Yves Saint Laurent is famed for revolutionizing the haute couture tradition and laying the foundations of modern women’s wear. The wardrobe basics that he designed – pantsuit, culotte skirt, pea coat, blazer, safari jacket and tuxedo – shone with his innovative style and became classics. In Saint Laurent’s stylistic vocabulary, music, art, performance, literature and impressions of far-off places were just as important as the new shapes he introduced.
The exhibition is divided into four themes: “Masterful Pencil Strokes,” where the designer’s idea is followed from the original sketch; “The YSL Revolution,” where feminized versions of men’s attire rub shoulders with seductive apparel; “The Palette,” which shows how traditional rules of colour harmony were reversed in new contrasts inspired by cross-fertilization; and “Lyrical Sources,” which explores the historical, literary (Proust, Oscar Wilde, Louis Aragon, Jean Cocteau…) and artistic influences that were interpreted and translated by this genius of couture. Throughout his career, Yves Saint Laurent expressed his personal tastes and the paintings he admires by transforming painting into fabric. Some of his models take up the visual sensations of Impressionism, while others liberate the expressive power of some of the great names and movements of modern art: Mondrian and Poliakoff in 1965, the Pop Art dresses in 1966, Picasso in 1979 and Braque in 1988.
Born in 1936, Yves Saint Laurent spent his childhood in Algeria. Moving to Paris in 1954 to take design courses at the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, he caught the eye of Christian Dior and was hired as his assistant the following year. He took the reins of the House of Dior after the master’s death in 1957 and swiftly rose to triumphant fame with his Trapeze line. In 1958, he met Pierre Bergé, then a theatre director and stage producer, who went on to manage his career. With Bergé’s help, Saint Laurent founded his own maison de haute couture. On January 29, 1962, he unveiled his first collection under the Yves Saint Laurentlabel.
On January 7, 2002, Yves Saint Laurent announced to the press his retirement and the closure of his maison de haute couture. On January 22, a crowd of 2,000 admirers from around the world gathered to celebrate his career at a valedictory fashion show staged in Paris. Since stepping down, he has worked with Pierre Bergé managing the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, which holds a remarkable collection of more than 5,000 ensembles and 15,000 objects that trace the history of the House of Yves Saint Laurent.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Web Site
Please click here for the Obituary and Funeral for Yves Saint Laurent