YSL exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is an experience for the senses.
Few designers have understood the female shape like Yves Saint Laurent. The Algerian-born French prodigy started sketching clothes as a teenager and went on to become one of the most prolific couturiers of the 20th century. His creative journey was fastidiously documented by his longtime partner in business and life Pierre Bergé, who, along with Saint Laurent, founded the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent to share some 40 years worth of haute couture pieces, accessories, mood boards, photos and drawings that define the designer’s creative legacy. The organization was founded in 2004, four years before Saint Laurent’s death to conserve his work and promote his invaluable impact on the world of fashion.
French historian Florence Müller and the Seattle Art Museum’s Chiyo Ishikawa curated a magnificent selection of the foundation’s collection to create “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.” The exhibition is currently on its second stop, and only East coast venue – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
”I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style.” (Yves Saint Laurent, 1982) Opening the exhibit, these sage words from the artist offer insight about his refusal to conform to fleeting trends or persisting gender norms. Sketches from Saint Laurent’s teenage years show his innate understanding of the female figure and his strong interest in fashion, which led him to enter and win first prize in the International Wool Secretariat design competition. His winning rendition of a cocktail dress caught the attention of designer Christian Dior, who ended up hiring Saint Laurent as his assistant, or in Dior’s words “my right arm.” When Dior died suddenly in 1957, Saint Laurent was promoted to head designer despite being only 21. At the helm of Dior’s mega fashion house, Saint Laurent was catapulted into the spotlight with the creation of his “Trapeze” collection, which many critics described as revolutionary. (A dress from the collection is pictured below).