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YSL Museum: From Fashion Label to Museum Institution Thesis


Yves Saint Laurent was one of the greatest fashion designers of the 20th century. Together with his partner, Pierre Bergé, they founded the YSL Haute Couture House. This research project focuses on analyzing the transformation of YSL from a fashion house to a museum. The path that the institution has taken from a brand to a cultural institution is unique. As soon as Saint Laurent retired from the fashion industry, he and his partner started organizing exhibitions to showcase the collection of his work. Thus it is clear that this institution will become the first museum dedicated solely to the work of a single artist in the country. The Ministry of Culture is now convinced that the institution has the required resources and capabilities to become the first museum primarily dedicated to the works of a single artist.


Background of the Study

Yves Saint Laurent haute couture house opened in 1974 on 5 Avenue Marceau after having moved from 30 bis rue Spontini, where it was founded in 1961 (Müller et al. 22). According to Granger, there were fashion houses at that time, and then there was Yves Saint Laurent fashion house (53). Yves realized that women were not given appropriate attention when it came to the field of fashion. As such, he set forth to invent designs that met their unique needs.

He dedicated close to thirty years of his life to his fashion house, coming up with different designs of women’s clothing to meet—and set—market trends. He worked closely with other designers to shape women’s fashion in the 20th century. Müller et al. state that YSL haute couture house became a symbol of savoir-fair and excellence because of the dedication and commitment that Yves and his team of experts had towards women fashion (32).

On January 7, 2002, Yves finally announced to the world that his career as a fashion designer had come to an end. It was the end of an era and of an illustrious career that ushered in design for women into the 21st century. Fifteen years later, Yves haute couture house is set to become a museum. Musée Yves Saint Laurent will open on October 3, 2017, in hotel Particulier at 5 Avenue Marceau in Paris, the same building where Yves spent the better part of his life-defining the trend in modern women’s fashion (Müller et al. 41). It is interesting to investigate the path that was taken towards the authorization of this museum.

It will be the first museum of this magnitude to be dedicated specifically to the works of one of the greatest twentieth-century fashion designers. Paris is still seen as the global capital of fashion, and for one person to have a museum dedicated to his fashion work is considered a unique achievement. There were other successful fashion designers before and after Saint Laurent, but it is a museum dedicated to his work that is set to open in a few months. In this paper, the researcher seeks to investigate how Yves Saint Laurent haute couture house was transformed as an institution into the YSL museum.

Research Problem

Museums play a critical role in modern society. According to Mears and McClendon, museums promote the preservation of historic, cultural, and religious materials and objects and make them available for the present and future generations for educational and entertainment purposes (23). That is why the decision to open this fashion museum is considered so significant, especially in the city of Paris, which is regarded as the capital of fashion.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum is unique in that it specifically focuses on the works of Saint Laurent when he was the head of the YSL haute couture house. The same building where he operated his fashion house has been converted into a museum. Fraser-Cavassoni says that many fashion designers have praised the move, especially given the critical role that Saint Laurent played in defining modern-day women’s fashion (55). However, the museum might bring about a competitive trend where admirers of other great fashion designers start demanding museums dedicated solely to other celebrated designers of past centuries.

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, Pierre Cardin, and Hubert de Givenchy are some of the greatest names in the fashion industry. They made significant contributions in defining the designs that remain popular today among both men and women. The decision to establish the YSL museum may create unhealthy competition, however, if some designers choose the path of promoting only those fashion pioneers who influenced the designers’ current work. Such competition could be counter-productive.

In this study, the researcher will try to find out what safeguards the stakeholders involved in establishing the YSL museum have put in place to ensure that such unhealthy competition is eliminated. One of the most important decisions that these stakeholders made was to ensure that the museum is established within the same building where Saint Laurent worked. To many, the move may appear to be a deliberate attempt to preserve one of the few existing sites where women’s fashion design was defined. In their view, the best way of doing that would be to bring back some of the works of the great fashion designer and present them to the public in the environment where they were created.

