The first ever UK retrospective of designer Yves Saint Laurent has opened in County Durham. In a surprising move, the Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal exhibit is being hosted by the Bowes Museum in the north of the country, as opposed to in London, and will be open until October 25.
Although the museum is in fact a gorgeous 18th century French-style chateau, many have been left scratching their heads as to why the exhibit didn’t open in the British capital. “They asked us,” said Pierre Bergé, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé — Yves Saint Laurent, which supplied over 50 looks from its archive, as well as sketches and other paraphernalia. “They’re very nice people, it’s a very nice museum. So, why not?” The exhibit is being curated by Joanna Hashagen, the Bowes Museum’s fashion curator, who admits that she was extremely keen to get this seminal piece of work in her locale. “It was just being in the right place at the right time,” she says. “I had been thinking about doing a show on a French couturier for a while because, after all, the Bowes collection was created by Josephine Bowes, a very fashionable Parisian woman who dressed at Worth.”
And the show is definitely worth all the hype and work that went into its creation. Divided into five themes—Haute Couture, Masculin/Féminin, Transparence, Art and Spectaculaire—visitors are invited to take a tour through some of Yves Saint Lauren’t most famous pieces, including the wool crepe Mondrian dress, the Braque-inspired beaded jackets and the Le Smoking tuxedo. As well as his own pieces, there are also glimpses of YSL’s designs from his time as head of Dior, a role he inherited at the tender age of 21 after the death of Christian Dior. As well as the support of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, the designer’s long-term partner in business and in life, Pierre Bergé, was at the museum for the opening of the show and happy to shed life on what life was like behind the closed doors for one of the 20th century’s greatest designers. “Today everyone is talking about gender. Yves decided to pass the power from the men’s shoulders to the women’s,” said Bergé. “We never interfered with each other, I never went to his studio. I decided to respect the creation before the business.”