Guest Columns

Style Matters attends the YSL exhibit and gala

The Colorado Statesman

Not since the Democratic National Convention has so much national and international attention focused on Denver. But this time, it wasn’t politicos descending on the Mile High City — it was fashionistas, art aficionados, and a chatty group of sophisticated French fashion-lovers all here to see the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective. What a coup! What a “get!” Denver is the only city in the United States that will host this exhibit. As the promotional material brags: Paris, Madrid, Denver. Denver? Snagging one of the great fashion exhibits of the 20th century by one of the top designers perhaps of all time? Mon Dieu! How did that happen?

Both Lois Paul and Craig Crescas wore black pant suits in honor of Saint Laurent’s daring menswear-inspired style called “Le Smoking,” created in the Sixties.
Photo by Kim Wolff

Several theories abound. You can go with the one offered by Pierre Bergé, longtime business and life partner of Yves Saint Laurent and founder of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. When asked “Why Denver?” he responded with Gallic savoir faire: “Why not Denver!” Trés charmant but perhaps a bit ingenuous. The unique design of the new Hamilton wing and Denver residents’ love of art were also mentioned.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and husband Lino Lipinski were thrilled that Denver landed the exhibit. “This is huge for Denver. Along with the Clyfford Still Museum, this proves Denver has arrived in the art world,” Degette raved. The congresswoman looked lovely in a dress and purple shawl she got at Molly’s of Denver. Lipinski wore a smart checkered vest under his tux that his wife had picked out for him.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

I prefer the overheard: whisperings of phone calls made by elegant Denver Art Museum director Christophe Heinrich and behind-the-scenes activities of bold-faced Denver power brokers such as Hamilton and Anschutz.

Interior designer and art aficionado Judy Robins wore a vintage YSL gown.
Photo by Kim Wolff

However it happened, we got it, and from March 25-July 8, 2012, residents and visitors alike will be treated to one of the most spectacular fashion exhibits ever seen in the United States. Combining photographs, drawings, films and other multimedia elements with a selection of 200 haute couture outfits in mint condition, the exhibition creates an environment for visitors to see firsthand the development of Saint Laurent’s style and the historical foundations of his work. Organized thematically, the exhibit explores Saint Laurent’s career from his first days with legendary designer Christian Dior in 1958 through the splendor of his final runway collection in 2002.

Pierre Bergé, founder of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Foundation, a quiet man of great dignity told the crowd: “I know very well that Yves would be happy to be in Denver.”
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

The night before the exhibit opening, the DAM hosted a red carpet gala that attracted more than 700 of Denver’s glitterati. Black was the order of the day, most appropriate as YSL loved black and little black dresses. Many dusted off their YSL, Dior, Prada and any designer dressy accessories they could find and posed happily on the red carpet.

Molly Moore accessorized her outfit with a dazzling vintage Chanel necklace circa 1951.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Cathey McClain Finlon, president of the Denver Art Museum, regal in her YSL choker necklace, one of only 132 made out of a total of 152 in the 1970’s, surveyed the crowd with great satisfaction. Along with kudos for this spectacular exhibit, McClain Finlon raved about its economic impact on the city. “We will sell thousands of packages to people all over the world,” she bragged.

Cathey McClain Finlon, president of the Denver Art Museum, is looking forward to the impact the retrospective will have on the local economy.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Gala political attendance included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, French consulate David Martinon, French Ambassador Francois Delattre, Canadian Consul General Ladan Amirazizi, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany Bernhard Jürgen Bleise, Mexican Consulate General Andres Chao and his wife Mrs. Begoña Chao, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Denver City Council members Judy Montero, Mary Beth Susman and Peggy Lehmann, Jack Finlaw from the Governor’s office, the Honorary consul of France Jeffery Richards and Belgium’s Honorary Consul for Colorado Frank Schuchat.

Here, Saint Laurent posed nude for the debut of his cologne Pour Hommes. This ad campaign was considered scandalous at the time.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
In a tribute to Picasso, this 1979 cocktail dress contains pink and silver sequins forming a face pattern. The workmanship is outstanding.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Saint Laurent often got his inspiration from artists. This stunning dress with multicolored appliqué patchwork from 1979 is a tribute to Pablo Picasso. (SM lusts after this dress!)
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Florence Müller, chief curator of the exhibit, chose to wear what Style Matters deemed a Harlequin clown costume to the gala, part of the 1980 Saint Laurent Rive Gauche or ready-to-wear-line. She finished off this rather bizarre choice with clunky black platform sandals. Ah, the French.
Photo by Kim Wolff
Neiman Marcus public relations manager Nancy Sagar and vice president and general manager Christel Dikeman ably represented Neimans, which is one of the exhibit sponsors.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Community leader Arlene Hirschfeld, always stylishly dressed, wore a vintage black velvet YSL suit decorated with sequin stars.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Danette Stuckey looked svelte in a vintage Dior suit created when Saint Laurent was working at the House of Dior.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Lisa Kessler shows off her YSL gold clutch bag. Her ensemble is from Paris.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Barbara Knight, wearing a seafoam green dress by Bob Mackie, came with her daughter, Heather, to check out the crowd and the exhibit.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Many guests pulled out their most creative and haute couture accessories for the gala. Here, Angela Feiner rocks a silk mesh choker by Vera Wang.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Judie Schwartz, whose Style Matters columns appear in The Colorado Statesman, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents image seminars to corporations on the importance of a business casual wardrobe and entertains conventioneers with talks on how to look great on a budget. She is also a wardrobe consultant. Schwartz has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets. She can be reached at stylematters@coloradostatesman.com
or www.stylematters.us