This month, the Denver Art Museum becomes the sole location in the United States to host the career retrospective of fashion haute couturier Yves Saint Laurent, who revolutionized and modernized women’s wardrobes. His former business and life partner, Pierre Bergé, 82, helped establish the YSL house back in 1961. Bergé spoke with 5280 recently about YSL’s legacy.
Saint Laurent had an amazing ability to unify total opposites: He took menswear and turned it feminine; made work garments chic; began in haute couture but democratized fashion with Rive Gauche/Prêt-a-Porter. What drove this desire to break traditional social boundaries?
The link between Saint Laurent and the street was very important. Along with Coco Chanel, he was the only one to go to the social field while staying in the artistic and aesthetic fields. It was important to have complicity with women—and not just rich women.
What was it about menswear that inspired YSL’s designs?
Chanel gave women liberty to be women, but Saint Laurent gave them power. The men in society had the power, and to give the same
garments to women—the tuxedo, the trench coat—in a way, it gave women a certain power.
Some of YSL’s signature collections were based on clothing from exotic lands—Russia, Spain, Morocco, China. How did travel and traditional costume inspire him?
Saint Laurent didn’t travel very much. He liked New York, San Francisco, and Japan. But the reality is not important for an artist. He creates his own world. The African and Russian collections are not exactly African or Russian; it’s Africa and Russia through his imagination, because he was an artist.
The exhibit opens March 25.
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