Yves Saint Laurent's 1951 set design for Henri Sauguet's ballet "Les Forains."

PARIS — The Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris is marking the 10th anniversary of the couturier’s death with a show of drawings he made as a teenager before joining the house of Christian Dior in 1955.

The exhibition, titled “Yves Saint Laurent, the youth drawings,” will be held in the reception room at 5 Avenue Marceau, formerly home to Saint Laurent’s couture house and now the headquarters of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, from May 29 to Sept. 9. The designer passed away on June 1, 2008, at the age of 71.

The majority of the sketches have never before been exhibited in France, and focus on the designer’s formative years in his native Oran, Algeria, demonstrating how his passion for theater and illustration shaped his fashion aesthetic, said Olivier Flaviano, director of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris.

They will include images from three books produced by Saint Laurent, who created his own illustrated versions of famous works of fiction, such as Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” in addition to writing his own tomes.

Also on display will be sketches of the sets and costumes the designer produced for his miniature home theater after seeing a performance of Molière’s “The School for Wives,” featuring sets and costumes by Christian Bérard, in Oran at the age of 13.

“He was absolutely fascinated by this play, which ignited his passion for theater,” said Flaviano, explaining that Saint Laurent would invite his sisters and cousins to attend the premieres of the plays he put on using cardboard characters.

He not only designed his own stage set, but also made elaborate sketches for costumes, prefiguring his later work as a set and costume designer for plays such as Jean Cocteau’s “The Eagle with Two Heads,” in a 1978 production at the Théâtre de l’Athénée-Louis-Jouvet, as well as movies, cabaret and dance performances.

Yves Saint Laurent’s show notes for one of his collections on paper dolls.  Courtesy/Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent

Lastly, the exhibition will feature two collections created by Saint Laurent on paper dolls, which he made by cutting out the faces of famous models, such as Bettina Graziani, from fashion magazines. He went so far as to create show notes billing the fall 1953 collection under his full name, Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent.

His fictional label was located on Place Vendôme in Paris, and the designer included all manner of detail, from the hair by Carita and makeup by Elizabeth Arden down to the fabric suppliers, in a striking example of visualization.

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris welcomed 150,000 visitors between its opening in September and the end of April. It recently renewed three-quarters of the outfits in its permanent exhibition in order to prevent the clothes from getting damaged due to prolonged exposure to light and air.


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