Celebrating the holidays in Paris with a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent & Christian Dior exhibitions

Driving all the way from Monaco to the City of Lights

We packed our car and left Monaco Friday morning on December 22, 2017, heading for Beaune in the heart of Burgundy. More than 6 hours later we arrived to Hostellerie Le Cedre, got installed in our beautiful and comfortable room, and immediately went out for a stroll in the charming village of Beaune. We bought some excellent bottles of wine from our friend Johan Björklund who owns L’Hotel de Beaune (that unfortunately was closed during the holiday season), the Bistro and the Wine shop, of course. Back at our hotel we had drinks by the fire followed by a delicious gourmet dinner at their Michelin recommended restaurant Le Clos du Cedre.

Early next morning we were on our way to the City of Lights, arriving around midday to the apartment we rented on rue de Belgrade on the 7th arrondissement, with a view of the Eiffel Tower. (Photo insert: The Eiffel Tower on our arrival to Paris @CelinaLafuentedeLavotha)

We love the location for many reasons, but especially because we have a great boulangerie nearby and is just a few blocks from Rue Cler, the most famous market street in Paris! There you find a selection of fresh produce, specialty food stores, patisseries, butchers, delicatessens, cheese specialists, fishmongers, greengrocers, flower shops and cafes. For the main shopping we went to the Grande Epicerie de Paris, but there were so many people at this time of the year that we went only once, preferring a daily visit to Rue Cler.

This legendary street is pedestrian and still has its original cobblestones. It is where the locals go to buy their favorite foods, stroll or hang out on a café terrace to watch the world go by. My husband who loves to cook believes that when in Paris staying near rue Cler is an absolute must!

I decorated the apartment for Christmas while my husband prepared delicious meals, but we also went for lunch to L’Esplanade near Pont Alexandre, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and to Café Flore and Les Deux Magots for tea and the typical Croque Monsieur. On Christmas Day we had lunch at Ralph’s and visited their boutique of course. That same evening we went to a very heartwarming Vivaldi Concert at La Madeleine with the orchestra of Les Violons de France. It was sublime!

We welcomed the New Year in style with a black-tie dinner at the sumptuous apartment of friends of friends on the Quai de Louvre overlooking the Seine River. Our hosts were lovely and dinner delicious! On New Year’s Day we met dear friends at the legendary Brasserie Lip, so Parisian! The rest of the time we walked around Paris, with an umbrella because it was raining on and off with sunny spells!

The highlight of our trip was the chance to visit two important couture exhibitions and the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Paris is couture and couture is Paris

Thanks to the help from a very influential art connoisseur from the Principality we were invited to the two main couture exhibitions in Paris: Yves-Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. We not only avoided the very long lines, but had the privilege of being treated to a private visit!

An intimate glimpse into YSL’s fantastic universe

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is on 5 Avenue Marceau in the 16th, where YSL blossoming business moved on July 14, 1974, a magnificent Napoleon III-style mansion (“hotel particulier” in French). The haute couture house that had over two hundred people working on a daily basis, closed in October 2002 and became the Fondation Pierre Berge – Yves Saint Laurent, recognized of public interest later that year. Its main mission is to conserve and promote Saint Laurent’s legacy of thousands of designs and the many records related to their creation, celebrating the creative mind of one of the greatest fashion designers of the 20th century.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge had an unique relationship and together they created and ran a high fashion house making into an empire. It was Saint Laurent who described their couple as “that great eagle with two heads who navigated the seas, transcended boundaries, and invaded the world with its unparalleled scope, that was us.” They also gathered one of the world’s most important private art collections, auctioned off by Berge in the “sale of the century” in 2009 at the Grand Palais, in Paris. (Photo insert: Portraits of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge @YSL archives)

The exhibition starts on the ground floor housing the Haute Couture salons where the designer welcomed his clients for private appointments after the introduction of each collection, with each client assigned a personal sales attendant to oversee the fittings before the final tailor-made attire was finalized. Fashion shows were also held here, but in 1976 were moved to the Inter-Continental Hotel where they became fantastic spectacles with music.

The first section of the exhibition gathers the designs that became YSL’s signature style, each one appropriated from menswear adapted and adjusted to the feminine figure, combining clean lines and elegance. YSL created these pieces in 1970 coinciding with the women’s liberation campaign.

The exposition continues with the history of a collection, season after season, with countless of sketches the designer made that were later transferred to his ateliers together with the fabric swatches, classified according to specific type: suite, dress, or coat. A collection consisted of approximately one hundred designs with accessories, reflecting the artist’s inspiration, mood, and era.

YSL collaborated with highly skilled artisans such as weavers, dyers, printers, embroiderers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, with creations that needed hundreds of hours of work that resulted in unique masterpieces. (Photo insert: Heart by YSL (the heart became his symbol) @CelinaLafuentedeLavotha)

YSL’s Studio was central to the mansion, as a contrast with the magnificent salons, bright, quiet, neutral space with a mirrored wall, was the perfect environment for him to create. In the bookshelves you find the publications that were his source of inspiration, and the mirrored wall allowed him to study the model’s reflection from all angles.

Christian Dior and his timeless legacy

Le Musee d’Arts Décoratifs in Paris, on Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Christian Dior design house, with a complex, extraordinary and intense exhibition costing over 10 million Euros. The exhibition was conceived by Les Arts Décoratifs and realized with the support of the Maison Christian Dior, and the generous sponsorship of Swarovski.

The last retrospective dedicated to the designer took place in 1987 at the same museum, focusing on ten years of the couturier’s designs (1947-1957). This objective of this new and amazing exhibition was to invite the visitors to discover the world of his founder and those who superseded him keeping his legacy alive: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galiano, Raf Simons and recently Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Dior was a leading figure in the world in the 20th century fashion when he launched his New Look spring/summer collection in 1947, changing the direction of the feminine shape, leaving in the past the masculine silhouette of the war years, by bringing flowing curves and the bearing of a classical ballet dancer. Dior said: “My prime inspiration is the shape of the female body.” Dior’s were loyal to his desire to “make women happier and more beautiful,” perpetuating his legacy and spirit, enhancing harmony of elegance, splendor and simplicity.

The selection of more than 300 magnificent haute couture robes, created from 1947 to the present, connect with emotions, stories and inspirations. Standing alongside there are workshop paintings, fashion photographs, and hundreds of illustrations, sketches, letters, manuscripts, plus fashion objects such as hats, jewels, bags, perfume flacons. Christian Dior was a passionate of art and loved museums, so that his creations blend in with the paintings, furniture and art objects. One of the exhibition guides told me off the record that exclusive private parties were organized during the exhibition with VIP’s and celebrities wearing fabulous Christian Dior creations.

The Christian Dior exhibition run from July 5, 2017 till January 7, 2018 and it was indeed a privilege to have been able to visit it, as it was truly spectacular, a memorable experience.

Louis Vuitton Foundation an architectural marvel

We also visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation that this time around was showcasing a selection of 200 works tracing MoMA’s collection history. It was really interesting, but I have to confess that every time we are in Paris with visit the LV Foundation especially for its architectural design, so the photos I show will center on this architectural marvel. The photos speak by themselves.

Today’s Quotes

“In order to live and survive, every man has to have what Nietzsche called aesthetic phantoms.” Yves Saint Laurent

“Deep in every heart slumbers a dream, and the couturier knows it: every woman is a princess.” Chistian Dior

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