Friday night, the Denver Art Museum held a black tie opening gala for their major fashion exhibition coup, Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective. I heard more than one Denverian (?) refer to this as Denver’s biggest event since the Democratic National Convention. Indeed, hundreds of Denver’s elite showed up as well as the mayor, a few French ambassadors, and several chic French people and members of the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent, including its founder, co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent house and Saint Laurent’s longtime partner, Pierre Bergé.
It was clear that all of them were genuinely happy to be there and could not have been more pleased with the exhibit and its surprising new home. Bergé, who, from a distance and by some accounts, seems like he could be a difficult man to please, said in a brief speech at the event, “Yves Saint Laurent would be very proud to be here.”
Later that evening, we tracked him down inside the exhibit (the museum set aside a private seating area for him which he never used), where he told us he didn’t have a favorite part of the exhibit. “I like everything,” he said. “Of course for me what is important is the tuxedo [wall] because it is the first one and also the Mondrian dress because it is an iconic dress.” He had equally nice and enthusiastic things to say about Yves Saint Laurent’s brand new creative director, Hedi Slimane: “I am very, very happy today to have Hedi Slimane because he is a great fashion designer and he has a great talent, a huge talent. I like him, he is a friend and he worked for Saint Laurent a long time ago and he’s a member of the family, of the YSL family. I’m very happy.”
There definitely seemed to be a family mentality with the YSL team, and a deep level of respect for Mr. Bergé. “Mr. Bergé has the first idea of keeping all these archives together,” said the exhibit’s curator, Florence Muller. “In those times in the 60s and 70s no one was taking care about the creation after the show. He had the brilliant vision of the future.”
We also chatted with Dominique Deroche, YSL’s press officer until 2002, who was clearly still very passionate about the designer and his longtime partner. “Mr. Bergé has been my teacher for forty years,” she told us. “I must say we [were] very lucky because Yves Saint Laurent [had] nothing to do with the other company (PPR). It belonged to the two: Mr. Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé.I wanted to do something, I used to go see Mr. Bergé.”
Speaking of being Yves Saint Laurent’s press officer…”I was working with the best, so for me as the press, it was easy.” But not always: “He was shy and didn’t want to work all the time; it was my only problem. I would have to say, ‘Mr. Saint Laurent, you have an interview today, you have to do it.’ ‘Ohh maybe not..’ That was my only concern was to ask Mr. Saint Laurent to work.” We’re certainly glad she did–and that Bergé had the foresight to keep all those archives or Denver might not have this awesome exhibit–which had already sold out for the next day.
And as for Hedi Slimane–if Bergé believes in him as much as he seems to (in spite of the fact that he’s never really done womenswear or couture), we can only expect very good things.