To justify their undertaking, the argument that these stakeholders will present to the public must be as convincing as possible. Establishing as many museums as possible would not be a problem as such, as any museum helps preserve our history. However, relevance remains critical when establishing a museum, as the city already has several museums where works of other great designers can be found. When any museum is established, it must serve a purpose, and so too must the YSL museum. This study will find a justification for this museum’s relevance and importance not only among French fashion designers but also for members of the public all over the world who hope to increase their understanding of the history of fashion design.

Research Significance

The decision to start a museum specifically dedicated to one of France’s finest fashion designers was a bold step seen by many as a suggestion that modern-day fashion designers still cherish the work of pioneers such as Yves Saint Laurent. Like many artists before and after him, Saint Laurent spent most of his life coming up with fashion wear, specifically for women. Among fashion designers, he was a pioneer in his understanding of the importance of focusing specifically on women’s dresses. From an economic point of view, women generally spend more than men on clothing, which is also reflected in the frequency with which they buy new dresses (Lowit and Bergé 75).

When compared to men’s fashion, female fashion designs come in a much greater variety. Saint Laurent played a critical role in the 20th century, keeping fashion on the move by continuously coming up with new designs for women. His actions were founded on his economic sense that there was a ready market for new fashions as long as the new designs met the needs of his customers in the way that best suited them.

The design trends Saint Laurent started made him a successful designer, as the dresses remained fashionable for the better part of the 20th century. Modern-day fashion houses around the world have learned not only from his artistic works but also from his business acumen as well. These fashion houses are eager to bring new fashions to the market to keep customers returning to the shop. A museum specifically devoted to Saint Laurent is therefore important because he had such a massive impact on both the aesthetics and the economics of the modern-day fashion industry.

Research on Saint Laurent and the museum devoted to him is important in several ways. First, it will help to organize knowledge of the YSL museum that is set to open on October 3 this year. To members of the public, the YSL museum will be a center where they can learn about the origin of modern-day women’s fashion and see the striking works of one of the country’s top designers. However, for art and design students and people with careers in design, the museum will be more than that.

According to Dreyfus, a career in design requires more than just creativity (45). It also requires both an ongoing drive to create and a continuous search for truly unique creations. A designer must think in a supernormal manner, always trying to please the target audience. He or she must always integrate beauty, functionality, and uniqueness in the work. Their products must be beautiful to the eye, distinct when compared with others, and capable of meeting the purpose for which it is created. Therefore artists need to drive, a sharp mind, and creativity. They must be astute enough to think of something new and create it in a meaningful way.

Yves Saint Laurent was such a person. He was sharp and creative, and he had a passion for women’s fashion. Most modern-day fashion designers did not have the privilege of interacting physically and learning directly from him. For these people, the YSL museum will be a special place where they can experience Saint Laurent’s presence to some degree. Being in the same environment where Saint Laurent worked and seeing his sketches and other working documents will help these artists learn what was driving this top designer during his lifetime. This paper will offer a detailed history of the YSL museum. It will be a helpful guide to upcoming artists who will want to understand more about the YSL museum and how it was transformed from a fashion label to what it is today.

Research Aim and Objectives

YSL was once one of the greatest brands in women’s fashion (Casati 63). In the mid and late 20th century, this brand was very popular among women. Its elegance, comfort, and ability to meet women’s needs were unique. However, it was unfortunate that the brand’s vision could not be extended by a new head designer at the house when Yves Saint Laurent finally decided to quit the industry because of old age. However, his work still has an impact on modern-day fashion designers.

For this reason, the government responded enthusiastically to the decision to establish a museum specifically dedicated to his work. In this research project, the primary aim is to create an understanding of how YSL was transformed from one of the greatest labels in the women’s fashion industry into a museum. This research project will explain some of the fundamental factors that made it necessary to establish the museum. It will also explain the relevance of this museum for members of the public and designers in the field of fashion. The following are some of the specific objectives that should be achieved by the end of the study:

  • To explain the relevance of the YSL museum in the context of Paris as the capital of the fashion industry.
  • To explain how the public and fashion designers will benefit from this museum.
  • To explain the reason why the relevant stakeholders decided to establish the museum in the same building where Saint Laurent worked as a fashion designer.
  • To identify factors that may affect operations of the YSL museum in the future.

