Clockwise from above: exterior of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech; looks inspired by Morocco on view at the museum; the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris; the designer’s desk, now on view there; the designer’s sketches for his spring/summer 1962 couture show; Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in their Marrakech garden in 1976 On the first day of Paris fashion week in September, the Yves Saint Laurent flagship on Avenue Montaigne was crowded with visiting fashion editors and shoppers dressed like fashion editors. The white marble monolith was designed by former creative director Hedi Slimane, who, in a fit of rebranding in 2012, removed the Yves from the house’s name (sparking “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” protest T-shirts). Today the ground floor is filled with 100 different handbags. The most sought-after? A €2,200, wallet-sized shoulder bag from the current designer, Anthony Vaccarello, emblazoned with three-inch gold initials of the house’s late namesake. “Which Y-S-L should I get?” was a constant refrain. Those initials – Saint Laurent’s slithering, undulating monogram – formed the company’s first logo, designed by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in 1961, the year Saint Laurent and his longtime business and romantic partner, Pierre Bergé, founded their couture business on the heels of Saint Laurent’s dismissal from the house of Christian Dior. With a mix of sans and serif, roman and italic, this branding was in place when Saint Laurent debuted his first show, which included the first feminised peacoat. He went on to create many other firsts in the world of fashion. The first women’s tuxedo, his “Le Smoking”. The first safari collection. The first designer ready-to-wear. He was the first to set fashion shows to music, the first designer to model in his own fragrance’s ad campaign. And, in 1983, Saint Laurent became the first living designer to be honoured with a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Saint Laurent and Bergé sold their business to François- Henri Pinault’s Gucci Group (which would become Kering) in 1999, and he mounted his last couture show in 2002. The designer died in 2008 aged 71, following years of decline after a very public battle with drugs and alcohol. Over his 50-year career, Saint Laurent created a template for what nearly every luxury-goods company wants today: a superstar designer who embodies everything the house stands for. A formula that seems, with the current state of revolving doors at fashion houses, very hard to replicate. And, with Bergé’s partnership, he walked the line between pure creativity and commercial shrewdness. Fashion, said Saint Laurent at his last press conference, “isn’t quite an art, but it does need an artist to exist”. Bergé, who was widely credited with both harnessing and at times (literally) bottling the talent of Saint Laurent (Opium, which was the biggest perfume launch in fragrance history) – as well as rigorously defending the legacy, long after their romantic partnership ended – died last year, just weeks before Saint Laurent was bestowed with two new museums: Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech. Ten minutes from the Saint Laurent Paris flagship sits the designer’s couture maison, on a sleepy end of Avenue Marceau. Behind a traditional Haussmann façade and gold-and-glass doors, up a short, carpeted staircase, past a quadrant of silkscreen portraits of Saint Laurent by Warhol, hangs the original sketch of the YSL logo by Cassandre. It’s an appropriately discreet entrance to what is now the Yves Saint Laurent museum. PHOTOS OPENING SPREAD: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED; THIS PAGE: FONDATION JARDIN MAJORELLE 68 CENTURION-MAGAZINE.COM
PHOTOS CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ANTONIO MARTINELLI; SIMON LAMBERT/HAYTHAM-REA/LAIF; FONDATION PIERRE BERGÉ–YVES SAINT LAURENT, PARIS; PIERRE BOULAT/COSMOS/REDUX “C’est beau, non?” asked Olivier Flaviano, the museum’s director, when I met him before the institution opened to the public in October. The lithe 32-year-old bears a striking resemblance to a young Saint Laurent. Flaviano stood in front of the 15-by-23cm Cassandre drawing inside the entryway, dwarfed by the 4.5m ceilings and chandeliers the size of elephants. “This is where the clients were received,” he explained. “Turning this from a maison de couture into a museum is like opening an artist’s home. It’s not just to recount Yves Saint Laurent’s story” – Flaviano always refers to the late creator with his three names, as if to remind the shoppers back on Avenue Montaigne that those initials stand for something – “but the history of haute couture in the 20th century.” There was a dusty, estate-sale smell in the air, mixed with sweet incense. (“Opium,” I was told by an assistant with a wink.) The décor in the maison is how Saint Laurent left it, the swirling banister, the enormous chandeliers, the Baroque mirror, the sconces, paintings and what looks like a cigarette burn in the green carpeting. Saint Laurent’s desk remains cluttered for upstairs visitors. Flaviano turned on his wing-tipped heel. A smoky glass door opened, unveiling Saint Laurent’s contributions not just to fashion but to Western civilisation. “Here they are,” Flaviano said, arriving at a group of mannequins. “The first tuxedo, safari jacket, jumpsuit, trench coat – the Yves Saint Laurent style and how particular it was, a style that he defined in the 1960s and worked and reworked until the end of his career.”
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