For the first retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent's work to be held in the UK, many would expect one of London's revered institutions to play host, however it is the lesser-known Bowes Museum in County Durham that has the honour of hosting Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal. Perhaps not so incongruous, the museum is in fact an 18th century French-style chateau - surely the perfect home for fashion's most Proustian of designers.
A walk of fame for Saint Laurent's greatest hits - from the wool crepe Mondrian dress, and Braque-inspired beaded jackets, to the Le Smoking tuxedo - the retrospective places Saint Laurent's work amongst the Bowes' own fashion collection dating back to Saint Laurent's beloved Second Empire. So, a searingly saucy black dress with a lace window in the back (autumn/winter 1970) appears next to pieces of 19th century Chantilly lace and a lace-trimmed gown belonging to the Empress Eugenie.
Contextualising the work of one of the 20th century's greatest fashion designers, the pleasure is seeing, in the flesh, pieces that have starred in fashion's most famous photographs, worn by the world's most beautiful women at the most fabulous parties. Who knew that the criss-cross laced Saharienne dress - worn so sensationally by Veruschka, rifle over shoulder - was designed to such devilish detail with metal points at the end of the laces engraved with tiny vine leaves? As sensational as the explosions of Zizi Jeanmaire-inspired marabou also on display in full force.
Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal is on at The Bowes Museum, County Durham from July 11 to October 25. For more information click here.
A view of one of the exhibition themes, 'Art' including the iconic Mondrian dress from the haute couture collection, fall-winter 1965. Courtesy Bowes Museum.
Art & its influences on Yves Saint Laurent's designs - one of the themes in the exhibition. Courtesy Bowes Museum.
Haute couture including the 'Zephirine dress' (far right) designed by Yves Saint Laurent when working for Dior in 1958. Courtesy Bowes Museum.