Research Questions

Fashion design is a field that has attracted many scholars over the years as they try to understand the path that fashion is taking and appreciate the historic improvements made by several pioneer fashion designers. The work of these scholars is not redundant, however, as each study focuses on specific issues that are relevant to a specific research program. Dreyfus states that it is critical for a researcher to define specific questions that will guide the entire study (90).

These questions act as pointers towards the specific data that a researcher needs to gather in the field. Without a proper guide, one can easily stumble off course from a study’s main focus. It is possible to collect irrelevant data that yield no sensible results. Such mistakes can be time-wasting and possibly result in having data that do not narrowly focus on the issue under investigation. That is why it was important for the researcher to come up with specific questions to help in the entire process of data collection. The following was the primary research question developed to guide the study:

How can a fashion label as an institution be transformed into a museum?

This research question was developed to guide this study. The following are the supporting questions that are also critical in meeting the objectives set out above.

  1. What is the relevance of the YSL museum in the Parisian fashion context?
  2. How will the public and fashion designers benefit from the museum?
  3. Why did the relevant stakeholders decide to establish the museum in the same building where Saint Laurent worked as a fashion designer?
  4. What are the factors that may affect YSL as a museum?

The researcher will use both primary and secondary data sources to answer the above questions. These questions formed the basis of the questionnaire that was developed for collecting data from sampled respondents knowledgeable on this topic.

Contribution to Knowledge

According to Fraser-Cavassoni, an academic research project, just like a professional research project prepared to investigate a specific issue, often aims to make public new knowledge on a given topic that may change the policies or actions of various stakeholders (44). Unfortunately, sometimes academic research is not often given the proper attention that it deserves when it comes to implementing its recommendations. Casati states that when conducting research, one of the primary principles that one must consider is how much knowledge already exists on the topic and what can be done to introduce new and relevant knowledge about it (36).

That is why a literature review, which comprises the next chapter in this paper, is critical. The review helps a researcher to understand what other scholars have previously discovered about the topic and what in their view needs more attention from future scholars. A literature review helps to outline the knowledge gap and to identify the specific area that one should focus on in a new study. Lowit and Bergé state that a literature review helps to prevent the duplication of already existing information (75). A literature review is also the basis upon which the current study is based.

In recent years, fashion design has become an area of particular scholarly attention for historical research. This study will make a significant contribution to the field by focusing primarily on a museum dedicated to one of the greatest designers of recent times. It will help other scholars to understand the reasons that made it necessary to establish a museum devoted to a single designer.

They will find in this study the reasons why the building where Saint Laurent spent close to thirty years inventing new fashion designs was chosen to house the museum instead of another location. Through this study, scholars will understand how they can use the YSL museum to enhance their skills and creativity in the field of art. When they use this material before or after visiting the museum, they will learn what was driving Saint Laurent when he set out to design something unique. In Saint Laurent’s work, they will find a pattern for how they can monitor current trends and then come up with something unique in the design industry.

This document will also be important to scholars outside the field of fashion and design. It provides a detailed analysis of the methodology used in collecting and analyzing data, as discussed in chapter 3. Young scholars will understand what is expected of them when conducting research and what they can do to ensure that they retrieve the key information from both secondary and primary sources. The analysis section will also provide them with an example of how to analyze data they collect in the field. The last chapter of this paper, the conclusion, and recommendation will also help future scholars to understand how they can use the information they collect from various sources to come to a specific conclusion and make recommendations.

Literature Review

This chapter will focus on a review of existing literature. It is true that the YSL museum is a new institution and is yet to receive substantial attention from scholars. However, the works of Yves Saint Laurent as a professional fashion designer have attracted the attention of many scholars across the world. Reviewing the existing literature will help shed light on the path an haute couture house took in its transformation into a modern-day museum.

