At 8:36 p.m. on Tuesday, January 22, the mirrored doors slid shut on Yves
Saint Laurent and his final couture collection. What the 2,000 attendees at the Pompidou Centre (and the several thousand more outside
in front of a giant screen) had just witnessed was a career summation without comparisona tour through 40 years of fashion that distilled the essence of a legend.
There was Saint Laurent's first couture collection after being fired from Dior, opening
with a simple pea coat over large white trousers before moving into sharply
tailored suits and four-pocket safari jackets. There was the Mondrian dress from 1966,
when pop-art faces appeared on straight-cut woolen shifts.
And, from 1968, there was the iconic beige cotton jacket in which Veruschka posed
on safari, sexily laced up the chest and draped with a silver loop belt. Tonight, Claudia Schiffer
pouted out in the same outfit, before eight African girls emerged wearing the
fringed, woven, tressed and beaded raffia dresses from that same '68 show. A slip
dress, heavily embroidered with jet, featured conical breastsa full 25
years before Gaultier hit the headlines with the same idea.
There were more incredible thrills to come, like seeing the infamous 1971 "robe au dos nu"
("dress with naked back") slink down the catwalk. (It was most famously photographed by
Jean-Loup Sieff, who notoriously shot YSL nude for a perfume launch the same year.)
Black '70s model Katoucha glided out in a golden feathered cloak
over a leopard-print sheath dress.
But the Saint Laurent moment par excellence was Jerry Hall as Marlene
Dietrich, vamping in a white ostrich-feather coat over a gleaming white
satin gown. As she exited to Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug," a bevy of
black-velvet full-décolleté dresses was ushered in.
What is extraordinary chez Saint Laurent is the clarity of his creative
visionthe self-assurance of the color palette, the confidence of the cut.
Even at their most baroque, like the Russian or Picasso collections, his
designs managed to sidestep vulgar excess. Couture will go on. But
Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent will be terribly missed.