The Yves Saint Laurent exhibition currently on view at Le Petit Palais in Paris could be straight out of the Vatican. The show pays solemn homage to the late master, filling gilded salons with a vast selection from his couture archive, displayed in saintly veneration next to Rembrandts and the remains of kings. The phrase “holy relics” comes to mind; perhaps this is why Marie-Dominique Lelièvre’s new biography, aptly titled Saint Laurent: Mauvais Garçon, is causing a sensation, scandalizing the typically unfazed French with allegations amounting to near sacrilege. She not only scoffs at the idea of couture as art, demoting the master to a mere dressmaker, but goes on to paint a portrait of a young Yves corrupted, Caligula-style, by the fashion system.
Of course, anyone familiar with fashion in the seventies will hardly raise an eyebrow at Lelièvre’s tally of Yves’ addictions, which allegedly included “opium, cocaine, heroin, hashish and Coca-Cola.” Ok, Coca-Cola might be kind of weird, but only because of the calories. Perhaps more scintillating are a series of juicy and graphic revelations about his sex life, which apparently ran toward the exotic. In no particular order, there were public street encounters with young Arabs (it was the 70s, we remind you), trysts with Lagerfeld’s ex and elaborate scenarios rivaling Fellini’s Roman orgies. This is causing near riots at otherwise snoozy book readings and heated public debates on television. Gotta love the French!