History of YSL Haute Couture Career

Yves Henry Mathieu-Saint Laurent was a French fashion designer born on August 1, 1936, in French Algeria (Mears and McClendon 34). He developed a keen interest in design at a very early age. As a teenager, he started designing unique dresses for his sisters and his mother. Saint Laurent then moved to France when he was aged 17, where he enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture for a course in fashion design (Golbin and Legendre 23).

There he met Christian Dior, who had a significant impact on his career in fashion design. Saint Laurent started his career at the House of Dior, where he was hired because of his unique design skills. He rose through the ranks and became one of the top designers at the House of Dior. When Dior died of a heart attack in Italy in 1957, Saint Laurent found himself the head of the House of Dior at the tender age of 21 years. However, the young designer faced a new challenge, as this institution was experiencing serious financial problems. He used his talent to come up with new designs, which he referred to as Dior’s New Look.

Fortunately, the new designs received massive acceptance not only in France but also internationally, especially in Europe and North America. They catapulted him to international stardom as a women’s fashion designer. According to Ascoli et al., Marcel Boussac, who was the head of the House of Dior and a powerful figure in the political arena in France, influenced the government’s decision to send Saint Laurent back to Algeria as a soldier during the Algerian War of Independence (27).

This was after it became apparent that Saint Laurent was not doing enough to make the House of Dior as successful as the owner had anticipated. He was immediately replaced by another designer as soon as he was conscripted to serve in the military (Golbin and Legendre 34). He served in the French military in Algeria for 20 days before he was admitted to a military hospital because of stress from hazing. His condition worsened when he realized that he had been fired from Dior as soon as he had enlisted in the military.

Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) was founded in 1961 after Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé convinced Mack Robinson, an American millionaire, to fund the project (Cassati 32). The move offered Saint Laurent an opportunity to advance his career at an institution where he had the liberty to make decisions without restrictions. The firm popularized safari jackets for men and women, the beatnik look, tight trousers, thin high boots, and the famous tuxedo suit for women (Golbin and Legendre 78). A report by these scholars shows that Saint Laurent soon became a major driving force in global fashion design.

He even introduced ready to wear dresses as the demand for his designs continued to increase. The decision was made because of a desire to increase the market share for his products in the European market. The ready to wear dresses were less expensive compared with those designed for specific individuals. Saint Laurent considered this move to be a democratization of fashion by making it available not just to the wealthy, but also to middle-class customers with limited budgets. He became the first French fashion designer to come up with a full ready-to-wear line of clothing at a time when most of the top designers focused on direct orders from top international clients (Mears and McClendon 23).

Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture House moved to 5 Avenue Marceau in 1974. At the time, Saint Laurent was regarded as a member of France’s jet set, as he had become very successful in the fashion industry. He had become very popular not only with his customers but also with the press (Fraser-Cavassoni 58). In the 1980s, his career was negatively impacted by the heavy use of alcohol and cocaine. However, it did not stop him from continuing to invent new designs. Ascoli et al. (29) report that the Metropolitan Museum of Art gave Saint Laurent a solo exhibition, the first living fashion designer to receive such an honor.

On January 7, 2002, Saint Laurent decided to end his illustrious career in fashion design, which at that point had lasted for over 40 years, because of age (Golbin and Legendre 36). Despite the decision, YSL remained a very popular brand and line of clothing, especially among the women for whom Saint Laurent had designed clothing for so many years. Because of his desire to pass on his skills to a new generation, Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé renovated the building that had long housed YSL haute couture and established the Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent (Beyfus 43). After battling brain cancer for years, Saint Laurent died on June 1, 2008 in Paris.

Stages of the Evolution of YSL Haute Couture into a Global Foundation

Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture House, as discussed in the section above, was founded in 1974 as a fashion house. After many years of successful operation, Saint Laurent decided to retire as a fashion designer. However, he was committed to ensuring that the new generation could learn from his works so that his protégés could help take fashion to the next level. That is when Saint Laurent and his life partner Pierre Bergé decided to establish a global foundation known as La Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. The evolution of YSL Haute Couture House into a global foundation took place in various stages.

