July 13, 2015
Yves Saint Laurent created the first ‘revival’ collection in 1971 for people who did not have memories. It celebrated the real feature of revival, which was its relevance in relation to what happens in the present. His Forties or Libération Haute Couture Collection was inspired by the square shoulders, short draped dresses, knee-length skirts, platform shoes and exaggerated makeup worn during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Drawing inspiration from a painful time in French history, the collection came to be known as the “Scandal” collection. Today, Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent presents this scandalous exhibition in a moment when scandal is no longer a disreputable word. Running from March 19 to July 19 in Paris, the collection explores why Saint Laurent’s 80 pieces were considered such a scandal.
Already known for blurring the line between feminine and masculine through his many androgynous pieces, what Saint Laurent was trying to do in 1971 was blur the line between couture and ready-to-wear. The collection was inspired by Paloma Picasso’s expression of youth through her colorful outfits culled from flea-market finds. The look was put together with scraps, dresses made of old curtains and men’s jackets cut into tailored suits. Part of the censure of the collection came because the French women who dressed in this manner during the war were mostly either prostitutes or collaborators.
However, the question still remains, why provoke such a harsh reaction in the French public? Looking back at the period, one realizes that Cristobal Balenciaga had closed his house at a time when France was facing drastic social changes and that Coco Chanel had died three weeks before Saint Laurent’s show. His presentation was meant to resonate with the end of a certain aristocracy of couture and mark the start of his take on the modernity of couture. Saint Laurent paved the way for street fashion into couture catwalks. His Scandal Collection is credited with bringing down the walls separating haute couture from ready-to-wear and to have marked a shift in his trajectory to that of ambiguity.