"I like to transform memories into projects" – Pierre Bergé's final words on Yves Saint Laurent
Together in an interview with Olivier Flaviano
O n September 8, Yves Saint Laurent's Co-Founder Pierre Bergé passed away. A month later the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech opened, respectively. Now, just a few months on, Buro 24/7 Middle East brings you Mr. Bergé's final words, in an interview done just months before his passing, together with Olivier Flaviano, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris Director.
What is the difference between the YSL foundation and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris?
Olivier Flaviano: When the Yves Saint Laurent haute couture house closed in 2002 (only the ready-to-wear brand still exists, and it belongs to the Kering group), Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé decided to create a Foundation bearing their names. The Foundation opened small exhibition spaces in 2004 where over twenty exhibitions devoted to fashion, painting, photography, the decorative arts, contemporary art, and Saint Laurent's work, had been presented. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris is a new phase of development of the Foundation. Transformed and extended exhibition spaces will focus on Yves Saint Laurent's work only.
Pierre Bergé: Since the very first day, we have taken great care to conserve the most important models of the collection together with all of the drawings and sketches — a collection of 5,000 haute couture garments and its accessories, as well as creative sketches, photographs and press clippings that had been carefully kept since 1962.
Why does the YSL fashion belong to a museum today?
Olivier Flaviano: Only two couturiers really shaped the 20th century fashion: Chanel, in the first half, and Saint Laurent in the second half. Creating a museum dedicated to him — in fact two museums with the one opening in Marrakech — is a way to explain to the public why and how his work was so important.
Pierre Bergé: I like to transform memories into projects, and this is what I am doing with this museum.
How would you describe the project and from where did the idea come from?
Olivier Flaviano: The project is, first of all, the outcome of 40 years of creation. But we should be reminded that Yves Saint Laurent was the first living couturier, in 1983, to have an exhibition dedicated to his work. It was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and it was curated by Diana Vreeland. In that sense, he had already paved the way to all fashion exhibitions that are organised today.
How did you manage and create The Inaugural Retrospective Display?
Olivier Flaviano: Our new head curator, Aurélie Samuel, took her new position last January. If the main themes will be displayed (Yves Saint Laurent's iconic garments including the tuxedo, the trench coat, the jumpsuit, the safari jacket; or his art inspired garments like the Mondrian dress), she also proposed a new look on the archives. For instance, a part called "History of a Collection" will show how a collection was conceived by exhibiting all of the documents related to it.
Today, is Saint Laurent a new luxury brand or an old one re-styled?
Olivier Flaviano: First and foremost, it is important to understand the difference between haute couture and ready-to-wear. Haute couture garments are made to measure, while ready-to-wear is mass-produced. When Yves Saint Laurent retired in 2002, the haute couture house closed its door. Yves Saint Laurent haute couture no more exists. The ready-to-wear brand, however had been sold to the Kering group in 1999, and still exists today.
Pierre Bergé: The brand is of course different from what it was when Yves Saint Laurent was designing for it, but his designer Anthony Vaccarello refers to historic garments, while creating something completely new.
THE FONDATION PIERRE BERGÉ — YVES SAINT LAURENT CONSERVES AND PROMOTES A COLLECTION, WHICH REMAINS UNEQUALLED IN THE WORLD OF HAUTE COUTURE
What makes your project unique and how will it help the new generation of fashion and art?
Olivier Flaviano: What is unique is that the collection is owned by the Fondation Pierre Bergé — Yves Saint Laurent. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were the first people to decide to keep a selection of prototypes from each collection, as well as all the documents related to their creations. The prototypes are the exact garments created by Yves Saint Laurent, and which have been presented on the catwalk. It is different from the garments ordered by the clients, at their size, and which could have slightly changed from the original. The collection is unique in the sense that it is the only one to hold this number of prototypes. What is also unique is to open a monographic fashion museum in the house where this fashion has been created.
What is the vision of the architecture, concept and design philosophies inside the museum and who manages this operation?
Olivier Flaviano: Pierre Bergé asked the set designer Nathalie Crinière to work on the scenography. Nathalie knows well Yves Saint Laurent's work, as she designed numerous Yves Saint Laurent exhibitions, including the retrospective, which took place at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2010. Pierre Bergé asked Jacques Grange to oversee the décor. Jacques is a long-time friend of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and he supervised the décor of several of their houses. The idea behind the project is to have the visitors feel like they are entering the former Yves Saint Laurent haute couture house.
The museum is dedicated only to the works of Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent, correct? Or it will invite new artists and projects in the future?
Olivier Flaviano: The Museum will be only dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent. That said, Yves Saint Laurent was inspired by paintings, traditional costumes and sculptures, thus we can definitely consider borrowing art pieces to dialogue with Yves Saint Laurent's garments.
Tell us more about the haute couture garments in storage...
Olivier Flaviano: The Foundation conserves 5000 haute couture garments, as well as their accessories. The collection also holds all the original sketches, the atelier's specification sheets and the collection board. Finally, it keeps catwalk photographs, press clippings, or sales books. The whole collection is stored on site.
What's the most outlandish detail you included in the museum?
Olivier Flaviano: The most important feature of the Paris Museum is Yves Saint Laurent's historic studio. The public will be able to enter the place he created his haute couture collections from 1974 (when the house moved to 5 avenue Marceau) to 2002. It will be very moving.
In our digital world, do you have online projects planned for the museum?
A new website will be created for the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. Conceived as a "second museum", it will contain specific content updated on a regular basis, including chronicles, a brief, illustrated histories focusing on a specific theme related to Saint Laurent's body of work, a particular moment in his life, or a chapter in the haute couture house's history; an amusing interactive biography richly illustrated which can be navigated by clicking on the images and will allow users to personalise their experience by selecting specific areas of interest; an online collection created for the Foundation's website will be updated and will remain accessible to users.