The first stage was the transformation of the space at 5 Avenue Marceau (Mears and McClendon 61). Space had been used as a fashion design house for years, but the time had come for it to be transformed into an exhibition center. The decision by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to dedicate an exhibition to the works of Saint Laurent is believed to be one of the leading reasons why Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé decided to transform their fashion house into an exhibition center as soon as Saint Laurent decided to bring his career in fashion design to an end.

As such, the first task was to transform the fashion house space into an exhibition space that local and international visitors could visit, and where they could see the place where Saint Laurent spent close to thirty years defining modern fashion and view some of the works created by Saint Laurent that remain influential. The following figure 1 shows the building that housed YSL Haute Couture House.

Avenue Marceau.
Fig. 1. 5 Avenue Marceau (Flaviano and Freschard 9).

When Satin Laurent was working at YSL Haute Couture House at 5 Avenue Marceau, most of his works were stored at La Villette, especially most of the sketches and designs prepared between 1997 and the time when he decided to retire. However, the works had to be transferred to a special storage facility at the former ateliers of 5 Avenue Marceau. This was the second stage of the transformation of this former fashion house into an exhibition center. The managers had to find a way of making available all the works of Saint Laurent at the facility so that scholars and those with an interest in fashion would have access to them when they visited. The next stage was the transformation of the salons that were used to receive visitors at the fashion house into exhibition spaces for the public.

According to Ascoli et al., this was not an easy decision to make, given that there was a desire by some of the stakeholders to avoid making significant changes to the interior of the house (32). They argued that it was necessary to retain the internal space as it had previously been so that visitors could understand the kind of environment where Saint Laurent used to work. However, others argued that retaining the house in its original form was impossible given that it was to be transformed from a fashion house into an exhibition space.

The building had originally been designed as a place where Saint Laurent and his team could work on orders received from their customers that could offer them a comfortable workspace whenever they were there. The same design would not be suitable for an exhibition space where people walkabout to view the works of one of the top fashion designers of the 21st century. As such, the decision to transform the space prevailed. Figures 2 and 3 below show the house before and after the structural changes:

The interior of 5 Avenue Marceau before restructuring.
Fig. 2. The interior of 5 Avenue Marceau before restructuring (Flaviano and Freschard 28)
The 5 Avenue Marceau after restructuring.
Fig. 3. The 5 Avenue Marceau after restructuring (Fraser-Cavassoni 78).

However, it was agreed that the transformation should be made in such a way that it would still be possible to explain to visitors the original design of the house when it was the central working space for Saint Laurent and his team. For example, although the salons were transformed into an exhibition space for the public, it was done in such a way that it was easy to show visitors where the salons had been, what purpose they had served, and the reason why space had to be restructured to accommodate the new function. Initially, the sponsors of the new project had not taken into consideration the need to expand the facility beyond what it had been when it operated as a fashion house.

The guiding idea was that visitors would be guided around the facility in small groups so that they could see the sketches and works of Saint Laurent from his earliest days to the most successful designs that put him on the global map.

For this reason, the initial design of the exhibition house focused on the movement of the visitors and the ability to display the design works to them. The preparatory sketches, various drawings, and objects related to ready to wear clothing and haute couture that formed the works of Saint Laurent were made available at the exhibition house. According to Flaviano and Freschard, the organization devoted their exhibition to photography, decorative arts, paintings, contemporary work, fashion, and works of Saint Laurent that were developed within YSL house and those that were developed while he was working at other fashion houses in the country (28).

After the structural work, the organization started organizing a series of exhibitions, to be held in the transformed space, dedicated to fashion, art, and design (Mears and McClendon 78). Yves Saint Laurent, Dialogue Avec part, which was held from March 10th to October 31st 2004 was one of the most successful initial exhibitions at the facility (Ascoli et al. 35). Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were the curators for this event while Nathalie Criniere and Jacques Grange were the set designers. It attracted visitors from Tokyo, Sydney, Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, and New York as well as local Paris residents.

