Yves Saint Laurent in Paris

In early October, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris opened in the 19th century mansion  at 5 Avenue Marceau.  The company headquarters and location of Mr. Saint Laurent’s and his partner Mr. Bergé’s office since 1974, this was also where Yves Saint Laurent would meet his clients for fittings. In 2004, it was transformed into a foundation for public view, with three to four exhibitions annually. It was Pierre Bergé, once the chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, who decided to dedicate this space to the late designer, and open a museum. Lucky for those of us who admire the work of this visionary man who changed women’s attitudes towards fashion. As Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.”

Not only do we get a glimpse into Yves Saint Laurent’s chic fashion creations, but his design process too.

From collections inspired by artists including Mondrian and Picasso; to faraway travels to Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, Spain and Asia; to haute couture gowns, Yves Saint Lauren knew how to dress a woman.

The highlight of the museum is Yves Saint Laurent’s workspace set on the second floor. Here you find his many inspirations as revealed in his collections of books, fabrics and fashion trimmings. A designers paradise!


A dedicated fan of Yves Saint Laurent, my next stop will be the newly opened Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh, the location of his and Pierre Bergé’s second home and a place close to their hearts. Stay tuned…

Date with Dior

“I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.”  – Christian Dior

Did you know that prior to becoming a fashion designer Christian Dior was a gallerist with a deep love for fine art? This was only a fraction of what I learned at the most recent exhibition to open at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, honoring 70 years of the House of Dior. With a carefully curated selection of 300 haute couture dresses alongside artworks, this expo pays tribute to the master himself Christian Dior, and those who followed in his vision including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. This was without a doubt, one of the most impressive fashion experiences of my life.

Following are highlights from my recent ‘Date with Dior’, just in case you can’t make it to the show yourself.

Haute Couture / Fall/Winter 2012 / Embroidered organza evening gown / Raf Simons

Suzurka-San / Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2007 / Embroidered and painted linen coat / John Galliano

“After women, flowers are the most divine of creations.” – Christian Dior

Muguet / Haute Couture Spring-Summer 1957 / Organdy dress embroidered by Barbier

“True luxury needs good materials and good workmanship; it will never succeed unless its roots are profoundly embedded in sober influences and honest traditions.” – Christian Dior

Deep in every heart slumbers a dream and the couturier knows it: every woman is a princess.” – Christian Dior

A must see when you’re next in Paris, this exhibition Christian Dior, couturier du rêve ends on January 7th, 2018.

Story of a Sweater

Following my day and night discovering the secrets of Mont Saint-Michel with Centre des monuments nationaux, we headed to nearby factory Saint-James, one of France’s oldest and most famous brands which continues to manufacture locally. Being a designer myself, I was interested in discovering the history and makings of this label, located in Saint-James, a commune in Lower Normandy, 20 kilometers from Mont Saint-Michel. This is the brand that made nautical stripes famous, and I was about to find out how it all began.

How and when was Saint-James born? Around 1850, the Legallais family started to spin and dye locally produced wool. They resold this wool to the haberdasheries of Brittany and Normandy, later as woolen shirts which turned into the now famous fisherman’s sweater.

In 1950, the company changed hands and new owner Julien Bonte began manufacturing cardigans and sweaters, including the famous “Real Breton Fisherman’s Sweater” knit in pure wool. This became “the seafarers’ second skin”. Along with his son and much determination, Julien grew the company, renaming it “Tricots Saint-James” in 1970.

Julien’s son Bernard grew the company further in 1977 by building a new plant with an 1,800 square meter workshop and 300 square meters of office space. Tricots Saint-James also expanded its product range to include sea-themed seasonal attire for women. They were known across France as the knitwear leader, including a 100% cotton collection.

In 1989 Saint-James celebrated its 60-year anniversary as well as 100 years of Léon Legallais. In commemoration, they modernized their logo and knit the biggest sweater in the world, 8 meters high, and 14 meters from one sleeve to the other. Impressive! In 2001 the company further expanded and shirts, jackets and trousers were added to its wares.

In 2005, Tricots Saint-James received the trophy for “Ethics and Governance” following a company staff buyout. In the words of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, “The Company was chosen to recognize the good governance represented by Mr. Bernard Bonte (President until December 5, 1990) transferring power and capital to the employees, as well as the significant development of the company in France and abroad. The company’s takeover project of 1990 was declared a success for both its development and staff growth.”

