Notes on fashion, style and culture

Monday, 6 May 2013

YSL muse auctions her 12,000 piece haute couture wardrobe

Yves Saint Laurent
Luquet in YSL
Danielle Luquet de Saint Germain – a friend, model and muse to the late Yves Saint Laurent – is auctioning her 12,000-piece haute couture wardrobe, an historic collection of creations by fashion masters such as YSL, Claude Montana, Azzedine Alaia, Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix and Francois Lesage. The auction which will take place in Paris in October and the collection is being billed as one of the world’s most significant private holdings of couture.

Danielle Luquet de Saint Germain, who was born in Lyons but has lived in Geneva since the 1970s, is credited with being the catalyst behind many of Saint Laurent's most famous looks. The eponymous ‘le smoking’ tuxedo for women, his see-through blouse and the YSL ‘la saharienne’, or safari jacket.  It is said to be Luquet’s boyish frame – a petite size 34 – which apparently first drew Saint Laurent to the model in the Sixties. As he trailblazed through his career, in 1968, even though trousers were still considered inappropriate for women, the designer decided to hijack the hunting suit, a virile garment, to turn it into an urban classic of the feminine dress code: the Safari jacket – that he created on Danielle Luquet de Saint-Germain’s back.

Their partnership began when Luquet arrived at her first casting with the designer in the 1960s, aged 19, wearing male clothes – a trenchcoat and man’s trousers – ‘One morning I arrived at the same time as Yves, dressed in a pair of pants and a men’s trench,’ Luquet recalled in an interview she gave to coincide with a retrospective dedicated to her collection at the Museum of Geneva in 2001. She recalls the designer was so intrigued, that ‘after the presentation, he asked me if I could leave him my clothes for inspiration’.

‘La Sahareinne’ style, YSL on the catwalk, Paris 2012
Luquet known during her modelling days as ‘the red-haired model’, rarely appears in public now choosing to live a more reclusive lifestyle away from the limelight. She has however,  been keeping her clothing collection in pristine condition. . According to Georges Delettrez, of the auction house who are looking after the sale, she has kept the collection in museum-like conditions on the upper floor of her home in Geneva. In her lifetime, as well as muse to Yves Saint Laurent, Luquet spent her later years as artistic director at Dior and then Claude Montana, which further allowed her to build on her impressive collection. From season to season, she collected the most beautiful creations by designers from Yves Saint-Laurent to Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler to Azzedine Alaïa. Mythic pieces from the late 60s to the 2000s, which she amassed with the greatest of care partly on an aesthetic level - through pure admiration of their beauty, but also because of what each piece bore witness to - clothes as physical documents/tangible visual articles, able to speak to us of the changing times. This is perhaps why this collection is considered so unique.
Luquet in typical masculine tailoring

Among the expected YSL pieces (including a rare black see-through chiffon dress decorated with ostrich feathers, expected to fetch over £12,500), the collection also includes prototypes by Claude Montana and Lesage embroidered pieces one of which – a satin ‘Picasso’ dress embellished with embroidery – is predicted to go for no less than £10,000, and quantities of couture jewelry and artistic headgear, one of which was crafted from sheaves of wheat to match a golden kaftan designed by Thierry Mugler in 1978.

Saint Laurent who died in 2008, once said of his muse: ‘I’ve been systematically looking for girls who resemble the girl of the moment. Danielle came from Lyon, she had done very little fashion, but I realized that her body, her gestures were typical of the woman of today. I had nothing to teach her. On the contrary, it was she who helped me get rid of all outdated references. Everything I did on her – because I always work on a model, never flat – and everything that came tumbling down, was for the better. She made me advance.’ 

Françoise Sternbach, a member of the French Union of Professional Art Experts who helped curate the auction, told Women’s Wear Daily: ‘She had a strong eye, she did not pick any pieces that were banal’. He went on to comment: ‘I know everyone will focus on the YSL pieces, which are magnificent, but I tell you there are dresses here by Claude Montana which would not have existed without her. They are one-offs, prototypes designed especially for her.’ 

Sternbach said the collection was clearly the result of a lifelong passion: ‘This is not the work of a random person, but that of a lover of fashion. What we see here is one of the most significant private collections of haute couture in the world.’

Auction house, Gros & Delettrez who have been chosen to look after the sale, will sell approximately 350 lots beginning October 14, and continue every few months until the entire collection is sold.

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