Are Paris or Marrakesh high up on your to-visit list? Now they should be. Pierre Bergé is opening an Yves Saint Laurent museum in each of the aforementioned cities, featuring a permanent collection of the designer’s work spanning decades. Both are set to open in October. I have actually been to two different exhibitions of Yves Saint Laurent’s work. One was at the Museum at FIT. It was an exhibition comparing Yves Saint Laurent and Halston as the two were oft-compared for their similar aesthetics (mainly with people saying that Halston was the American Saint Laurent). The second was focused solely on the designer and it was at the Bowes Museum in England. I had to drive a long way to get to the museum but it was so worth it. Hopefully one day I’ll get to make the journey back to Paris and (for the first time) to Marrakesh to visit the permanent collections. Yves Saint Laurent has been my favourite designer for almost my entire life so a museum of this standard is prolific to me.
Really, I don’t. I went to the summer costume exhibition at the Met to check it out and, like almost everyone else who was visiting, I didn’t know what to think. It feels almost blasphemous to say that I didn’t like it or didn’t get it because there is this unwritten rule that if you are seriously into fashion (or claim to be) you must love Comme. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things from the brand I like. Dover Street Market is an amazing store with great merchandising techniques. The diffusion line with the little heart logo is branded perfectly. I can appreciate a really cool avant garde piece. I think they photograph brilliantly and I think they look really insane on the body (think Caroline Kennedy at this year’s Met Gala, or even Rihanna) but I don’t understand them and I know that the majority of people in my company at the museum felt the same way.
The exhibition was in a different gallery than the Manus x Machina one was last year and I didn’t like the space as much. It was lit very brightly with everything on stark white pedestals and some pieces were displayed well above eye-level, meaning it was easy to miss things if you didn’t realize you had to look up. The pieces featured spanned decades of Rei’s work. The exhibition was split up into various different segments, each representing a different aesthetic expression (e.g Clothes/Not Clothes) and there was no text explaining anything on the walls, nor credits for the clothing’s season etc – all of this information was to be found in a paper exhibition guide that was available at the entrance. Because of this, I found myself going around the exhibition faster than I normally would when I stop to read things because I didn’t actually read the guide until I sat down at the end and compared the guide with photographs I took. I still feel like I need further clarification though because I don’t understand the meanings of the pieces. I am a very imaginative person but I cannot immediately see the meaning of these clothes.
Ever since I got into fashion as a young teen, Comme des Garcons was a name I’d seen thrown about always in extremely high regard. On Tumblr, nobody dared disrespect Rei, thinking of her as the high priestess of fashion. I guess this mentality was ingrained into me without realizing it and for years I’ve always thought that I liked Comme, without actually thinking too much about it. Now I realize that I don’t like Comme, not because I think the clothes are bad but because I just don’t understand it at all and I can’t see the depth that others do. That includes most of the designers in the Japanese conceptualist movement, like Yohji Yamamoto, too. This year at the Met Gala, I was hoping for more out-there pieces because what I’ve seen from Comme des Garcons in the past and I do stand by my criticism of that red carpet. It was boring and could’ve been so much more if people were willing to push the boat out and not worry about looking hot for one evening.
I have compiled a little video, linked below, which is a get ready with me where I do my makeup, then once I have finished that I have included a lot of shots from the exhibition. I actually got a new camera recently and I’ve been playing with it, trying to work out its capabilities. The makeup video was actually just shot for fun, hence the unprofessional set-up, but once it was done I actually quite liked it so I decided to make something of it. The shots from inside the museum are taken on the same camera. I’m impressed with the quality.
Overall, if you’re in New York I think you should check out the exhibition and see what you think for yourself. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t help me gain any further understanding of or appreciation for the designer, but I did enjoy seeing it. I’m a huge advocate for fashion exhibitions and preserving garments like art pieces, because I do think of fashion as a form of commercial art, so I will always go along and see things even if I’m not a huge fan as I will always find it somewhat interesting.
I recently came back from a trip to New York, otherwise known as my spiritual home. There is something about New York City that captivates everyone who visits and makes them yearn to return. I don’t know what it is. When you describe it to people – the non-stop sirens, the millions of people on one small island, the skyscrapers that cast shadows on the streets – it sounds awful, but to me they are all part of the charm. But sometimes you need to get away from it all and go somewhere calm; my personal favourite spot is the Top of the Rock (yes just another tourist trap but it is so peaceful once you’re up there all alone with your thoughts, plus you get better views than from the Empire State Building, hands down). Another great place to go is a museum, and in my case, a fashion museum.
I love fashion exhibitions and I do believe that fashion is museum worthy. Some people think museums should be reserved for art – you know, great painting, ancient artefacts, sculptures – but I think fashion can be included in that list. It is important and impacts people for years to come. The Museum at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) is specifically for, well, fashion.
When I visited an exhibition comparing Yves Saint Laurent and Halston had just opened and I really enjoyed it. I love seeing vintage YSL as I think he was a real master of his craft. Halston is another designer who I’ve always heard about and seen the rare image or two of his designs, but never on the same scale as YSL. It was good to see more of his work and be exposed to his design aesthetic. The two designers created things with great similarities, and that was the main theme of the exhibition; to compare and contrast the two. I entered the exhibition thinking that I preferred YSL because I’ve seen more of his work, known more about his life, and really got caught up in all the hype that (deservedly) surrounds him. However, I left the exhibition feeling a little bit confused because I couldn’t pick a clear favourite out of the two: They were so damn similar. I got the feeling that Halston was the American Yves Saint Laurent. I also left feeling like I wanted almost everything that was showcased and wondered how on earth I would get my hands on the clothes, or at least clothes that were similar. Thankfully photography was permitted (in all exhibitions may I add) so I’ll include a couple of images of my favourite pieces.
The second exhibition that I visited at the museum was the much-talked-about counterfeits and copies one, entitled Faking It. It showcased real designer garments and right next to them were the counterfeits. It was quite interesting to see and some of the garments that I thought were the real ones were fake and vice versa. In particular, the Chanel suit that is on the brochure and posters for the exhibition was slightly deceiving. I thought that the fake was the one with two pockets, because in my eyes it looked a little cheaper, but in reality the one-pocket version is the fake (the second pocket being omitted to cut costs). Some of the other “fakes” that were shown were not so obviously fake. For example, there were licensed copies on show. Licensed copies used to be a big thing before ready-to-wear collections were created. Department stores would create their own version of a dress, for example, based on a couture design that they had seen in Paris. Someone from the store would sketch it and they would then make a version back in the US. Also, some licensed copies actually used the same pattern as the designer, copying stitch by stitch. Finally, parodies were also shown (think Brian Lichtenberg’s “Homies” instead of Hermes). It was quite interesting to see the different pieces and try and guess what one was real and what one was fake.
The final exhibition was a retrospective of Lauren Bacall’s personal style. As I’m sure most of you know, Lauren Bacall was a movie star (a really big one too) who died last year, and possessed terrific personal style all throughout her life. It was great to see gowns that she had actually worn (they all came from her personal collection) and also her day-to-day outfits. She donated a lot of her collection to the museum (from a wide range of designers), which you can see here.
Overall, I’d really recommend the Museum at FIT to anyone who has even the slightest interest in fashion. They have a great collection, including wide range of designers, and change their exhibits frequently, as well as having a permanent collection. Oh, and did I forget to mention that entry is free?
DATES (all the exhibitions are ending soon so visit quickly if you don’t want to miss out!)