As the YSL Bowes museum exhibition comes to an end, fashion journalists and The-Pool.com colleagues, Laura Craik and Lauren Laverne join the Durham book festival to speak about the freedom movement of women through Saint Laurent’s fashion.
There is a buzz of excitement in the theatre as the lights descend and we see Lauren Laverne readily interview, Keeper of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen in a video highlighting the life of the legend that is Yves Saint Laurent. As the video ends and the lights flick on, a wave of applause echoes the room as we eagerly await our guests. Laura Craik mounts the stage in effortless monochrome and flower cladded trainers following Sunderland born Laverne who sits centre stage showcasing a patterned smock and a familiar smile.
Presenter, University lecturer, Chris Hodge wasted no time and delved straight into the world of YSL, challenging our hosts to their thoughts on the designer himself and the era on which he owned. Waves of laughter were heard throughout the talk as the witty Craik entrances us with her enthusiasm for the fashion world. It is evident from the beginning both Craik and Laverne account Saint Laurent as a legendry unbeknown feminist with his love of women and his expression of this through his work.
At the age of twenty-one, Saint Laurent was the head of fashion house Dior and well on the way to being one of the most influential designers of all time.
In a time where women dressed conservatively and the idea of equality of genders was unheard of, YSL created a path forward for women through his designs introducing androgynous dressing into the fashion world.
“He wanted to liberate women, make them feel comfortable as more women were increasingly going into the workforce.” Craik comments. She reminisces on a period where women were seen as the lesser sex. “I remember a friend of mine’s Auntie got sent home from work for wearing a trouser suit – that’s how bad it was!”
Not only did Saint Laurent empower women, he designed staple pieces that appear today from season to season, the jumpsuit and the tuxedo being just two. “You can easily look at something that is YSL and think that’s a million miles away from my life, but actually his designs appear day to day,” Laverne points out, followed by Craik; “You may not be able to afford a £2000 YSL dress but if you go into Zara or Primark, his influences are all around.”
Saint Laurent was quoted saying he hated fashion but style is eternal. Laverne describes what style means to her; “Style is dressing from the inside out. When I think of stylish women, their look doesn’t change from season to season.”
As well as focusing on Saint Laurent’s extraordinary work in the women’s fashion world it is apparent that his passion was the opposite sex.
“He clearly loved women, he just wanted them to have fun”, Craik explains to Fashion North.
Hodge wraps up the talk by asking what they would ask Yves Saint Laurent if he was still alive, laughing Craik answers; “Well, I’d like to know if he loved all women or just the beautiful, tall skinny ones!”
I think it’s safe to say Saint Laurent loved all women and his work reflected that with the incredible legacy and designs he has left behind.
The Yves Saint Laurent – Style is Eternal exhibition is at The Bowes Museum until November 8.