In Paris, Musée Saint Laurent Brings a Creative Legacy to Life

Yves Saint Laurent in his studio
Yves Saint Laurent in his studio | © Musée Saint Laurent

The new Musée Saint Laurent offers fresh insight into one of French fashion’s most influential houses.

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Located in the 16th arrondissement, among embassies and head offices for luxury fashion brands, is the Musée Saint Laurent: 5 Avenue Marceau has been home to the brand’s headquarters since 1974 when Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé relocated from their spot at 30 bis rue Spontini.

Until his final show in 2002, the house was the heart of the creative operations for Yves Saint Laurent; clients would visit for couture fittings and Yves would work out of a beautiful, bright studio in the middle of the house.

Yves Saint Laurent in his studio

Between 2004 and 2016, the Fondation held regular exhibitions inside the house, and now under the direction of Pierre Bergé – Yves’ former lover and business partner – the museum has been transformed to offer fresh insight into the heart of the brand, and celebrate the legacy of one of fashion’s most influential designers.

“The whole project was to have the visitor feel that they are welcome at the YSL house” said Olivier Flaviano, director of the Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent, as he welcomed press during the preview of the new exhibition which opened during Paris fashion week.

Musée Saint Laurent Paris

Visitors to the museum first enter into the salon, where couture customers would have first encountered the clothes. From here, audiences weave through pristinely presented rooms. The first is dedicated to iconic pieces that came to define Yves Saint Laurent’s legacy: smoking jackets and empire lines, short skirts and statement hats are on ample display, all embodying the way in which Saint Laurent empowered women through the reimagining of traditionally masculine silhouettes.

From here rooms trace Yves’ and the house’s creative development, with a visual narrative that encompasses the range of skills and eclectic influences inherent in the design. In the second room, a bright, vibrant collection testifies to the impact that Morocco had on his work, while upstairs majestic couture looks and their history demonstrate the force of Saint Laurent’s imaginative muscle. Alongside this sweeping survey other exhibits focus on poignant details, with spotlights on couture techniques such as Lesage and Lemarié, allowing audiences to realise the depth of craftsmanship that lies at the heart of the house.

Musée Saint Laurent Paris

Most intriguing and emotive of all however is Saint Laurent’s studio, on display as it would have been when Yves was working. Vast swathes of memorabilia range across a large desk: polaroids, fabric swatches, sketches, books, papers and pieces of clothing – all attesting to the furl of artistic endeavour, extensive and varied working processes and collaboration involved in producing couture and ready-to-wear collections.

Croquis smoking jacket

Yet if Saint Laurent was the creative force behind the house, Pierre Bergé – who passed away at the beginning of September 2017 – was the visionary who understood the power of archiving such a body of work, and drove the initiative to launch the new Saint Laurent museum in Paris, as well as in Morocco. He and Yves also developed their vast art collection together, which fed into the creative direction of collections.

Musée Saint Laurent

In the museum a special film ‘An Eagle with Two Heads’ pays tribute to this dynamic relationship, celebrating the power of their collaboration and mutual inspiration. Indeed, Saint Laurent once described their partnership as “that great eagle with two heads who navigated the seas, transcended boundaries, and invaded the world with its unparalleled scope.” A fitting summary of two great men who together shaped a new frontier for fashion.

Musée Saint Laurent, 5 Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, open 11am–6pm, Tuesday–Sunday.

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