Late 90s/early 2000s campaigns are somewhat of a weak spot of mine, perhaps because they were the images that informed the visual world from which my budding interest in fashion was born as a child. In the late 90s, as Saint Laurent’s health was waning, Guy Laroche designer Alber Elbaz took over as creative director of YSL’s pret- â-porter collections from 1998-2000. During this brief period, Elbaz created what might be my favorite campaign by the brand for the spring/summer 1999 collection. For spring/summer 1999, Elbaz and photographer Mario Sorrenti recreated famous paintings from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment through the YSL lens with models Noot Seear and Kate Moss.
What makes these images especially captivating is the way Elbaz and Sorrenti have played with the gender roles at play in the original paintings. Manet’s famous work Déjuner sur l’herbe originally features two well-dressed men having a picnic with two women in varying states of undress. The whole thing is rather salacious and begs many questions about the nature of their picnic. In the YSL interpretation, the formal arrangement remains the same but the states of dress are reversed––Kate Moss wears a pinstripe suit while the two men are reclined on the blanket and fully nude. In Hippolyte Flandrin’s original painting Jeune homme nu assis au bord de la mer, the young man sits alone on a seaside rock––the insertion of Noot Seear at his back in the 1999 campaign invites new questions about the source of his supposed malaise. The murky and crepuscular art direction that is so quintessentially 90s sets an especially moody tone to the campaign which creates a cohesive collection of images out of these vastly different original works. Yves Saint Laurent’s thoughtful interpretations demand new questions be asked of them in a modern context, breathing new life into these bastions of art history.
(L) Leonardo Da Vinci "Mona Lisa" 1503-1506. (R) Noot Seear for YSL S/S 1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Diego Velasquez "Vénus à son miroir" 1647-51. (R) Noot Seear for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Edouard Manet "Dejeuner sur l'herbe" 1862. (R) Kate Moss for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorenti.
(L) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres "La baigneuse de Valpincon" 1808. (R) YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet "Le sommeil" 1866. (R) Noot Seear for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Hippolyte Flandrin "Jeune homme nu assis au bord de la mer" 1836. (R) Noot Seear for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Edouard Manet "Olympia" 1863. (R) YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) Georges de la Tour "Magdalen with the Smoking Flame" 1640. (R) Noot Seear for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.
(L) School of Fountainebleau "Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters" 1594. (R) Kate Moss for YSL S/S1999 by Mario Sorrenti.