Paris exhibit revisits Yves Saint Laurent's 'scandalous' 1971 collection

After the release of two biopics in 2014, the late legendary designer is in the news again ahead of "Yves Saint Laurent 1971: La Collection du Scandale." The exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Bergé in Paris will revisit Yves Saint Laurent's harshly criticized collection inspired by the styles of Nazi-occupied Paris.

On January 29, 1971, an exclusive set of clients, buyers and journalists attended the unveiling of Yves Saint Laurent's Spring-Summer collection on Rue Spontini in Paris. Many of them were unable to contain their outrage at the 80 scandalous looks presented by the six models.


This collection, which was alternately titled "Libération" or "Quarante" ("Forty"), is inspired by the ready-to-wear styles of the World War II period, and specifically by the clothes worn in Paris during the German occupation. Yves Saint Laurent's references to the period included very short dresses, platform heels, square shoulders and bold makeup.

Shockwaves through the fashion world

The Spring-Summer 1971 collection was met with harsh criticism from journalists, who wrote of their refusal to abide these references to the years of horror and deprivation that many of them had lived through.

"What do I want? To shock people, to force them to think," Yves Saint Laurent retorted in French Vogue in March 1971. "What I do has a lot in common with American contemporary art... Young people don't have any memories,"

The collection went down in fashion history, not just because of the scandal it caused, but because it paved the way for the retro trends that would remain in vogue through the end of the 20th century and beyond.

Olivier Saillard, curator of the exhibit, sees this collection as "the manifesto of a couturier positioning himself henceforth as an arbitrator of ambiguities."

Original sketches and samples

Not all of the looks revealed in 1971 will be on display at the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, but visitors will some of these infamous pieces, along with the original sketches drawn by the couturier for the haute couture line.

The exhibit will also include accessories and embroidery samples, as well as archival photographs taken at the original fashion show and later for fashion magazines. Samples of the reviews published in the press will also be available for visitors to browse on iPads.

"Yves Saint Laurent: La Collection du Scandale" takes place at the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent in Paris from March 19 to July 19. 
 

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