It is said that behind every great man there stands a (great) woman, and in the world of fashion, such an aphorism no doubt rings true. The relationship between designer and muse is as complicated – and controversial – as it is crucial, and the history of the industry is paved with famous and fruitful friendships. Yves Saint Laurent for one, shy and diffident man though he was, counted quite a number of creative companions within his circle. But none more compelling than Betty Catroux. A source of inspiration to the couturier for more than 40 years, the enigmatic and impossibly cool style icon is now the focus of a much-anticipated exhibition at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, Betty Catroux: Feminine Singular.
With her platinum blonde tresses, lanky frame, and androgynous allure, Catroux caught the eye of Yves Saint Laurent one night in New Jimmy’s and the rest, as they say, is history. The duo remained inseparable over the next four decades until Saint Laurent’s death in 2008. The designer referred to his muse as his “female double” and his “twin sister”, and called her “perfect in [his] clothes”. Catroux wasn’t just Saint Laurent’s muse, either. Tom Ford dedicated his debut YSL Rive Gauche collection to her, while Hedi Slimane created the Betty bag after her, and Anthony Vaccarello chose her to star in the Fall 2018 campaign.
“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 upcoming show will draw on Catroux’s personal collection of hundreds of haute couture looks (including many runway prototypes), ready-to-wear pieces, and accessories, which the model generously donated to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent. Approximately 50 of those designs have been handpicked by Vaccarello to reflect her personality and her continued influence on the maison’s signature style, from safari jackets and trench coats to jumpsuits and the game-changing Le Smoking. The exhibition will also feature personal photos and original documents, along with photographs by Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Steven Meisel, and Jeanloup Sieff.
Betty Catroux: Feminine Singular will open at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris on March 3 2020 and will run to October 11 2020