Yves Saint Laurent biopic is on my summer watch list

Scene from film showing Yves St. Laurent's first design for Christian DIor from fall 1955 collection - made famous by Richard Avedon when he photographed Dovima wearing the dress in front of two elephants

Scene showing Yves St. Laurent fitting model with his first design for Christian Dior’s fall 1955 collection. The dress was made famous by Richard Avedon when he photographed the model Dovima wearing the dress standing in front of two circus elephants.

A recent article in the Guardian interviewed Madeline Fontaine (best known for her work as the costume designer of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films: Amelie, MicMacs, A Rather Long Engagement…) about her work on the upcoming Yves Saint Laurent biopic. Surprisingly, her name does not appear in the IMDB listing credits, and I suspect that is partly to avoid any Edith Head/Givenchy misunderstanding (Edith Head received a Oscar for the costuming of 1954’s Sabrina, even though the most spectacular gowns in the film were created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn.)

Cover of Paris Match featuring the wedding dress from YSL's first solo collection for Dior, spring 1958. This was one of the few dresses that was recreated for the film.

Cover of Paris Match 1958 The wedding dress was one of the very few dresses that would have to recreated for the film.

In Yves Saint Laurent nearly all the designer dresses are original, borrowed from the YSL Foundation archives. This wasn’t some coup obtained through skilled negotiation, but rather a stipulation set out by Pierre Bergé to protect the image of the house of Yves Saint Laurent. According to Fontaine “he really did not want us to recreate any costumes. Of course, we could not make any alterations to the original pieces either, so we had to cast the models for the fashion show scenes in a very unusual way, by finding models that would fit the dresses.” Reproductions were created only when key pieces were missing, such as a wedding dress from YSL’s spring 1958 collection for Dior.

The film focusses on the years 1958 to 1976, YSL’s most influential period, and is based on a book about Yves St. Laurent by Laurence Benaim (a publication I have not seen and it doesn’t appear to be available on Amazon however, here are some copies available through Abebooks.) A clip you can link to through the Guardian article looks a bit Nouvelle Vague for my tastes, but even if the film is a complete bomb, it would be worth the price of admission just to see the Yves St. Laurent fashions in motion. The film opens in North America on 25 June.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian. He was the founding curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, and the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. He has amassed a collection of nearly 8,000 items dating from the mid 17th century to the present, and has written various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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2 Responses to Yves Saint Laurent biopic is on my summer watch list

  1. Mary Laloli says:

    It is great that a movie like this can use YSL original costumes and I agree with you that even if the film is a complete bomb it will be worth it to see those fabulous outfits. How amazing is that!! So many decades on we get to experience what our parents and grandparents experienced. Thanks to the YSL Foundation for allowing them to be used.

    Sad that Madeline Fontaine does not get a mention in the credits. I think every one has a right to be recognized no matter the circumstances.

    No wonder the spectacular gowns in the film, created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn were so amazing. I think she is one of the most beautiful woman to have ever lived and she had the ability to make any outfit look wonderful so in my opinion Hubert had a head start with dressing Audrey!!

    • Jonathan says:

      Audrey Hepburn was a dress designer’s dream… thin, tall, and beautiful with just enough of an odd look to stand out from the crowd.

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