Saint’s relics

Two new museums will pay homage to a legendary fashion designer

Culture

In an air-conditioned vault on the upper floor of the former fashion house, 5,000 haute-couture dresses, jackets, trouser suits and coats designed by Yves Saint Laurent are kept lovingly paper-wrapped in dust-free cabinets. Many belong to fashion legend: the Mondrian mini-dress introduced in 1965; le Smoking, the 1966 tuxedo trouser suit which broke dress codes for women; the scandalous 1940s look from 1971; the intricately embroidered pieces inspired by Picasso, Matisse or Van Gogh.

In the autumn of 2017 visitors will for the first time be able to view a permanent collection of such pieces, when two new museums open dedicated to the iconic French fashion designer. One will be at the refitted couture house on Avenue Marceau in Paris, where Saint Laurent kept his design studio for nearly 30 years. Visitors will walk through the studio, past the designer’s cluttered desk and pin-board as he left them, and see sketches, patterns and garments from his 81 collections.

A second museum will open in Marrakech, near the Jardin Majorelle, which was restored by Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, in the city they called their second home. Designed by two young French architects, Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier, known for their minimalist work in Morocco, it will house a cultural centre and a permanent retrospective collection. Hundreds of garments, accessories, sketches and photographs will be shipped out from the YSL archives in Paris.

The driving force behind the projects is Mr Bergé, who is 86. He presides over the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, which owns the collection. They will be partly financed by his sale in 2009, a year after Saint Laurent’s death, of €374m ($411m) worth of the couple’s art collection.

“From the beginning Saint Laurent wanted to keep everything,” says Mr Bergé, behind whose desk hangs a 1972 portrait of the designer by Andy Warhol: “I always said we had to do something with them.” Paris was a natural choice; Marrakech “taught Yves about colour”. Haute couture, thinks Mr Bergé, died with Saint Laurent. Today’s fashion houses are just “money and marketing”. Saint Laurent, who empowered women to break convention, was, says Mr Bergé, “the last of the greats”.

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