The Master's Touch: Yves Saint Laurent
Within the halls of 5 Avenue Marceau, in the heart of Paris’ 16th arrondissement, a desk is set with all the tools an artist needs to create: colored pens and pencils in a container, lying in wait for the master to pick them up; swatches of fabric and sketches hang on the walls, waiting to be touched by expert fingers; rows and rows of books on fashion, design and travel line the shelves waiting to give inspiration to one of the world’s most creative minds. But the master is long gone, the creator will never come back and these tools will never be picked up again. This desk lies in the same place where Yves Saint Laurent created his most iconic pieces when he used this building as his atelier from 1974 until he retired in 2002. It is now part of a tableau within the exhibit of what is now the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris.
Standing inside the hallway that leads into a salon and grand staircase is an experience in itself, with portraits of Saint Laurent displayed on the walls (most notably the painting of the designer done by Andy Warhol). The architecture of the former hôtel particulier is a testament to the designer’s Parisian roots.
The exhibit, which was initiated by Saint Laurent’s life-long partner Pierre Bergé, takes visitors through a retrospective of the designer’s work, starting from his most iconic pieces such as the Le Smoking suit, the Mondrian dress and the brocade coats from his Ballets Russes collection. One floor features an audio-visual narrative of Saint Laurent’s works, with his sketches and notes lining the walls, one can easily follow his thoughts as he prepares for a show, lining up the models, sizing up each look and measuring each piece of clothing to perfection. Another part of the exhibit explores Saint Laurent’s love for both art and music, and shows how both have inspired him through gowns that represent different fashion eras – from Roman togas to the 1940’s flapper style, complete with opulent feathers.
The most interesting, and most emotional, part of the exhibit comes as the finale of the visit. The pièce de résistance is the recreation of Saint Laurent’s studio. Done in incredible detail, the space features the designer’s work space, complete with his sketches, drawing instruments and notes displayed on the desk, just as it would have been when the artist was at work. His books and framed photos on the walls, including one of his French bulldog Muzhik. This space is alive with memory and one can almost see the artist sketching on his desk, while models were being fitted and rolls of fabric covered the floors. This was Saint Laurent at his best and most natural – an artist, a creator and a man who shaped fashion as we know it.
The Musée Yves Saint Laurent (5 Avenue Marceau) is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am - 6pm and Fri until 9pm. Tickets are priced at €10/€7 for concessions.