What I noticed while touring the factory was the meticulous attention to detail. Every employee trains for over a year, taking pride in their work as each piece is carefully crafted by hand. Observing the process from weaving the wool or cotton to preparing the final product for shipment was fascinating. It’s no wonder Saint-James has such a stellar reputation!

These days Saint-James sweaters, shirts, scarves and dresses are available not only in Mont Saint-Michel, but in Nice, Paris, Saint-Malo, Strasbourg and Lyon, as well as  around the globe. Their timeless stripes and style continue to dress the world! What’s more, when you buy one of these shirts, you’re supporting the cloister restoration project! “The Tricots Saint James company is also associated with this major national heritage project with an exceptional and unique product-sharing operation. From 15 April to 15 October 2017, the “Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey” striped jerseys are on sale in the Saint James distribution network in France and abroad (Korea, USA and Japan), and in 3 bookshop-boutiques of the network (at Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, the Alignments of Carnac and the Towers of La Rochelle). For every striped jersey sold at the price of €45, Saint James pledges to donate €2.50 to the Centre des monuments nationaux for the cloister restoration project.”

Art + Fashion

What could be better than shopping in the midst of an art exhibition? Art and fashion, two of my favorites. Today I discovered both at Le Bon Marché, Paris’s first (and most exclusive) department store founded in 1838.

Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota‘s in-store exhibition titled “Where are we going?” begins on the ground floor where the artist has spun 300,000 yards of white thread throughout a designated space. It’s both calming and perplexing as you wander through this white abyss. I was so mesmerized, I almost forgot that I had come to shop. All 10 window displays too are filled with the artist’s web, some with ancient maps.

The celestial element of this exhibition by Chiharu Shiota is visually poetic. The symbolism stayed with me long after I had left the store. It comprises 150 white boats carried on a wave and invites us to be amazed but also to question. The artist establishes an analogy between human life and travel: people set off for an unknown destination, crossing an ocean of experiences, emotions, encounters and memories. Chiharu Shiota evokes a fresh start, while keeping the itineraries open: “Life is a voyage with no destination”.

For those in Paris, this exhibition that was meant to close on February 18th, will continue until April 2nd.

 

through the looking glass

As I return to the art world of Paris, with so many must-see exhibitions going on, I reflect on an expo my mom and I recently saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. China : Through the Looking Glass was the most impressive show I had seen in a while.

IMG_3315What is it exactly? As stated by the MET, This exhibition explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery. Perhaps better if I explain visually what I saw through the looking glass…

IMG_3292Following are a few favorites, both the traditional costumes and their modern counterparts.

IMG_3281Semiformal Robe for Qianlong Emperor, 1736-95 + Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5

IMG_3282Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5 + Woman’s Semiformal Robe, 19th Century

IMG_3286Formal Robe for Guangxu Emperor 1875-1908

IMG_3289The three floors of the exhibition, including artifacts & films, transported us to another era.

IMG_3293Portobello Wallpaper / Alexander McQueen 2006-7

IMG_3299With more than 140 pieces of haute couture, including this gown by Guo Pei (2010) and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside Chinese art, there was much to be inspired by. We left with eyes filled with visions hard to recount. Best to experience the richness of Chinese history for yourself, before it ends on August 16th.

galerie des galeries

Few people know that within Galeries Lafayette, one of Paris’ most prestigious department stores, lies an art gallery, aptly named Galerie des Galeries. I discovered this on a recent private tour of this fashion haven with Rendezvous en France. Can’t fashion be art?

IMG_8520Painter Karina Bisch has taken over the space with expo Arlequine, the walls covered in a 70 meter long canvas. Window-like openings within the canvas reveal colorful paintings.

IMG_8528IMG_8530_2IMG_8524IMG_8529_2Six characters stand within the open space, dressed in outfits created by Karina, named for select artists including Sonia, Varvara, Giacomo, Pablo, Ellsworth and Gustav.

IMG_8527The space is transformed into a theatre in which the mannequins are the spectators.

IMG_8522_2IMG_8531Thank you Galeries Lafayette, for inspiring the shopper. What’s next? Expo ends May 9th.

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