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Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent

23 – 24 FEB 2013

Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL

17 Queensberry Place
London SW7 2DT

Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent’s long lasting partnership started when they worked together for Luis Buñuel’s film Belle de Jour in 1966, where he dressed her stylishly for misspent afternoons. The relationship lasted until the death of the designer in 2008 and included several films such as La Sirène du Mississipi (François Truffaut, 1969), La Chamade (Alain Cavalier, 1968), Liza (Marco Ferreri, 1972) and The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983).

Catherine Deneuve’s acting career spans more than fifty years and well over a hundred films, with an impeccable reputation for her understated acting and her choice of unconventional, auteurist filmmakers. While her acting career is key to her status as a star, it is her association with fashion, and especially haute couture, which makes her a specifically French fashion icon. As such, her image embodies what is considered the essence of femininity, exquisite sophistication and elegance, something that has been reinforced by her advertising campaigns for both Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Her special relationship with Saint Laurent and mutual admiration gave way to a particular muse-artist partnership that would go on for over thirty years and which is reflected in the on and off screen clothes he designed for her. This relationship confers her a special position within the fashion sphere.

Considered a genius and an artist rather than a mere designer, Yves Saint Laurent first wanted to create theatrical costumes after seeing in his native Oran a Molière play designed by Christian Bérard. The fact of being hired by Christian Dior after winning a fashion competition (together with Karl Lagerfeld) aged only 18 changed his future and paved the way to him becoming one of the most significant fashion revolutionaries. If Chanel liberated women, Saint Laurent gave them power by providing them with clothes inspired in the male wardrobe, characterised by comfort and confidence (tuxedos, reefer and safari jackets, trousers, sport and trench coats) acknowledging the active role of the modern woman in society and not as a mere object of admiration. Haute couture had offered until his arrival perfect, “frozen” looks. He gave them motion. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for which Chanel said he was her only worthy successor.

This event examined the careers of both actress and designer and the work that they created together on screen.

Seminar in three parts with tea break and Q&A exploring the muse-artist relationship between actress Catherine Deneuve and fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

This talk by María Luisa Funes concentrated on what Saint Laurent has meant in fashion and the radical changes he introduced.

Dr. Sue Harris examined the construction of Deneuve’s film star status, the role of fashion in it and her association with French femininity and glamour.

Prof. Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson explored Saint Laurent’s costumes for Deneuve in films such as Buñuel’s Belle de Jour.


María Luisa Funes is a fashion and luxury industry specialist: Worldwide Retail Manager at MiuMiu and other managerial positions at Gucci and Louis Vuitton. She holds an MBA from Group HEC Paris, an Anthropology Studies Thesis from Harvard and an Economics B.A. from U.C.L.A. She has published a book and numerous articles on fashion and history and is now C.E.O. of Montespiga editors and Editor in Chief of Esplendido, a Spanish luxury lifestyle magazine.

Dr. Sue Harris is Reader in French Cinema Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. Specialising in French cinema and theatre studies, she has published several articles for journals and book chapters and her books include From Perversion to Purity: The Stardom of Catherine Deneuve and France in Focus: Film and National Identity.

Prof. Stella Bruzzi is Professor in the Department of Film and Television Studies at University of Warwick. She has written extensively on gender and identity, fashion and costume and her books include Fashion Cultures (co-edited with Pamela Church Gibson) and Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies.

Pamela Church Gibson runs an MA in Film & Fashion at London College of Fashion. She has published extensively on film, fashion, history and heritage. Anthologies include The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, Fashion Cultures and More Dirty Looks, etc. She recently published the book Fashion & Celebrity Culture and is now working on the artist-as-celebrity. She is the editor of the journal Film, Fashion & Consumption and the Chair of the European Popular Culture Association.


Mississipi Mermaid

dir: François Truffaut
with Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo

France/Italy | 1969 | 123 min | col | cert. 12
In French with English subtitles

Louis and Julie make contact through small-ads in the newspaper, both seeking a relationship and, hopefully, love. Julie joins Louis in Reunion and they marry. Soon afterwards Julie disappears with nearly all his money… Her real name is Marion and Julie was killed on her way to the island. Truffaut’s film is an exploration of love: on Louis’ side it is pure and absolute, on Marion’s provisional and calculated until she crumbles in the face of his unswerving and unselfish passion. Deneuve’s clothes were designed for her by Saint Laurent producing the image of a sensuous woman of refined and expensive taste.



dir: Tony Scott
with Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon

UK | 1983 | 97 min | col | cert. 18 | In English

Miriam and John are a couple living in Manhattan who keep their youth and longevity thanks to the blood they take from others. When John loses his youth and energy, Miriam seduces Sarah, a researcher on the ageing process, in a superb and elegant scene. The directorial début of Ridley Scott’s younger brother is a vampire film against all stereotypes with beautiful and dream-like cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt and a sublime score by Michel Rubini and Denny Jaeger. Set in sumptuous surroundings, the film shows Deneuve exquisitely dressed by Saint Laurent and embodying timeless elegance and ambiguity as well as Old World sophistication and decadence against Sarandon’s Sarah, who offers a fresher and troubled New World spontaneity.


Ciné Lumière screened Belle de Jour, the film in which Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent worked together for the first time, followed by a Ciné Salon, an informal discussion with film writer Nick Walter.


dir: Luis Buñuel
with Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page

France/Italy | 1967 | 101 min | col | cert. 18
In French with English subtitles

Buñuel’s film about the misspent afternoons of a Parisian bourgeoise with masochistic inclinations marked the beginning of the long-standing collaboration between Yves Saint Laurent and Catherine Deneuve. Saint Laurent’s clothes for Deneuve’s Séverine are sophisticated but also ambiguous, denoting coolness and containment through their simple and elegant lines and their just-above-the-knee length, but also provoking with their extreme femininity.


Victoria and Albert Museum
Institut français

In media partnership with:

Vanity Fair
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