Glitz and glamour

© Adrien Dirand

Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent: if you’d like to experience a different kind of fashion in Paris this autumn, you should swap shopping for a museum. Mademoiselle Lili stood in line too.

Andy Warhol predicted back in 1975: “All big department stores will become museums, and all museums will become department stores”. Although it’s not yet quite this way, I can remember clearly, when not too long ago, people were discussing whether or not fashion is art. Whether fashion should be in a museum or donated to an old clothes collection. Now, reality has made this decision for us: In front of the Parisian Musée des Arts décoratifs, a side wing of the Louvre, every day up to 4000 visitors stand in line to see the mega show Dior: Designer of dreams. Near the Trocadero there are long lines, too. The new Yves Saint Laurent Museum has just opened here. Small, intimate and privately financed by the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. You can’t buy anything, at least not clothes, but you can definitely dream. Plus, you can gain an understanding of how yearnings are transformed into textiles and how garments become witnesses to an entire age.

The gigantic presentation of the Dior showfor the 70th anniversary of the fashion house includes every single detail ofits history. It is precisely the combination of biography and 300 haute couturemodels that makes this show both wonderful and educational. Founder ChristianDior was a dreamer. Born into an impoverished uppermiddle-class family, he dreamt of days gone by. Dior’s“New Look” was high fashion, but not modern. Whilst devastated post-war Europewas suffering from shortages, he was dreaming of fairy tales and creatingwasteful gowns, harking back to the times of feudalism. Some dubbed Dior’sdesigns as immoral, obscene or reactionary (Coco Chanel described them as: “Theseheavy, stiff gowns that won’t even fit in a suitcase, ridiculous”). Nevertheless, they were a roaring success, particularlyamong the American goddesses of the silver screen, royalty or presidents’ wiveswith a passion for splendour. Dior ran his fashion house for a mere decade – in1957, he died, before his time, of a heart attack.

© Adrien Dirand

His successor, Yves Saint Laurent, was modern in comparison, with his elegant and more minimalist designs that pointed the way forward. He used his settlement as Dior’s Artistic Director to found his own fashion house – at No. 5 Avenue Marceau, his former couture atelier. Where Saint Laurent once worked on dresses that always seemed to be a commentary on their particular era is now the venue of the newly opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum. The Mondrian dress that for the first time directly combined art and fashion marked the beginning of the commercial success of the young fashion house in 1965. The androgynous women’s dinner jacket from 1966 was a feminist statement ahead of its time. “Fashion is not an art”, Saint Laurent is supposed to have said. “But it takes an artist to make” was the response of his romantic and business partner Pierre Bergé, who sadly didn’t live to experience the opening of the museum. There’s really nothing more to add.

© Fondation PB YSL A. Guirklinger