‘Filming Fashion: Fashion and Film’ Symposium

The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture in partnership with the Bowes Museum organised a one-day Symposium on Fashion and Film, on Saturday 24th October.

The Symposium was organised in relation to the Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition, which was created in collaboration with the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.

This has been the first retrospective exhibition in the UK to present a display of the French fashion designer’s work and life. The exhibition offers an insight into the designer’s vision, his passion and unique sense of style, as well as shows the significant influence his work has had on fashion.

The ‘Filming Fashion: Fashion and Film‘ Symposium welcomed an eclectic selection of academics and postgraduate researchers whose work explores Yves Saint Laurent’s creations, the relationship between fashion and film, couture, costume design and fashion photography among other topics.

The symposium opened with key note speaker Stella Bruzzi’s (University of Warwick) paper on the collaboration between Yves-Saint Laurent and French actress Catherine Deneuve, drawing on examples from the films Belle de Jour (1967) and La Sirène du Mississipi (1969), while discussing the different ways of seeing costume and the performative relationship between clothes and the female body in movement. The keynote was chaired by Jo Fox (CVAC, Durham University).

The keynote was followed by a roundtable discussion ‘Fashion and Film’ including provocations by postgraduate researchers Alexis Romano (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Jo Stephenson (Queen Mary University of London), and NJ Stevenson (London College of Fashion), and was chaired by Caroline Evans (University of Arts, London).

Second keynote speaker Allistair O’Neill (University of the Arts, London) explored the cinematic world of Yves Saint Laurent, and in particular the interplay between reality and the realm of imagination, referring to iconic fashion photographs such as ‘Dovima with Elephants’ (1955), and the ‘Opium’ and ‘Belle Helaine’ perfume advertisements, as well as exploring the ‘private world’ promised by Yves Saint Laurent, and the notion of ‘gift’. The keynote was chaired by assistant curator Hannah Jackson (Fashion & Textiles, Bowes Museum).

The second roundtable discussion ‘Fashion and Film: New Directions’ addressed the changing nature of celebrity culture and the interrelationship between fashion and lifestyle, including provocations by Cheryl Buckley (University of Brighton), Pamela Church Gibson (London College of Fashion) and Tamar Jeffers McDonald (University of Kent), and was chaired by Janet Stewart (CVAC, Durham University).

The presentations were followed by a private screening of the French biographic film Yves Saint Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert (2014), offering an honest look at the life of designer Yves Saint Laurent from the beginning of his extraordinary career in 1958 and his relationship with his lover and business partner, Pierre Bergé.

The day concluded with a private tour of the exhibition Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, presenting a collection of fifty garments and accessories, including iconic dresses from the Russian Collection and the Mondrian Dress.

The exhibition unfolds across three different spaces, inhabiting most of the museum’s first floor, opening up a dialogue with The Bowes Museum’s existing collection, hence allowing a narrative exploration of the history of fashion.

The exhibition showcases the diverse influences of Yves Saint Laurent and his evolving creative style throughout his career as he experiments with different materials, colour palettes, designs and notions of transparency, simplicity, and the masculine/feminine.

“Fashion fades, style is eternal” Yves Saint Laurent once said, and this exhibition succeeds in communicating his eternal style and unique vision, experienced through each signature piece.

Nelli Stavropoulou October 2015

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