Catherine Deneuve is selling her Yves Saint Laurent wardrobe – but that look will never go away



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” was written by Jess Cartner-Morley, for The Guardian on Tuesday 15th January 2019 14.04 UTC

Paris fashion week isn’t Paris fashion week without a sighting of Catherine Deneuve. In an ever-changing cast of nubile starlets, she is always there. Wearing a black patent-leather peacoat over a black polo neck at the Saint Laurent show, a year ago. Crossing the cobblestones of the Louvre in kitten heels to enter the Louis Vuitton show last September. Five minutes before the show is due to start you will likely find her outside, having a nonchalant cigarette; after it has finished, look backstage amid the gossip and the champagne.

Catherine Deneuve at the Saint Laurent show at Paris Fashion Week in 2018.
Catherine Deneuve at the Saint Laurent show at Paris Fashion Week in 2018. Photograph: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images

Deneuve is a proper film star, which is to say that her on-screen and off-screen glamour have melded into one iconic image. Her wardrobe as a 75-year-old – trench coats, mid-height heels, a chic palette of monochrome and camel set off by the perfect shade of blond – is remarkably similar to her wardrobe in Belle de Jour, her most famous film, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday. In that film, she wears a black patent trench by Yves Saint Laurent, which is almost identical to the coat she wore to the Saint Laurent show last year.

Some icons never go out of style, and Deneuve as Séverine in Belle de Jour is a fashion lodestar. But right now, her look is more relevant than ever. When Riccardo Tisci made his Burberry debut in September 2018, the very first outfit the Italian designer proposed for this most British of labels was a primly buttoned beige shirt dress, which seemed to refer directly to this most French of movie moments.

Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, 1967.
Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, 1967. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

Versace’s pre-autumn collection, shown in New York late last year, also seemed to channel the subversive bourgeois chic of Séverine. Kaia Gerber opened that show in glossy, military-style outerwear juxtaposed with a boudoir satin skirt, head to toe in a cafe-culture palette of chestnut and coffee. (This being Versace, there was a safety pin thrown in for good measure.)

Deneuve and St Laurent in 1985.
Deneuve and St Laurent in 1985. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

Deneuve’s influence on fashion in 2019 is not limited to her Belle de Jour wardrobe. Her inimitable way with a hair ribbon spawned a modern army of It-girl copycats, who wore tongue-in-chic outsize hair bows by Miu Miu, Alessandra Rich and Emilia Wickstead throughout December’s party season. Even leopard print, which is to this decade’s fashion what the shoulder pad was to the 1980s, leads us back to Deneuve.

She has a wardrobe of leopard print coats and silk shirts to rival that of Kate Moss – and knows instinctively the truth of the mantra that when stuck as to what to wear to a fashion show, leopard will never let you down. But her look is rooted in her partnership with Yves Saint Laurent, who designed her wardrobe for Belle de Jour.

Deneuve and Saint Laurent had true fashion chemistry, on screen and in real life. Their style love story will be memorialised next week by an auction at Christie’s in Paris, during haute couture fashion week. It is “not without a certain sadness”, says Deneuve, that she is selling her wardrobe, prompted by the sale of the home in Normandy where the clothes have been stored for decades.

Effortless chic – Deneuve through the decades
Effortless chic – Deneuve in Yves Saint Lauren through the decades Composite: Getty Images & Rex Features

In 1965, a 22-year-old Deneuve was invited to meet the Queen. Unsure of what to wear, she took up the suggestion of her then-husband, David Bailey, to approach Yves Saint Laurent, a rising star in Paris fashion. Saint Laurent – not yet 30, and not yet established in his own right but working at the house of Christian Dior – made her a long white crepe de chine dress with red embroidery, which marked “the start of a long professional collaboration and personal friendship”, Deneuve said recently, recalling how “silent complicity, our crazy laughter and our melancholy” bonded her to a man who “only designed clothes to beautify women”.

Catherine Deneuve in signature leopard print
Catherine Deneuve in signature leopard print. Photograph: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

It was Deneuve who suggested to the Belle de Jour director, Luis Buñuel, that Saint Laurent should dress her for the film. The subtle erotic charge of the Saint Laurent-clad Séverine, which came to epitomise Parisian chic – and prompted the sale of 200,000 pairs of the mid-height Roger Vivier shoes that Deneuve chose for her character – are an essential element of the film’s status. When the film celebrated its 50th birthday last year, it was the house of Saint Laurent that hosted the anniversary screening. The Christie’s sale, coming hot on the heels of that anniversary, is set to fuel Deneuve-mania.

The metallic gold, velvet-draped evening gown, which Deneuve wore at the 2000 Oscars, where her film Est-Ouest was nominated in the best foreign film category, is expected to sell for €2,000-€3,000. A leopard-print velvet gown with a gilt belt by Yves St Lauren from the autumn/winter 1992 collection is expected to fetch upwards of €1,000.

But for trophy-hunters of Parisian chic, the ultimate prize is, of course, Le Smoking. A custom tuxedo trouser suit made for Deneuve in 1982 could be yours for €1,000-€1,500. Who said you can’t buy style?

The auction runs 24-30 January. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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