YSL and the Proust questionnaire

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

"I create dresses and I sleep." (Photo: 1969)

One of the most moving rooms from the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Petit Palais was the Imaginary Studio. It was a dark room displaying 4 gorgeous dresses Yves Saint Laurent had designed for the bal Proust given by the Rothschilds in 1971. The dresses were donated by Jane Birkin, Hélène Rochas, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and Nan Kempner. My favourite was without a doubt the one worn by Jane Birkin. The intricate lace details and the overall flow of the dress make it almost surreal, as if it were floating on the mannequin.

The beatiful dresses however were not the cause of the special atmosphere inside this room. Emotions flowed as soon as you started to hear out of nowhere Yves Saint Laurent's voice answering an interview known as the Proust questionnaire* at the beginning of his carrier. Hearing his voice in this tiny, dark room, amongst his creations transformed the simple space into a sanctuary. It created a spiritual connection between the public and the artist.

"- Which is your main character trait?
- Will.

- Your main fault?
- Timidity.

- Your favourite quality in a man?
- Indulgence.

- And in a woman?
- The same thing.

- Your favourite historical figure?
- Mademoiselle Chanel.

- Your heroes in real life?
- The persons I admire.

- If not yourself, who would you be?
- A beatnik.**

- Your idea of earthly happiness?
- Sleeping with the persons I love.

- Your idea of the height of misery?
- Loneliness.

- Where would you like to live?
- In the sunshine, at the seaside.

- Which natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
- Physical force.

- For what fault have you most toleration?
- Treachery.

- Your favourite painter?
- Picasso.

- Your favourite composer?
- Bach and the XIXth century opera musicians.

- And what authors besides Proust?
- I love Proust so much, that it's very difficult for me to place him amongst other writers.

- Your favourite colour?
- Black.

- What do you hate the most?
- The snobbery money brings.

- What would you like to do with your life right now?
- What I would like to do? I would like to go away, go away for a long time, without doing anything, forgetting everything and then coming back to see if I still want to make dresses."

Here is a small fragment of the interview, unfortunately I couldn't find a better video. If you ignore the music, you can still listen to him talk.

* it's a questionnaire about someone's personality, that was made famous because of the answers of Marcel Proust.
** a media stereotype of the 50s and 60s, depicting a person who was part of the Beat generation. You can find more online about this movement here on Wikipedia.

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