The eyes of the fashion world will focus in on The Bowes Museum in the summer when the popular attraction becomes the first to present a major exhibition of the life and work of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Big names including American Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, French actress Catherine Deneuve and acting couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are expected to be on the guest list for the gala opening of Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal in July.
The exhibition is promising to offer a comprehensive display of the late French designer’s creativity, highlighting the defining elements of his vision, and the significant influence it has had on fashion and the way we understand womenswear.
“Fashion fades, style is eternal,” Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) once said.
Articulating this idea - and taking its name from it - the exhibition will display 50 garments including some iconic pieces from the Russian Collection, the Mondrian dresses and the Tuxedo. The show will also open up a dialogue with The Bowes Museum’s wider and much-admired fashion collection, creating a unique sense of narrative around the history of fashion.
Joanna Hashagen, fashion curator at The Bowes Museum said: “We are honoured to host the first exhibition in the UK of Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential fashion designers of all time.
“We are also thrilled to work, alongside the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, on an innovative display that will introduce a dialogue between the designer’s body of work and The Bowes Museum’s collection. This certainly is a great moment in the history of The Bowes Museum, as well as for fashion display in the UK.”
After heading up the Christian Dior fashion house from 1957 to 1960 as creative director, Yves Saint Laurent created his own fashion house with partner Pierre Bergé, with its first catwalk show in 1962. For 40 years, Pierre Bergé managed the business while Yves Saint Laurent focused entirely on the creative side.
In the first twelve years, the designer defined a new style and composed the quintessential elements 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; the jumpsuit in 1968. A selection of these iconic garments will be on show at The Bowes Museum.
By making use of male dress codes, the designer brought women a sense of social empowerment whilst retaining their femininity.
In 1966, he opened the first ready-to-wear boutique to bear a couturier’s name, opening the way to fashion as we know it today.
Pierre Bergé, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent said: “The Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent is committed to the promotion of the work of Yves Saint Laurent internationally, and as such it is extremely exciting to work on this first exhibition in the UK.
“The Bowes Museum is a natural destination given its exceptional work with fashion and textiles; the museum and its location also clearly reflects Yves Saint Laurent’s and my own passion for inspiring, timeless places.
“It is the perfect setting for us – a museum built as a French Chateau, in the age of the Second Empire.”
Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal will run from July 11 to October 25. For more information, visit www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk