SAINT LAU­RENT, AT A STROKE

The great Yves rarely drew sketches of men. As the new Saint Lau­rent mu­se­ums are in­au­gu­rated in Paris and Mar­rakech, Vogue Hommes re­veals a num­ber of un­seen fash­ion de­signs by the mas­ter’s hand.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - SAINT LAURENT, AT A STROKE - SKETCHES Yves Saint Lau­rent Loïc Pri­gent BY

— It was back in 2000. I was in the Haute Cou­ture house of Yves Saint Lau­rent. The stu­dio door was open — that fa­mous stu­dio with the tres­tle ta­bles, Mon­sieur Dior’s sto­ried cane, the cork mood board, a few bolts of fab­ric, and Mon­sieur Saint Lau­rent in per­son was sketch­ing, hunched over his ta­ble.

So that was where he sketched his de­signs, in a white lab coat, a cig­a­rette dan­gling from his lips. It was ex­plained to me that he sketched in spades, far more than he ever showed on the cat­walk. This idea that there were a lot of un­seen sketches, that never be­came dresses con­vinced me that there must be a trea­sure trove in the archives that didn’t just fea­ture frocks pre­served, mu­seum–style, since the la­bel’s creation. In late 2016, af­ter a deal of ne­go­ti­at­ing, I man­aged to gain en­trance to the ar­moured vault that con­tains the Yves Saint Lau­rent pa­per archives. There’s a pre­lim­i­nary check with a se­cu­rity guard, if not two, and an im­pass­able door open­ing onto a cor­ri­dor, a se­cu­rity door, an air­lock, and a sec­ond se­cu­rity door ; there are sur­veil­lance cam­eras, and a fire pro­tec­tion sys­tem that, if I un­der­stood cor­rectly, sucks the air out of the room to snuff out a pos­si­ble fire. In­side the room is a line–up of metal cup­boards that you have to crank open. It’s very cold. So freez­ing that I in­stantly got a mas­sive cold — but what a way to come down with a chill… The cup­boards con­tain tens of thou­sands of sketches — no – one knows how many — be­cause the digi­ti­sa­tion process is on­go­ing. The re­vue draw­ings were digi­tised a few years back, as were the panoramic illustrations of his col­lec­tions, but not the prepara­tory sketches. Not yet. Those cup­boards con­tain the en­tire his­tory of the House of Saint Lau­rent, from 1962 to 2002, not to men­tion records of the cou­turier’s per­sonal his­tory, with the draw­ings he made as a child, and un­dated sketches from the years be­fore he joined Dior. Draw­ings of women by the thou­sand, women with no­ble miens, Parisian at­ti­tude, wild colours, and the House’s fash­ion icons : the Mon­drian dress, Le Smok­ing, that green fox fur coat, the babushka cro­chet wed­ding dress, the Bal­lets Russes foulard day dress.

Of course, I asked if there were any sketches of men. There are. There are las­civ­i­ous draw­ings, but no one is al­lowed to see them, Pierre Bergé didn’t de­stroy them, but they’re off–lim­its. They say that Yves Saint Lau­rent would some­times drape a waist­coat on a (shall we say ) pretty, well – en­dowed youth and re­quest that the waist­coat be made up for the next col­lec­tion. The sketch was pho­to­copied with Post–its strate­gi­cally placed to spare the blushes of the pe­tites mains in the work­shops. There are draw­ings of un­clothed men in this colos­sal ar­chive that you can call up. Draw­ings for the bal­lets of chore­og­ra­pher Roland Petit and his wife and muse, Zizi Jean­maire, be­tween 1961 and 1984. It was Pierre Bergé who in­tro­duced Petit to Yves Saint Lau­rent. Petit was at the first cat­walk show in 1962 with Zizi in tow, and her name can be found in the House or­der books from then un­til the cou­ture arm closed in 2002. And Yves Saint Lau­rent re­ally let rip in his re­vue draw­ings for the Petit–Jean­maire duo. In 1970 and 1972, for Zizi Je t’aime and La Re­vue, he drew ath­letic dancers in ever more out­landish leo­tards, with panties printed with devil’s heads, Moroc­can pen­dants strung from the crotch, Dionysian vi­sions and har­nesses, thigh boots, chain jock­straps and chain­mail tu­nics, S& M fan­tasies that her­alded Jean Paul Gaultier’s leg­endary stage out­fits for Madonna in the late eight­ies, and those for Man­fred T. Mu­gler’s mu­si­cals af­ter 2010.

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