Today I saw the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Exhibit at the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. I must admit that after having seen the huge YSL retrospective at the Petit Palais last year, this show was a bit of a let-down in comparison. It only had sixty garments on display in two small rooms, compared to the 400 outfits in the haute couture exhibit. The difference was that this exhibit focused on prêt-à-porter (pret a portay), which means ready-to-wear. The layout copied the look of the ready-to-wear shop he opened on the Right Bank, or Rive Gauche, in 1966.
Yves Saint Laurent believed very strongly that ready-to-wear was the future. Women were entering the workforce in the late 60s in vast numbers and Saint Laurent embraced the democratization of his custom designs. In an interview that played at the entrance to the exhibit, YSL explained that ready-to-wear customers were often far braver about trying new styles; for instance, his iconic tuxedo look for women, le smoking, sold not one outfit when he introduced it as haute couture, but was highly successful one year later when he tried it as prêt-à-porter. The exhibit closes on July 17, 2011, so if you’re interested, you have only a few days left.