This was the beginning of a series of successful exhibitions that was organized by the YSL museum. However, it was the only major exhibition that was organized while Saint Laurent was still alive. He oversaw several smaller exhibitions that attracted local visitors and artists in the years before his death in 2008.

The Auction of the 21st Century

According to Golbin and Legendre, the works of Saint Laurent have featured in several auctions in the 21st century (42). Saint Laurent and Bergé worked together to assemble one of the world’s most important art collections, which they stored at their villa, with some pieces displayed at 5 Avenue Marceau where Saint Laurent had worked. All these were pieces of art that had been meaningful to Saint Laurent, and they defined his artwork in the field of fashion.

When they decided to convert the fashion house into an exhibition center, these art collections became part of what was presented to visitors. However, most of these pieces of art were sold off at the February 2009 auction at the Grand Palais that was organized by Christie. Bergé argued that the collection was meaningful to both Saint Laurent and Bergé as a couple and that following Saint Laurent’s death, they had become less meaningful to Bergé.

It is important to note that most of the items sold were created by other artists but were collected by Saint Laurent and Bergé specifically because Saint Laurent greatly admired these works of art. He once stated that these collections of artworks were part of his motivation as a fashion designer (Mears and McClendon 90). Some scholars argue that the decision to auction the collections was a deliberate attempt by Bergé to eliminate artwork that was created by other artists from 5 Avenue Marceau.

At the time the collection was sold off at the grand auction, plans were already underway to transform 5 Avenue Marceau into an exhibition house exclusively showcasing the works of Saint Laurent. However, the foundation still had in its possession several artworks by other artists. Some of them were kept in the house while others were stored in the villa. When an opportunity was presented to Bergé to eliminate other designers’ work from the house, he seized it and sold off most of them, promising to channel the proceeds to a new foundation for AIDS research (Flaviano and Freschard 31).

That proved to be an effective strategy for starting to clear the house of other artists’ work to ensure that it remained a space exclusively for Saint Laurent’s work. The auction of 2009 was such a massive financial success that Saint Laurent was rated the top-earning dead celebrity the same year (Ascoli et al. 36). It is not yet clear whether or not the foundation followed through on its promise to donate all the earnings from the auction to AIDS research. However, scholars note that the investment made in renovating and improving the YSL exhibition house soon after the auction shows that it is possible Bergé reinvested part of the earnings into their foundation.

According to Golbin and Legendre, Saint-Laurent was an avid reader (55). He inspired his best friend Bergé to write several books. Some of these books include Inventaire Mitterrand in 1991, Les jours s’en vont je demeure in 2003, L’Album Cocteau in 2006, Lettres à Yves in 2010, and Yves Saint Laurent: Une passion marocaine in 2010. Together with Saint Laurent, Bergé had a library of over 1,600 books of various editions, ranging from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.

A number of these books were on fashion design, while others were on other topics such as economics and business. In the 2009 auction organized by Bergé, these books were not sold. However, that was not the case in 2015. The auction of 2015 saw Bergé sell the entire library, as he stated that it only held sad memories for him following the loss of his best friend (Ascoli et al. 41). However, in this particular auction, Bergé was keen to ensure that none of Saint Laurent’s artwork was sold off. In the 21st century, it was only in 2009, and 2010 that a collection directly related to Saint Laurent was sold.

Temporary Exhibition at the Foundation

According to Ascoli et al., the first temporary thematic exhibition, “L’Asie rêvée Yves Saint Laurent” has been scheduled to last from October 2018 to January 2019 (44). Before looking at this scheduled temporary exhibition, it is important to look at some of the exhibitions that were organized before and soon after the death of Saint Laurent before the decision to transform the house into a museum. Ascoli et al. state that before the exhibition house was finally closed to the public in 2016, the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent foundation had presented more than 20 exhibitions devoted to fashion, art, and design at the 5 Avenue Marceau location (47).

On March 10, 2004, the foundation was officially opened to the members of the public for the first time. Known as Yves Saint Laurent, Dialogue Avec later, this exhibition presented works that had been done by Saint Laurent from the beginning of his career until the time he made his final decision to retire from the field of fashion design. The set for the foundation that year was designed by Nathaniel Criniere, who became a close associate of the Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent (Ascoli et al. 49). The exhibition was a huge success and it attracted several professionals in the industry.

