There must be something in the water in Paris. I'm utterly convinced of it. That magic something continues to inspire fashion designers through the centuries and keeps Paris at the forefront of fashion despite the attempts of London, New York and Milan to steal that glittering crown. I'm all aglow with that magic after a particularly inspiring afternoon spent wandering happily through the Yves Saint Laurent "Le Collection du Scandale" exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Berge Yves Saint Laurent and the ravishing Jeanne Lanvin retrospective, just a stone's throw away, at the Palais Galliera.
The crowd at both exhibitions moved at a escargot's pace as people gawped and gasped and peered in awe at the glass displays containing some of the most beautiful garments it has been my privilege to see. I have to confess to knocking my head against the glass more than once, as I strained to see beyond the transparent barrier standing between me and a beautifully constructed sleeve or perfectly draped neckline. Sadly, no cameras were allowed but I came close a couple of times to surreptitiously whipping out my Samsung phone camera and risk being thrown out for taking illicit images. The collections were that good.
Despite almost 75 years of cultural, social, and political change, 2 world wars, and one visit to the moon, that separate each of the collections, there were common threads that connected them. An important lesson for me as a designer was firstly the timelessness of many of the styles. There were many pieces that I, and many of the women present would happily wear tomorrow without hesitation. The simplicity of the foundations of my favorite garments made them feel contemporary and still relevant for today. Though both designers excelled in exuberance in their own way, Lanvin loved sequins and embellishment, and Saint Laurent loved drama and volume (The green Chubby fur coat is to die for!) . The basic shapes were often clean, incorporating clever details that immediately elevated the pieces into something special for the wearer.
The second common thread running through both collections was the strength of vision of both designers. Despite pulling inspiration from references as diverse as African art, medieval armoury, and greco-roman art, Lanvin and Saint Lauren remain true to their creative vision which is what leaves their fingerprints on every garment in each collection. Both designers often eschewed the fashions of their time in order to remain authentic. St. Laurent famously came under fire from the press for this collection which was deemed ugly and unwearable at its first presentation but then went on to be a commercial smash hit.
This is important for me as I begin to consider the content and context of the next Isy B. collections. How to blend elements of Paris couture with Cayman style.
Paris has cast its magic spell on me, and I'm inspired.
The Jeanne Lavin retrospective is the first exhibition dedicated to Jeanne Lanvin (1867 - 1946), founder of the oldest French fashion house still in operation. It is presented in collaboration with Alber Elbaz, current artistic director of Lanvin, and is open from March 8th to August 23rd, 2015 at the Palais Galliera.
Yves Saint Laurent 1971 Collection du Scandale is open from 19th March to 19 July 2015 at the Fondation Pierre Berge Yves Saint Laurent.