Fash­ion ex­posed

At a time when two mu­se­ums ded­i­cated to Yves Saint Lau­rent are in­au­gu­rated and where art and fash­ion have never been more closely linked, it was time to an­a­lyze the way in which the former pushed the sec­ond to as­sert its her­itage by rein­vent­ing the rules

L’Officiel Middle East (English) - - Contents - By Mélody Thomas

“Afash­ion de­signer stands out as a lux­ury artist who col­lects works of art, lives in sump­tu­ous and re­fined set­tings, sur­rounded by po­ets and painters. He is also some­one who cre­ates cos­tumes for the­ater, bal­let , or film, which sub­si­dizes artis­tic cre­ation.” Th­ese words, it is the philoso­pher and so­ci­ol­o­gist, Gilles Lipovet­sky, au­thor of The Em­pire of the ephemeral, who wrote them in his es­say “One hun­dred years of fash­ion” ( De­bate No. 31, 1984). In one sen­tence, he not only sum­ma­rized the essence of the fash­ion de­signer’s work, but also em­pha­sized the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship he has with his time and the cre­ators who shape it. Piet Mon­drian and Yves Saint Lau­rent in 1965, Cindy Sher­man and Comme des Garçons in 1994, Richard Price and Louis Vuit­ton in 2008, Rop van Mierlo and Marni in 2013 and, more re­cently, Celine’s ref­er­ence to Yves Klein and, of course, Louis Vuit­ton’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jeff Koons... The list of brands and artists who have worked to­gether takes place over the years. Whether it’s a col­lec­tion, an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign or di­rect ref­er­ences, fash­ion brands are con­stantly seek­ing art and its his­tory to feed theirs. Yet fash­ion has al­ways been seen as a place of fri­vol­ity and fu­til­ity, while art has al­ways been con­sid­ered se­ri­ous. What has changed is that fash­ion has be­come mass cul­ture. Thanks to the so­cial net­works, it has en­tered the uni­verse of pop cul­ture and lost its aura of elitism in favour of a more af­ford­able im­age, which cre­ators has­ten to spread with the help of col­lab­o­ra­tions with var­i­ous artists.

We think of Kanye West, who, with his brand Yeezy, uses the tal­ent of the per­former Vanessa Beecroft or the shoe­maker JM We­ston who has just hired Olivier Sail­lard as artis­tic di­rec­tor, manag­ing im­age and cul­ture at the Palais Gal­liera un­til the end of the year. Through th­ese two ex­am­ples, we can see that the in­dus­try is try­ing to rein­vent it­self by mak­ing art its new Tro­jan horse, thus chang­ing the im­age it re­flects and that of artis­tic in­sti­tu­tions. Just look at the suc­cess of the Louis Vuit­ton foun­da­tion in Paris or Prada’s in Mi­lan and Venice: fash­ion ex­poses more and more artists, and de­sign­ers are or­ga­niz­ing more and more ex­hi­bi­tions, from Raf Si­mons and his ex­hi­bi­tion “Ex­treme Teenager “to J.W. An­der­son and his “De­sobe­di­ent Bod­ies “. But if it is in­ter­ested in con­tem­po­rary art, fash­ion also seeks to be part of an era.


Like art, fash­ion has started to re­flect on the place it will have in his­tory, and the mu­seum re­mains the fa­vorite place to show the im­print that fash­ion leaves on an era. Al­ready, in The Sys­tem of Fash­ion (1967), Roland Barthes wrote: “The changes in fash­ion ap­pear reg­u­lar if one con­sid­ers a rel­a­tively long his­tor­i­cal du­ra­tion, and ir­reg­u­lar if one re­duces this du­ra­tion to the few years which pre­cede the mo­ment which one places one­self; Reg­u­larly dis­tant and an­ar­chi­cal up close, fash­ion seems to have two du­ra­tions: one prop­erly his­tor­i­cal, the other that could be called mem­o­rable, be­cause it in­volves the mem­ory that a woman can have of pre­vi­ous fash­ions and the fash­ion of the year. “In the case of Italy, from the 1990s, houses be­gan to cel­e­brate their his­tory through their own mu­se­ums - Gucci or Fer­rag­amo in Flo­rence for ex­am­ple. In France, only the Pierre Bergé-yves Saint Lau­rent Foun­da­tion has em­barked on the ad­ven­ture. Pierre Bergé, the com­pan­ion and as­so­ciate of the cre­ator, con­fided to us a few weeks be­fore his pass­ing: “This ar­chiv­ing that we un­der­took from the first days was quite vi­sion­ary, be­cause we must un­der­stand that fash­ion houses were not used to keep­ing their de­signs as they all do to­day. I also want to point out that this col­lec­tion is com­posed mostly of pro­to­types, that is to say, mod­els as they were drawn, made un­der the eye of Yves Saint Lau­rent and sent by him on the run­way: it is very im­por­tant and unique be­cause th­ese are not the mod­els or­dered by the cus­tomers, whose colours, shape and size may have dif­fered from the orig­i­nal de­signs. To­day, the other houses have mea­sured the in­ter­est of hold­ing this ‘mem­ory of cre­ation’ and that is why they are now spend­ing time and money ac­quir­ing and pre­serv­ing this her­itage.”

