L’ Asie Revee. “Dreams of Asia”: Yves Saint Laurent Designs Inspired by India, China and Japan exhibit at the Musee Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

The world of Yves Saint Laurent was decidedly his love of Paris and the emerging empowerment of women in the 1970’s. I remember this because I was just a kid back then peering into the window of the RIVE GAUCHE boutique on the Left Bank in Paris where I spent some formative years. I saw elegant mannequins dressed in menswear “tuxedos” and flowing blouses tucked into trousers. This was a revolutionary spin on what had so far been the “Mary Quant” boho look from London that had taken over the fashion world so far.

To really know the House of YSL you cannot separate his love of adventure to exotic locales and constant inspiration of the art and cultures he discovered from around the world. It could be said that his vision was colored from a “French Colonialist” perspective but his love of textiles and the decorative arts of places like China, India and Japan showed a great respect for the skills of the artisans that inspired him. He interpreted the styles, cultures and traditions by mixing them up in unique new ways to express himself in his various collections throughout his career. This exhibit focuses on the sheer diversity and also roots of this influence in this extensive and unique showcase of some of his most interesting work inspired by Asian cultures.

The exhibit is broken up into geographic areas that encompass various collections that are rooted in CHINA IMPERIALE, CHINA FLORALE, L’INDE, LE JAPON and the creation of and design for the groundbreaking perfume, OPIUM which was an expression of this exotic influence. To understand each of these influences you must first begin with what every design brings together: Color, Form, Texture, combined with the luxurious jewelry and accessories that was combined for each look. With the introduction of patterns and forms in his collections, you can see what he used as part of this new vernacular into the western wardrobe: Pajama Pants. Coats or Jackets based on traditional Indian Coats, Chinese Tops with a Loose fit, Pajamas and the Kimono style jacket based on its namesake from Japan. Each features a unique interpretation of the original garments in a decidedly luxurious and elegant way. Fabrics and colors, prints and brocades were utilized in ways that could only be said to be luxurious and ultra chic. Bringing these garments into the fashion vernacular made for fashion headlines and put women in a unique and powerful position from a standpoint of culture and feminism that was infused into the looks. One could see both women as “ornaments” and at the same time also powerful in their strong statements of how the clothes were styled. There is always a unique balance in Yves Saint Laurent as a designer and creator between his love of ornament and his embrace of powerful women with whom he had working with him throughout his career. Simply eye-popping beauty is present in this edit of his work as you walk through each room and finally encounter the creative process behind the creation of OPIUM, its many designs and interpretations.

Inside the studio of Yves Saint Laurent, his office “re-created” from the original complete to the desktop and objects he surrounded himself with every day.  This experience for me was the final step in understanding his methods, his approach and  as a creator; he was a cultural ambassador for the world. He crossed country lines and boundaries bringing his point of view to the world who appreciated his love of culture and beauty. For this, we are all richer from the sheer delight at his designs.   As the brand continues today, the esprit of his original desire to capture the mysteries of women he also empowers them.