Yves Saint Laurent’s Scandalous Collection Revisited



In January 1971, Yves Saint Laurent presented 'Liberation,' a 1940s-inspired fashion collection replete with square shoulders, knee-length skirts, platform shoes, and exaggerated make-up. In referencing ready-to-wear clothes worn during war time, in particular by ladies who “collaborated” with the Nazis, a painful and shameful period in French history, the collection touched a still raw nerve and was roundly criticized. American fashion critic Eugenia Sheppard declared it “truly hideous.”

A couple of months later, interviewed by a French journalist for Elle Magazine, Saint Laurent admitted the collection had created a scandal for which he was “sad and flattered,” adding, “Manet’s Olympia provoked the same kind of reaction: ‘We’re being mocked...’... ‘It’s shameful...’ People weren’t shocked so much visually as they were morally.”

Asked about the “retro” look, Saint Laurent replied, “I don’t care if my pleated or draped dresses evoke the 1940s for cultivated fashion people. What’s important is that young girls who have never known this fashion want to wear them.”

The Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent is now revisiting the collection with an exhibition opening Mar 19.

Curated by Olivier Saillard, the director of the Palais Galliera, the premier museum of fashion and fashion history in Paris, Yves Saint Laurent: La Collection du Scandale will bring together original sketches, clothing, embroidery samples, and accessories along with archival photographs taken at the original 1971 couture presentation.

The collection marked a shift in Yves Saint Laurent’s trajectory, wrote Saillard: “It was the manifesto of a designer who now wanted to be the arbiter of ambiguity. It was a rough draft of the maturity to come.”

“Retrospective in its inspiration, it placed the historical exercise at the heart of the creative process in a new and different setting. Providing the carbon paper for the ‘retro’ fashions that were about to sweep across the second half of the twentieth century, the 1971 collection was the mirror that chased a disappearing world from its frame in order to welcome the reflection of a new generation.” Saillard explained.

Yves Saint Laurent: La Collection du Scandale will run from March 19 to July 19.

AS first published on BLOUINARTINFO.COM