This month, prior to the 10th an­niver­sary of the cre­ator’s death, the foun­da­tion opened two mu­se­ums in his hon­our, one in Paris, at 5 Av­enue Marceau, which pre­vi­ously housed the work­shops, the other one in Mar­rakech, near the Ma­jorelle gar­den. Be­tween per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions, the two mu­se­ums will now share the ex­tra­or­di­nary fund of the foun­da­tion, which in­cludes 5,000 haute cou­ture mod­els, 15,000 ac­ces­sories and tens of thou­sands of sketches, pho­to­graphs and doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to the cre­ations of Yves Saint Lau­rent. For its part, the Gal­liera Palace will be­come in late 2019 the first mu­seum in France hous­ing a per­ma­nent col­lec­tion ded­i­cated to the his­tory of fash­ion from the eigh­teenth cen­tury to to­day. And thanks to Chanel’s sup­port, the City of Paris Fash­ion Mu­seum will have new spa­ces.


At a time when fash­ion de­sign­ers are ben­e­fit­ing from more and more ex­hi­bi­tions ded­i­cated to their work, such as those of Chris­tian Dior at the Dec­o­ra­tive Arts of Paris or Rei Kawakubo at the Met New York, a ques­tion arises: how to ex­hibit fash­ion? A le­git­i­mate ques­tion be­cause, in essence, fash­ion is in­con­stant, it is made of vol­ume and move­ment. For Aurélie Sa­muel, in charge of the Yves Saint Lau­rent Paris mu­seum, one should not see the mu­seum as the mau­soleum of cloth­ing: “A mu­seum is not nec­es­sar­ily stopped in time. It gives a snap­shot of an era, a move­ment, a look, but it evolves, it is trans­formed, it lives. To do this, it must ac­quire, of­fer an ever re­newed museog­ra­phy, a pre­sen­ta­tion that al­lows to train the eye and watch rather than see. A mu­seum re­sponds to a mis­sion. That does not pre­vent the ob­jects from be­ing lived by con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing and valu­ing them.” Last spring, Lapo Cianchi, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and events at the Pitti Dis­cov­ery Foun­da­tion, ex­plained: Fash­ion is the en­emy of im­mo­bil­ism, it is a ques­tion of Zeit­geist (the spirit of the time, ac­cord­ing to Ger­man phi­los­o­phy, ed.). It’s an end­less process of run­ways, styles ... Fash­ion gives a new life to what has been for­got­ten. It is con­trary to the past, con­demned to ex­ceed it ev­ery day while re­fer­ring to it. This is where it be­comes del­i­cate, not only in the re­la­tion­ship of fash­ion to the mu­seum, but also in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween fash­ion and it­self. “And Björn Dahlström, arts spe­cial­ist of Africa, di­rec­tor of the Yves Saint Lau­rent mu­seum Mar­rakech con­cludes: “Fash­ion is no longer the poor rel­a­tive of mu­se­ums. It has be­come a le­git­i­mate sub­ject of his­tor­i­cal, tech­ni­cal, aes­thetic, and so­cial stud­ies. The mu­seum helps to make it bet­ter known, and this mu­seum in Mar­rakech is the first ded­i­cated to fash­ion in Africa. It is sur­pris­ing when we know that dis­ci­pline has never been as dy­namic as it is to­day and that the con­ti­nent has in­spired fash­ion de­sign­ers so much. In this, this un­prece­dented project is a real chal­lenge. As for the ty­pol­ogy of works, in­deed, things dif­fer ac­cord­ing to whether one presents a paint­ing - first painted to be shown - or a gar­ment - first cre­ated to be worn. This is the ma­jor pit­fall with the mu­seifi­ca­tion of ev­ery­day ob­jects, in­clud­ing cloth­ing: how to make them live with­out con­tra­ven­ing the im­per­a­tives im­posed by the pre­ven­tive con­ser­va­tion of mu­seum pieces? The ex­e­cu­tion is com­plex and we made ev­ery ef­fort to make the mod­els alive, un­der­stand­able (ex­tracts from fash­ion shows, min­i­mal dis­tance, no show­cases). But one thing is cer­tain, a dress will never be as beau­ti­ful as worn by a woman.”

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