In the Presence of A Visionary

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Anyone who is remotely interested in fashion should rush now to the ING espace culturelle in Brussels for the Yves Saint-Laurent: A Visionary exhibition (January 30th – May 5th 2013). In honour of the remarkable designer this exhibition reveals the workings of his brilliant mind.

The exhibition starts with The Modernity of the 60’s and 70’s, which is a line-up of mostly his outerwear. Ranging from leather suits and a white mink fur coat  to a sailor stripe dress and a black silk jumpsuit. Right next to the podium is a humorous little display, The Art of Travel with Yves Saint Laurent. This was composed of a haute couture tuxedo from Spring Summer 1982 with a suitcase, which had garment carelessly tossed in and around it.

As you continue down the exhibition, entering the narrow corridor, you are accompanied by a timeline of line-up drawings from the creator himself – starting from 1962 at the beginning of the corridor until 2002. His design sketches, complete with fabric swatches, are sectioned in a very organised manner into categories (coats, eveningwear, leather etc.). With sketches ranging from daywear to a feathered garment and fur coats along with a range of tuxedos, you could see the initial sparks of inspiration from his first collection to his last. This insight into Saint-Laurent’s creative process makes this display, the most personal of the exhibition.

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Sketches of Yves Saint-Laurent

This, however, was just a glimpse of things to come. Saint-Laurent had a sudden burst of inspiration around the time he discovered Morocco. He was always partial to black in his early years, but when he paid a visit to this country in 1966, he discovered the aesthetic of colour. This became a dominant element in his design process. He dove into the colourful world of the orient, drawing inspiration from Morocco and China. He was also inspired by many artists of the time like Georges Braque (for the embroidered evening outfit from S/S 1988 collection) or Henri Matisse.

A display with a circular catwalk that surrounded the room had pieces from the late 70’s to the early 80’s when he was most inspired by Greek style and prints, the Ballet Russe and most importantly Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time) – his favourite book. His fascination with the romanticism of the past is seen in his evening dresses with crinolines and bustiers, which he designed whilst picturing them being worn at elegant cocktail parties.

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The embroidered cape inspired by Georges Braque (left), and Greek style dress (right)

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Evening outfit from the Fall/Winter 1979 collection (left), and another evening outfit from the Spring/Summer 1977 collection

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Inspiration from Ballet Russe

Without revealing the entire exhibition, I will conclude with his Mondrian collection (Winter 1965) featuring his famous colour blocking and showcasing his technical genius. Being friends with artists like Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann along with many others, Yves Saint-Laurent couldn’t help but be inspired by art. In this case: Pop Art.

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Cocktail dresses from Fall/Winter 1965 as a tribute to Poliakoff (left), and Fall/Winter 1966 inspired by pop art (right)

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A cocktail and a short evening dress inspired by pop art from Fall/Winter 1966

Yves Saint-Laurent was one of the few designers who built a bridge between fashion and the art world and produced something chic and wearable. His belief that fashion should be accessible to everyone, and his creativity appealed to a wide range of people from the young bohemian folk to the upper class ladies of Paris. Everyone wanted to wear him and from this exhibition, it is no wonder why.

Written by: Irem and Victoria

ING Espace Culturel

Place Royale 6

Bruxelles, Belgium

Photos: courtesy of ING Espace Culturel