Musée YSL

“Gabrielle Chanel Gave Women Freedom. Yves Saint Laurent Gave them power” So briefly yet so accurately, Pierre Bergé described two of the most impactful changes in fashion history led by two of my favorite fashion designers ever.
I have always admired Yves Saint Laurent’s designs and aesthetics. I consider him a genius because of his designs and because he was able to reimagine fashion with revolutionary ideas that represented strong and forward-thinking ideals. Always ahead of his time, the creation of Le Smoking, his Bambara Collection, the Mondrian-inspired designs, and his trapeze dresses are just a few examples of what his mind was capable of. But what attracts me most about him are his ideals and how he used fashion to communicate them. I admire those who have the need and the will to challenge the status quo, and Yves Saint Laurent spend a lifetime doing so. He was the first to inspire couture designs from street fashion, the first haute couture designer to launch a ready-to-wear collection, and a pioneer in gender-fluid design. He was one of the first male designers to see and empower women, treating them as equals. And the equality practiced by YSL was absolute. He saw women as equal to men and also equal among themselves. He was among the first designers to feature women of color in fashion shows, and he was the one that made Naomi Campbell’s first French Vogue cover possible. Visiting Paris without making a stop at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent is missing on the opportunity of entering, for a short but worthwhile moment, the incredible life and work of this legendary couturier. The lovely Parisian townhouse, which was his former haute couture house, exhibits the designer’s body of work in a very intimate and personal way. I can promise you that going up the same steps he did for over 30 years of design and creation can only be surpassed by the opportunity to be face-to-face with the product of his genius.
This museum showcases a curation of dresses, accessories, sketches, photos, and videos in a beautifully designed and decorated exhibition space. The museum focuses on giving an introspective look at YSL’s talent, but it doesn’t stop there. It also shows the incredible process that takes place in the design and manufacturing of a couture collection. By looking at all the photographs, prototypes, charts, and many other internal files, you are able to understand and appreciate the incredible amount of work, precision, and organization that couture implies. As a Fashion Design professor, I found this incredibly interesting and absolutely enlightening, as allowing a peek inside this intricate and meticulous process provides a more informed knowledge and a fairer perspective on the value of couture work. As a Fashion Designer myself, I found this exceptionally generous. And as an admirer, I found this telling on how his mind and heart worked: he liked to make things universal. Visiting the museum allows you to appreciate his love affair with art, his masterful use of color, and his unique juxtaposition of textiles. His inimitable eye only surpasses his exquisite use of lines and his unparalleled draping. While walking around his studio, you can only feel connected to him and his genius, as you get to understand how his perseverance and uniqueness left a forever mark in the fashion industry. It is an invitation to see his world and his life through the perspective of Yves himself, and nothing beats having the opportunity to get close and personal to the work of one of the most creative and iconic minds that designed and embellished the 20th century.
How intimate this visit is, stays with you. But what impacted me the most was learning that this museum’s idea first began when Saint Laurent created his label. He planned for this exhibition throughout his entire career, and you can see how he meticulously cataloged different pieces by marking them with the letter “M” for the museum. This is yet another example of the type of vision he had: he was always looking forward and always thinking ahead. This museum is about his work, his legacy, but above all, his nature, the Renaissance nature that characterized him. It is about the uniqueness of how complex and complete he was as a designer, an innovator, a creator, an artist, an idealist, and a formidable engineer that was able to design and follow structured processes to materialize every idea in a remarkable and long-lasting way. It gives credit to a fashion prodigy that was unapologetically and fearlessly true to himself, his vision, and his idea of what fashion should look like and what it should be about.