Yves Saint Laurent was one of greatest yet most private fashion designers of the 20th century. Now only weeks after the death of his partner and lover Pierre Berge, the hard-nosed business brain behind the legend and the keeper of the flame, some of the creator’s innermost secrets are coming to light.
The first of two new museums dedicated to his memory opens in Paris on Monday as a raft of new books and documentaries — including one on his erotic drawings — attempt to decode the mysteries of the painfully shy man who revolutionised women’s fashion.
The Paris mansion where Saint Laurent shook up the dress codes for more than three decades has been turned into a museum for his haute couture creations. A much larger museum, also paid for by the foundation set up by Berge to safeguard his partner’s legacy, opens next month in Marrakesh, the Moroccan city the couple loved and where Saint Laurent would often first sketch out his collections.
The museum also gives revealing insight into Saint Laurent’s creative process, developing his clothes from very basic sketches into complex designs that, in the case of some of his haute couture creations, could take thousands of hours to make.
“Unlike many other designers Saint Laurent began systematically archiving his work in the early 1960s — encouraged by Berge — and so we can follow the evolution of each item,” said a spokesman for the museum, which holds a treasury of 5,000 prototypes for his creations. Other rooms in the museum are given over to Saint Laurent’s inspiration and the “imaginary voyages” his collections often took to Asia, Africa and most famously Russia.
Berge always believed that Saint Laurent — who had begun his career by stepping into the shoes of Christian Dior when he was just 21 — was nothing less than an exceptional artist, calling him “the greatest designer of the second half of the 20th century”. Having “spent all my life helping Yves Saint Laurent build his work, which I want to last”, Berge died earlier this month, just weeks before the museums opened.
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