Not since the Democratic National Convention has so much national and international attention focused on Denver. But this time, it wasn’t politicos descending on the Mile High City — it was fashionistas, art aficionados, and a chatty group of sophisticated French fashion-lovers all here to see the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective. What a coup! What a “get!” Denver is the only city in the United States that will host this exhibit. As the promotional material brags: Paris, Madrid, Denver. Denver? Snagging one of the great fashion exhibits of the 20th century by one of the top designers perhaps of all time? Mon Dieu! How did that happen?
Several theories abound. You can go with the one offered by Pierre Bergé, longtime business and life partner of Yves Saint Laurent and founder of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. When asked “Why Denver?” he responded with Gallic savoir faire: “Why not Denver!” Trés charmant but perhaps a bit ingenuous. The unique design of the new Hamilton wing and Denver residents’ love of art were also mentioned.
I prefer the overheard: whisperings of phone calls made by elegant Denver Art Museum director Christophe Heinrich and behind-the-scenes activities of bold-faced Denver power brokers such as Hamilton and Anschutz.
However it happened, we got it, and from March 25-July 8, 2012, residents and visitors alike will be treated to one of the most spectacular fashion exhibits ever seen in the United States. Combining photographs, drawings, films and other multimedia elements with a selection of 200 haute couture outfits in mint condition, the exhibition creates an environment for visitors to see firsthand the development of Saint Laurent’s style and the historical foundations of his work. Organized thematically, the exhibit explores Saint Laurent’s career from his first days with legendary designer Christian Dior in 1958 through the splendor of his final runway collection in 2002.
The night before the exhibit opening, the DAM hosted a red carpet gala that attracted more than 700 of Denver’s glitterati. Black was the order of the day, most appropriate as YSL loved black and little black dresses. Many dusted off their YSL, Dior, Prada and any designer dressy accessories they could find and posed happily on the red carpet.
Cathey McClain Finlon, president of the Denver Art Museum, regal in her YSL choker necklace, one of only 132 made out of a total of 152 in the 1970’s, surveyed the crowd with great satisfaction. Along with kudos for this spectacular exhibit, McClain Finlon raved about its economic impact on the city. “We will sell thousands of packages to people all over the world,” she bragged.
Gala political attendance included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, French consulate David Martinon, French Ambassador Francois Delattre, Canadian Consul General Ladan Amirazizi, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany Bernhard Jürgen Bleise, Mexican Consulate General Andres Chao and his wife Mrs. Begoña Chao, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Denver City Council members Judy Montero, Mary Beth Susman and Peggy Lehmann, Jack Finlaw from the Governor’s office, the Honorary consul of France Jeffery Richards and Belgium’s Honorary Consul for Colorado Frank Schuchat.
Judie Schwartz, whose Style Matters columns appear in The Colorado Statesman, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents image seminars to corporations on the importance of a business casual wardrobe and entertains conventioneers with talks on how to look great on a budget. She is also a wardrobe consultant. Schwartz has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org