The foundation has organized a series that to this point includes several exhibitions. Some of the notable ones include Vanité. Mort, que me veux-tu and David Hockney: Fleurs fraîches, both in 2010, Du côté de chez Jacques-Emile Blanche in 2012, and Hedi Slimane, Sonic in 2014 (Mears and McClendon 73). All of these exhibitions were dedicated to the works of Saint Laurent. Other notable exhibitions include La collection du scandal and Jacques Doucet – Yves Saint Laurent, Vivre pour l’art in 2015.

In April 2016, the foundation was closed to the public so that renovation could begin to transform the space into a museum. Work is ongoing to increase the amount of space available to the public, ease movement for visitors, and make it a safer environment for larger crowds, due to its increasing popularity (Cassati 55). Several temporary exhibitions have already been planned that will take place at the institution soon after it is again ready for members of the public. The following are some of the planned dates and events that will take place as the foundation transitions into a museum.

October 2017-September 2018

A temporary exhibition has been planned at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris that will begin in October 2017 (Ascoli et al. 53). The organizers have stated that it will be a retrospective display for twelve months, and is expected to run until the end of September 2018 (Ascoli et al. 62). For purposes of conservation, several Saint Laurent’s works will be rotated after six months (in spring 2018) as the organizers test the functionality of the systems and structures put in place for running the museum.

This will be a critical time in the museum’s life, as it will be marked the first time that this haute couture house will be operating as a museum since its foundation. During the first year of the retrospective exhibition, the managers of the foundation will work closely with other stakeholders to understand how it can best meet the house’s new needs as a museum. Its stated goal is to consider the views of museum visitors to help determine which areas may need improvement.

Most of Saint Laurent’s works will be made available during the retrospective exhibition, although significant changes may be introduced to the interior design based on comments and suggestions from various stakeholders, including the visitors who will have the opportunity to visit the new museum (Golbin and Legendre 59). Figure 4 below is one of the signature designs of Saint Laurent that is expected to be on display during the upcoming retrospective exhibition.

A dress designed by Saint Laurent.
Fig. 4. A dress designed by Saint Laurent (Fraser-Cavassoni 81).

October 2018-January 2019

According to the organizers, plans are underway to have YSL’s museum’s first temporary thematic exhibition from October 2018 to January 2019, entitled L’Asie rêvée d’Yves Saint Laurent or “Yves Saint Laurent’s Imaginary Asia” (Ascoli et al. 78). It is expected to be a slightly bigger event than the first retrospective exhibition, but it will only last for five months. The organizers stated that at this time, almost all of the structural designs will be in place and the museum will be ready to receive members of the public.

The items that will be on exhibition will include designs from Saint Laurent and other works that will be borrowed from private collectors and other museums around the world. Flaviano and Freschard report that “After the first year, the program will be composed of a temporary thematic exhibition held from October to January followed by a retrospective display to be presented from February to September” (26). It is also reported that visitors will enter the facility using the legendary entrance to the haute couture house that was previously used by special guests and clients (Mears and McClendon 57).

The team is currently working to transform the salons that previously served as a boutique for high-end customers into a reception area for the museum. In this area, guests will be introduced to the biography of Saint Laurent with the help of introductory video and portraits (Golbin and Legendre 87). The introductory video has been created to help answer some basic questions about Saint Laurent. Saint Laurent’s place of birth, the time he first demonstrated his interest and talent in fashion design, and some of his initial works will be in the video. The path of his career in fashion design, his work during the later years of his life, and his death will also be documented in the introductory video.

The portraits will complement the information that will be presented in the video. After watching the short film, the visitors will be directed to the portraits, which will also recount his life from his early years to his retirement from fashion design shortly before his death. The following image (see fig. 5) is one of the photos expected to be present in the reception area.

Saint Laurent as a young fashion designer.
Fig. 5. Saint Laurent as a young fashion designer (Mears and McClendon 90).

