The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris is one of two new museums dedicated to the fashion legend.
Paris’s Musée Yves Saint Laurent proves “style is eternal.”
With its grey stone walls, wrought iron balconies, mansard roof and dormer windows, 5 Avenue Marceau looks very much like many buildings in Paris’s chic 8th arrondissement. To those who worship at the altar of haute couture, however, the three-letter monogram “YSL,” inlaid in the stonework, might as well be a beacon from on high. Such is the power of both the fashion house’s spectacular accomplishments on the runway and the charisma of its namesake auteur.
From 1974 until his retirement in 2002, Yves Saint Laurent split his time between his Avenue Marceau atelier and Morocco, and both Paris and Marrakech unveiled permanent museums honouring him last October. The man himself was prolific, creating countless sketches for each collection and redefining high fashion in the process. He pioneered tuxedos and trench coats as luxury pieces for women and was the first major designer to use black models and the first couturier to open a ready-to-wear boutique. There was fashion before YSL, and there has been fashion after him, but for a while at least, he was everything in between.
Saint Laurent was a prodigy, landing a job at Dior in 1955 and becoming the house’s head designer only two years later, at the age of 21. The museum doesn’t dwell on his biography, however, which also includes depressive episodes, drug problems and a love triangle that ended his long-standing friendship with Karl Lagerfeld. Instead, it lets his body of work do most of the talking, with video cameos of salespeople and couturiers who toiled in his studio. It was not uncommon for skilled artisans to spend 500 hours on a single piece. The final room of the museum is YSL’s former studio, complete with art books, fabric samples and his desk—a simple table covered in muslin. Arranged on the desk are a walking stick that belonged to his mentor Christian Dior, figurines of YSL’s beloved French bulldog, Moujik, and the designer’s trademark thick-framed eyeglasses. It’s as if he has stepped out for lunch and will soon return to work. There’s a YSL quote displayed in the museum that sums things up perfectly: “Les modes passant, le style
est éternel.” (“Fashion fades, style is eternal.”) (Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, 5 Avenue Marceau. museeyslparis.com)