“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent – Feminine Singular

Posted by 



PRESS RELEASE: February, 2020

This March the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris devotes a special exhibition to Betty Catroux, fashion icon and Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘female double.’ The pieces displayed at the exhibition come from a major donation Betty Catroux has made to the Fondation Pierre Bergé.

I visited the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris for the first time in the summer of 2018. It opened its doors in 2017 in a three-storey Napoleon III-style mansion at 5 Avenue Marceau, the former couture house of Yves Saint Laurent (from 1974). After he announced his intention to close the haute couture house on 7 January 2002 it became the seat of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent following an extensive renovation.

The beautiful setting offers an ever-changing rotation of retrospective displays and temporary thematic exhibitions from the Fondation’s rich and unique collection. From 3 March until 11 October 2020 the museum dedicates a special exhibition to Betty Catroux, fashion icon and Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘female double.’ The pieces displayed at the exhibition come from a major donation Betty Catroux has made to the Fondation. Her personal collection consists of 180 haute couture pieces, runway prototypes and also items that Yves Saint Laurent designed for his ready-to-wear line Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche as well as a collection of accessories.

Betty Catroux – the muse

Yves Saint Laurent was famous for many things including for his iconic ‘fashion squad’ – her muses. This very exclusive circle included for example Louise de La Falaise (the ‘haute bohémienne’ muse of the House), Iman (the great Somali-American fashion model), the legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve or Betty Catroux. Born as Betty Saint in 1945, the first employer of the model and fashion icon was Coco Chanel. Betty has been photographed by major artists, such as Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Steven Meisel and Jeanloup Sieff. She met Yves Saint Laurent in 1967 and became quickly not only his muse but also his ‘twin’. Their appearance, their style, their life philosophy were so similar that the couturier called her his ‘female double.’

Although she never worked for him, she embodied Yves’ feminine ideal and the androgynous woman better than anyone else.

Even today – in 2018, the now Saint Laurent house invited her to its fall campaign by David Sims.

The exhibition

Approximately fifty designs will show the extent to which Betty Catroux embodied Yves Saint Laurent’s physical ideal and an attitude echoing the ‘masculine feminine style’ that he was developing when they first met at the nightclub The New Jimmy’s.

The exhibition will also recount the full history of the signature ‘Saint Laurent style,’ which gained prominence in the 1960s and which the couturier would continue to explore until the haute couture house closed in 2002. The safari jacket, the jumpsuit, the trench coat, the pantsuit, and the tuxedo show how Yves Saint Laurent borrowed from the male wardrobe and adapted it for the female body. These archetypes are also intrinsically linked to the figure of Betty Catroux.

Anthony Vaccarello as guest curator

Vaccarello is an Italian-Belgian fashion designer and has been the creative director at Saint Laurent since 2016. The Museum asked him to be the guest curator of the exhibition. He approached the pieces donated by Betty from an aesthetic perspective by selecting the clothes that best reveal her unique personality and ongoing influence on the label’s signature style.

As he describes – ‘She lives and breathes Saint Laurent. An allure, a mystery, an almost nefarious aspect, an elusive yet desirable nature, all that underlies the house’s aura, and you understand the magnitude of it when you meet Betty.’
The exhibition opening next week will be on until 11 October 2020.

Photo credit: Saint Laurent, Steven Meisel, David Sims, Droits Réservés
All registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.
All rights reserved.