Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal

The Bowes Museum

11 July – 8 November 2015

£7 with National Art Pass (standard entry £14)

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The man who famously proclaimed 'fashion fades, style is eternal' is the subject of this exhibition featuring 50 of his most iconic designs.

Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria where he spent his childhood making dresses for his mother and sisters. At the age of 18 he left for Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Even as a student his work began to attract notice – most notably impressing editor-in-chief of Vogue, Michel de Brunhoff who recommended the young designer to Christian Dior. After seeing just a few sketches, Dior hired Saint Laurent on the spot.

Starting out as a junior decorating the studio and designing accessories, he gradually worked his way up the ranks of the fashion house. When Christian Dior died suddenly of a heart attack in 1957 it emerged he had chosen Saint Laurent to succeed him. At just 21, he was named creative director and over the next few years he worked on pioneering new styles for the label, such as 'the trapeze dress'.

Following a traumatic period in which Saint Laurent was conscripted to the French army and fired from Dior, he decided to set up his own fashion house with partner Pierre Bergé. Their collaboration lasted 40 years, with Bergé managing the business while Saint Laurent focused entirely on the creative side.

It was a legendary decade for the brand, in which Saint Laurent created the key components of the modern woman's wardrobe: the pea jacket and trench-coat in 1962; the first tuxedo in 1966; the safari jacket and the first pantsuit in 1967 and the jumpsuit in 1968. At the heart of his work was an ambition to dress all women, not just haute couture clientele. He was the first designer to open a ready-to-wear boutique to in a couturier’s name, paving the way for fashion as we know it today.

The exhibition brings together his original designs and landmark garments, highlighting the different eras of his creative career.

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Yves Saint Laurent was passionate about the arts and a high profile collector of many of the modern greats. He used his haute couture collections to pay tribute to the likes of Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse, Cocteau, Braque and Van Gogh – inspired by their pattern, colour, imagery and style. A selection of these designs – dating between the 1960s and 80s – are on display here.

Venue information

Opening times

Mon – Sun, 10am – 5pm

Closed 25, 26 Dec and 1 Jan

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