On February 6th, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology opened its door s to an exhibition dedicated to the 70’s by works inspired by the innovators and icons of fashion.
From films to books; being adored and loved acquainted by the evil eye, tabloid spreads fuelled by the press. This is marks the first time showcasing the works Halston and Yves Saint Laurent.
The exhibition titled “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70’s”, should come as no surprise with the era’s free & fruitful nature and style overruling the runways since the spring summer 2014/2015 fashion week season.
It was deputy director of the Museum at FIT; Patricia Mears and the assistant curator Emma McClendon who pointed out the significance and timeline difference between the two. With each of the designers’ timeline highlighting both Halston’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s achievements and accomplishments and fall from grace from the late 1950’s through till 1984.
On the walls hang rare photographs of Halston in his first showroom, to the opposite end which sees Saint Laurent strolling the streets of Paris shot by Jean-Luce Hure. What makes both designers admirable, is their drive and ambition in their work ethic; being regarded as men often possessed.
Halston’s’ determination and preferred taste for rendering a sense of exclusiveness lay in the fact of him only wanting his clothes to be adorned by women of status, the socialites and Middle America. With every such dramatic action, came an equal and ‘disastrous’ reaction in the form Halston losing his unique and exclusive charm on the rails at Bergdorf Goodman with the Halston Limited line to the designer’s name appearing on J.C Penny dresses. With 1984 marking what can be considered the end of the designer’s career; through legal contracts negotiated by Norton Simon, the designer was barred from contact with design and product, including that no product should bear his name. Some have said that the designer himself spread himself too thin and too much of a perfectionist, not delegating tasks and struggling to keep up with demands.
With 1984 marking the fall of one designer, it also marked an unexpected phenomenon for Saint Laurent. The metropolitan museum of art had presented the designer with his own retrospective, which was curated by Diana Vreeland; this was the first of its kind, as no other designer at the time could claim such an honour.
What people should take note of, according to Mears; is seeing that Halston’s’ clothing revealed what a great technical dressmaker he was, crafting garments of quality that held a visual simplicity. These items were able to look beautiful on any body type. They were easy to wear items, enabling women to dress themselves.
With Saint Laurent’s work mimicking the easy to wear look and style, it was rather misleading. However the similarity of these designers came in the form of silhouettes that were used, also lead to the idea and concept behind the materials that were used. “Just the idea that they were using the same sort of materials and sort of concept… we think they were trying to find the vocabulary, which eventually comes out in their hallmark styles. But in the early years of the seventies – the late sixties and early seventies – they’re still looking for it, so a lot of the time you really have trouble distinguishing who did what.”
Something more evident in Saint Laurent and his ready-to-wear as pointed out by McClendon; “He was looking at Rive Gauche as the laboratory where he could experiment with potential controversial or un-couture influences like exoticism and menswear and historical revival. Then it would go up to his couture.
At the time of course, an idea that played well in the ready-to-wear field was bound for success in the couture lines. This came about with the concept of menswear revival, with separates being important for Rive Gauche, the approach was rooted from a males’ way of dressing – it was in essence that one would be able to combine different suit tops and bottoms. By coordinating these pieces accurately one would be able to build a wardrobe around Yves Saint Laurent, creating new style and adding to some uniformity in the design.
With similarities there are the evident differences, with Halston trusting in creating pieces that featured a timeless element, whereas with Saint Laurent some pieces could take to a more dated look.
From the exhibit you can expect the portrayal of Russian fantasies and Elizabethan ideals from Saint Laurent – striking but did stand the test of time. With also introducing a minimalistic aspect in the form of sweaters sets and skirts, as well as minimal day looks.
The Chinoiserie garments are the perfect example of minimalism styles from Saint Laurent, which the 1977 collection featured two dark evening ensembles in printed silk. From Rive Gauche however stands a fuchsia skirt and coat – these can be said to be early experimental ideas in ready-to-wear before they were taken to couture.
There is much to learn and explore within the exhibition, consuming soft, delicate silks from Saint Laurent and flowy chiffons from Halston – it’s a cleaner and what can be said to be more sophisticated approach to the 70’s. Fashion went from girdle classes for women in the sixties to a ‘freedom of the body’ in the seventies.