On the Eve of Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective Opening: Denver Art Museum’s Drawing a Fashion Crowd

Portrait of YSL by Andy Warhol, 1972

Last Thursday, March 22nd, marked the day I was invited to preview the YSL Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum with fellow media. It also marked the first time I was in the presence of couture. Yves Saint Laurent Couture, to be exact.
I had the pleasure, and privilege, of being guided through the exhibit by Florence Müller, Chief Curator of the Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective exhibit at the DAM. I nodded and smiled like any A+ student, front and center, beaming as the glamorous french woman, with the sleek black bob shared intimate stories and anecdotes of each piece and room. The story of how Nan Kempner, the first American woman to wear and advocate the designer, and how she went to a high society restaurant in NYC wearing a YSL pants suit, at a time when trousers weren’t allowed on women in restaurants. She simply dropped trou and came back in the suit top and wore it in as a tunic, which was more “suitable” to the host, than the pants, surprisingly. Another interesting fact was that YSL was not a well traveled man. Despite his culturally inspired collections, China, Japan, Russia, and of course is African pieces, he really only traveled to Morocco. There are 200 pieces on show, including drawings and videos, curated from an archive of 5,000. What a task to choose only 200!
Before we got started on the tour we had the honor of hearing from Mr. Pierre Bergé, of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. You can read more about the masterminds responsible for the retrospective here. The question had been asked, not by our forum, but others, “Why Denver?” Collectively, their answer was, “Why not Denver?” We have beautiful people, weather, and most importantly this world class, architectural dream-of-a-museum specifically designed for housing such shows that cause a rise in Denver bound airfare tickets and the tourism board of Denver to beam. The Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective will do all of the above and more. Finally, the exposure Denver has long deserved and earned, and the chance to share Yves Saint Laurent Couture with the masses that pass through this middle part of America, this wonderful place I get to call home.
After I came home, my husband asked a perfect question as well, “What is he most famous for?” I can answer this in much the same way as Mr. Berge, what is YSL not famous for?! The safari jacket, the tuxedo jacket, the trapese silhouette, and trousers, yes PANTS folks! The guy put us gals in two legs! The lip print that Diane von Furstenberg had one year? No sir, that was inspired straight from YSL, circa summer 1971. That gold leaf head dress by McQueen, eh, I’d say also borrowed from Mr. YSL. When you walk through this exhibition you will see how many designers after him have been inspired by his work, and how YSL was in turn inspired and influenced by the artists of his time as well- Picasso, Warhol, Matisse and others. The retrospective spans the 40 years of design of Yves Saint Laurent, he graced this earth from 1936-2008.
The final room, “The Last Ball,” actually brought a tear to my eye. Seriously. Two walls with 40 mannequins dressed in different black suits spanning the 40 years was as high impact as it was historic, and unimaginable how one man could design such varying and drastically different takes on a black jacket and pants set. On the other side of the room, a huge red staircase with iconic evening gowns and capes that had stepped out on red carpets in decades past.
That brings us back to the panel, and another question, “Is fashion art?” “Art is what a great artist does so well and that’s why we show it,” DAM.
According to Berge, “Fashion is not art, but it needs an artist to exist.”
As you walk through and soak it all in, you will undoubtedly come up with your own conclusions, perspectives and impressions of YSL’s work, and that is what I think art does. It makes you question, think, and inspires us to create.
Here’s some of my favorite pieces from the exhibition, but trust me that I will not, ever, come close to translating it’s glory. You truly MUST go see it in person yourself to appreciate the craft and the beauty. Look close at the details, the stitching, the bead work, and be prepared to have your breath taken away. No exaggeration. I really did gasp upon entering these rooms! Get tickets and information here.
I was also very, very thrilled to have a moment to personally meet YSL’s PR maven Dominique Deroche, who was along for the tour as well, and interjected incredible stories and details of her friend Yves Saint Laurent. I shook her hand and heard her do a short video interview, and got chills just thinking that she was there, with him, in his atelier, opening his first boutique to raving crowds. Sigh…what a time…
Enjoy this brief mini perspective, of the YSL Retrospective below. Please remember, that I own all of the rights to my images. If you wish to borrow them, please be kind and ask permission in an e-mail, and always credit Fashion Folio, and the Denver Art Museum, or any source, from wherever you get your images. Thanks!

And here’s what I wore…Red and orange and color pairings that were so YSL, unbeknownst to me until after I took the tour.


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