There are few relationships between designer and muse as enduring and sincere as the partnership of Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent. The pair collaborated on movies and forged a lifelong friendship in real life. Now, the actress is auctioning nearly 300 pieces from her haute-couture wardrobe, including many important garments created for her by the designer. Half will be sold at a live auction at Christie’s Paris on Thursday January 24, and the remainder will appear in an online auction from January 23 to 30.
Deneuve was just 20 years old when the pair met. “In 1965, I was invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II, and my husband David Bailey, the fashion photographer, suggested that I ask Yves Saint Laurent for an evening dress,” the actress says. Saint Laurent made a dramatic white crepe dress with a swathe of scarlet beaded across the top. Their friendship began in earnest, and the designer would go on to shape Deneuve’s look, while creating costumes for many of her films, including Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967), La Sirène du Mississipi (François Truffaut, 1969) and The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983).
Many pieces in the Christie’s sale appeared at glittering events and premieres, including a shimmering pearl-fringed cocktail dress (€3,000-€4,000) from 1969, worn by Deneuve when she met Alfred Hitchcock and later exhibited in the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective in 1993 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A draped gold Lurex velvet gown (€2,000-€3,000) was worn to the Oscars in 2000 when Régis Wargnier’s epic Est-Ouest was nominated in the foreign language film category, while a similar gold draped leopard silk-velvet dress from the winter 1992 collection has a guide price of just €1,000-€1,500. Deneuve has the presence to carry off Saint Laurent’s dazzling colour palettes – and an evening suit (€1,000-€1,500) in magenta and red that was worn to the Golden Globes in 1993, when Indochine won best foreign language film, is typical of the designer’s love of bold, clashing colour.
The collection also includes pieces that are emblematic of the house – such as trench coats and several Le Smoking haute-couture suits: one features a sequinned top worn by Deneuve to a celebration at the Lido in Paris and has a guide price of just €1,000 to €1,500. “He is the most important designer,” Deneuve told The Washington Post in 1983. “You can see his influence everywhere. His daytime clothes are perfect for women who work... I feel they protect me; they are like armour. His evening clothes are totally different – they are intimate, seductive.”
For fans of Saint Laurent or Deneuve, the auction represents a rare opportunity to acquire haute couture with provenance. But for the actress, the event – prompted by the sale of her Normandy house – is bitter-sweet. “It’s a decision not without a certain sadness. These are the creations of an incredibly talented man who designed clothes to beautify women.”