibition – it is amazing. I admit I love fashion, I love fashion exhibitions and I love glamour, and I wasn’t disappointed with anything that the Petit Palais did to make this one of the best retrospectives on someone’s life and career I’ve ever seen – it is a beautiful tribute to such an amazing designer.

Firstly, the setting is amazing as the name suggest this exhibition is set in a beautiful palace – with high ceilings, natural light and painted murals and statues. This is a grand stage to display for the first time a retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent’s work, featuring over 300 outfits *I know it is like being in heaven*, offering a look into his forty years of creating the most beautiful garments.

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It’s staggering how big this exhibition is, with 15 rooms delving in to discover YSL’s evolution, each focusing on a different part of his life, collections and his vision. From the opening of his fashion house in the 60s, his scandalous collection 40 from the summer of 1971, his friendship and working relationship with Catherine Deneuve, his imagination, the glamorous ballgowns and even his last collision of colours in 2002.

Where I was slightly disappointed with the Grace Kelly exhibition, because it doesn’t have any personal touches – the journey around this exhibit is full of them, and you can really see that his partner Pierre Bergé who helped put this together really loved him.

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As you would expect with anything about YSL strong women were definitely represented. The pieces in this exhibit explore his artistic journey and as you go round you can see that YSL has explored most trends. There were military, ethnic, romantic, nautical, sexy, extreme – in each you see his unparalleled attention to detail and his quest to express himself while giving women a self-confidence to express themselves through his clothing.

What was nice was that the clothes weren’t trapped behind glass, they were stylised as though they were on live models and each room you walked through had a different vibe that you would expect with an exhibition exploring a lifetime of work.

As well as his work on show it was nice to see what YSL was like, it was nice to see more about the man, through a recreation of his desk, never-before-seen videos of him at work, as well as a whole room dedicated to the series of nude photographs that Jeanloup Sieff took of him.

A large section of the exhibit is dedicated to the designer’s travels through the ‘Imaginary Journeys’, featuring his collections which drew on inspirations from Spain, Russia, India, China, Japan and Morocco. These pieces were the ones which really stood out for me, of course I love his ball gowns which frequent the red carpet, but these items drew from his imagination. The detailing was amazing, the matador inspired outfits from Spain, the colours that he used inspired by India and the sequin flowers detailing on an evening outfit inspired by Morocco.

As you would expect this exhibition couldn’t have left out the impressive evening-wear that he produced, the floor-sweeping ball gowns were displayed on mannequins towering up a large red staircase and looked exquisite. Showing off all the detailing, from the plunging necklines, bows, ruffles, features, pleats and jewelled embellishments. Titled ‘The Last Ball’ it showed dresses inspired by Marilyn Monroe, and ranged in age from 1962 to 2001, each however looked chic and modern – showing off YSLs timeless beauty.

To end ‘The Last Ball’ was one of my favourite moments, from glamour, colourful and like a fairytale to a black wall covered in 40 black tuxedo variations from 1966 to 2002. Each only lit for a second by the flashes of little light bulbs – it is when you know that you’ve entered ‘The Smoking’.

“For a woman, the smoking suit is an indispensable item in which she will constantly feel fashionable because it is a garment of style, not  a garment of fashion. Fashion come and go, style is eternal” – YSL

After the darkness of ‘The Smoking’ comes the final curtain displaying ‘The Collision Of Colour’, with the wall covered in different colours, styles and textures – surrounding his final collection of 2002, featuring some of the most gorgeous muslin draped dresses I’ve ever seen.

To end the journey of YSL’s life is the fabulous crystal heart brooch, his good luck charm, and one which he attached to a dress in every collection he sent down the runway. A fitting end to a wonderful tribute.

The exhibition runs until August 29 – and sadly isn’t going on tour – so I suggest make a last minute trip to a wonderful city and embrace the beauty that is YSL.

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