YVES SAINT LAURENT – Haute Couture Fashions Now at the de Young Museum

Glittering exhibition of famed designer’s wardrobe
for women now on display through April 5th, 2009

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

YVES SAINT LAURENT, now at the de Young through April 5th, 2009 includes haute couture accessorized outfits belonging to the FOUNDATION PIERRE BERGÉ – YVES SAINT LAURENT as well as Saint Laurent’s drawings, photographs and videos. This exhibition marks the first major retrospective of Saint Laurent’s work in over 25 years. It celebrates the life of the greatest designer of the last half of the 20th Century and showcases forty years of creativity by the Maison Haute Couture Yves Saint Laurent, whose unique style blends references to the world of art with allusions to pop culture and social revolutions. Structured around four themes, the exhibition develops the revolutionary nature of his body of work that presents a new definition of femininity and a signature that transcends fashion.
To purchase tickets on-line: YVES SAINT LAURENT

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Yves Saint Laurent (L) and Pierre Bergé (R), 1983.
Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.
Photo, Alice Spring.

Yves Saint Laurent, master couturier and fashion pioneer, was often described as a genius, virtuoso, and visionary. Yves Saint Laurent was known for revolutionizing the haute couture tradition and laying the foundations of modern women’s wear. The wardrobe basics he designed – pantsuit, pea coat, safari jacket, culotte skirt and tuxedo – became true timeless classics in every woman’s wardrobe. His couture designs were equally groundbreaking reflecting wide-ranging sources of inspiration. In Saint Laurent’s vocabulary, music, art, performance, literature and international cultures were just as significant as the new shapes he introduced.

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YVES SAINT LAURENT – Haute Couture on the town at the de Young Museum.

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St. Laurent was hip and modern, he was inspired by Mondrian, Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Warhol, Wesselman and even Goya and Velazquez. Berge and St. Laurent understood that haute couture was a dying art and in 1966 started their own ready-to-wear line, a revolutionary move at the time. Their Rive Gauche boutiques sprung up like delicious mushrooms on the world’s fashionable shopping streets, bringing the glamour of the happy few to a far larger public. YSL pants suits, safari jackets and the “smoking,” a man’s dinner jacket adapted for slim, with-it ladies, were the ultimate fashion statement, much as Chanel’s simple black dress had been in the 1930s. But St. Laurent also admired Schiaparelli’s daring wit and executed workmen’s smocks in satins and velvet, and designed bomber jackets to be worn over chiffon evening dresses. Quite justly, he was honored as the first living designer to merit a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute in 1983. Click here to order the companion book from the museum store: YVES SAINT LAURENT STYLE

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Multicolor feather coat, chiffon dress with tiger-print, Fall–Winter 1990
& Original sketch of Evening Gown. Fall – Winter 1991

The exhibition is divided into four themes. “Masterful Pencil Strokes” follows his work from sketch to final garment. Within this grouping are garments that emphasize the body through slits or draping as well as a look at his masterful use of silhouette through magnified volumes in garments that defied gravity such as bubble skirts, trapeze dresses and voluminous cloaks.

“The YSL Revolution” explores how Saint Laurent’s signature garments form the foundation of contemporary fashion design from which many of today’s designers take their cues. Groupings include YSL’s outfits inspired by men’s tailoring; the repurposing of functional wear such as safari jackets and pea coats into haute couture, and what became his signature: “le smoking,” a man’s tuxedo adapted for a woman first presented in 1966. Also featured are pieces from his famous 1971 collection in which he reintroduced hyper-sophistication while the rest of the world was focused on the hippie and feminist movements.

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Known for his palette of candy-colored hues, “The Palette” section demonstrates how YSL dared to use color in a way that broke the rules of traditional fashion design. Groupings here illustrate his fascination with exotic cultures such as Morocco, Russia, Spain and China as well as his use of clashing color palettes, textures, geometry, embroidery and prints.

“Lyrical Sources” features the most spectacular examples of the art of the haute couture and its many inspirations. Groupings here cite YSL’s references to history; the art world including Mondrian, Fauvism, Pop Art, and artists Picasso and Braque, literary sources such as Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Jean Cocteau and finally YSL’s fascination with flora and fauna through his use of prints, animal motifs, feathers, pelts, flowers and sumptuous embroidery.

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“If you don’t do anything else this Fall in San Francisco,” says Museum Director John Buchanan, “run, don’t walk to see the YVES SAINT LAURENT exhibition. It is the only presentation in the United States. It brings together 120 prototype ensembles by the designer, never seen before. It serves now, post his death in June, as a great memorial to him as an artist and as a genius. Come early because you’ll want to see it more than once.”

To purchase tickets on-line: YVES SAINT LAURENT

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YVES SAINT LAURENT – In print

Click on the title to add these books to your Fashion Library:
YVES SAINT LAURENT – Style
In collaboration with Fondation Pierre Bergé –Yves Saint Laurent, this is the companion volume to the exhibition currently at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. Paperback, 258 pages.
SMOKING FOREVER – by Foundation Pierre Berge. Hardcover, 95 pages.
YVES SAINT LAURENT (Memoirs) – by Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s partner of 46 years, offers an homage to Saint Laurent’s artistry. This small-sized book features fifty-two images of significant designs which changed women’s fashions. Hardcover, 79 pages.
YVES SAINT LAURENT – 40 Years of Creation – This catalogue unfolds the creative relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and such photographers as Nick Knight, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, William Klein, etc. 135 photos in color and B&W. Hardcover, 198 pages.
YVES SAINT LAURENT, Biographie – by Laurence Benaïm. Paperback: 551 pages

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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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