AT THIS POINT in time it’s hard to remember that the iconic designer Yves Saint Laurent shook up the fashion world, putting women in tuxedos and trouser suits at a time when that was terribly subversive. Imagine.
He also continually rocked the world of haute couture back on its well-shod heels with his grab bag of influences—his beloved North Africa (he was French but born in Algeria and famously had a home in Marrakesh), the riot of color that was (and is) India, the slouchy Russian peasant look done up in fabrics and colors surely unknown to slouchy Russian peasants. He recognized street fashion as a genuine manifestation of modern culture and was inspired by it. Saint Laurent was an innovator in business ways as well. Wanting to reach the non-couture crowd, he opened his Rive Gauche boutique in Paris, which then spread around the world.
But rather than natter on, let me suggest that we all get ourselves to Richmond, to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, before August 27, 2017. On view there until that date is a dazzling exhibit, “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style,” that originated with the Seattle Art Museum and the Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé being Saint Laurent’s partner in business as in life.
Like Dior, Saint Laurent is a name we all think we “know” (and, in fact, the young Saint Laurent began his career as assistant to Christian Dior). But he was a terrifically complicated man, and many faceted. This exhibit’s stay at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is its only stop on the East Coast, and it pulls from the Foundation’s deep archives as well as private collections. The Virginia museum’s Barry Shifman told the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan that he hopes to attract 100,000 visitors to the show. I (and you) have six weeks more to become one of them.
“Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style,” on view through August 27, 2017, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia 23220. Timed tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for college students and children ages 7 to 17. They can be reserved by phone at 804-340-1405 or online.