The above figure shows a young Saint Laurent holding a sketch of a dress he had designed soon after becoming the head of the House of Dior. This was an important stage in Saint Laurent’s early life when he took a major leap forward in the field of fashion design. At the time, he had chosen a clear focus on women’s fashion, arguing that women are the source of beauty in the world and deserve the best when it comes to what they wear.

The Establishment of the YSL Museum in Paris and Marrakesh

Saint Laurent was born in Algeria at a time when the country was under the colonial rule of France. He spent considerable time in Marrakech trying to preserve the rich heritage of the city from destruction due to modernization. Saint Laurent is a celebrated figure in former French West Africa not because of what he did to or for the people of this society, but because of his heroic efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of the city (Ascoli et al. 64). That explains why two museums are set to be opened at the same time, one in Europe (Paris, France) and another one in West Africa (Marrakesh, Morocco). It is necessary to look at these two museums individually.

The YSL museum in Paris

On October 3, 2017, Paris will be home to its first museum devoted solely to one fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent (Ascoli et al. 76). The museum, which is currently under renovation, had been acting as an exhibition house showcasing the works and collection of the great fashion designer who gave special attention to women’s attire. Currently, the exhibition is closed as the stakeholders work on the transformation from a simple exhibition house to a museum expected to attract local and international visitors. The YSL museum in Paris will have 450 square meters of display space.

As indicated by the museum’s designers, the exhibits will change regularly and in a given pattern to allow visitors who will be frequenting this museum to have access to the entire variety of his works. The sketches, drawings, dresses, and many other collections cannot all be displayed at the same time because of their number (Golbin and Legendre 58). A special storage facility is already being prepared at 5 Avenue Marceau to ensure that the museum will run without interruption to its operations. Located in the capital of fashion, the museum will play a significant role in preserving the works of one of the 20th century’s most successful fashion designers.

The museum is intended to preserve Saint Laurent’s history and as a beacon for emerging designers who will be able to learn from the masterworks displayed at the institution. The fact that the museum is in the same house where Saint Laurent spent many years of his life inventing the designs that brought him global acclaim is significant for the foundation and the designers of Paris. Decorator Jacques Grange and set designer Nathalie Crinière have been entrusted with the work of designing the exhibition space (Lowit and Bergé 67).

One of the most important guidelines they have been given when designing the space is that they should ensure that they recreate the original space of the YSL haute couture house where Saint Laurent worked (Ascoli et al. 89). The two designers have worked with the foundation for some time and are well placed to recreate the original space, as they were familiar with it before major changes were introduced after the death of Saint Laurent. Figure 6 below shows what is likely to be one of the most important displays, as it illustrates Laurent’s devotion to women’s fashion and his interest in protecting the environment.

A design of Saint Laurent.
Fig. 6. A design of Saint Laurent (Cassati 112).

The YSL museum in Marrakesh

The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech is set to open its doors to members of the public in autumn 2017, the same day that the YSL museum in Paris will open. Just like the museum in Paris, the YSL museum in Marrakesh will house important selections from the works of Saint Laurent. The museum will comprise 15,000 haute couture accessories, 5,000 clothing items, thousands of Saint Laurent’s sketches and designs, and an assortment of various objects used by or related to Saint Laurent during his career as a fashion designer (Ascoli et al. 69). These collections are currently archived on the premises of the foundation in Paris.

Studio KO, under the leadership of Karl Fournier and Oliver Marty, is the architectural firm that was awarded the contract of designing the museum in Marrakesh. Located adjacent to Jardin Majorelle, which is popular with the local inhabitants and international tourists, the building contains more than 4,000 square meters of floor space.

The Marrakesh museum has a permanent exhibition space of 400 square meters meant to showcase Saint Laurent’s artworks, a temporary exhibition space of 150 square meters, and an auditorium that can accommodate 130 people (Ascoli et al. 71). A research library with over 5,000 books, a bookshop, a terrace, and a café-restaurant will also be housed in the same building. Unlike in Paris where the museum will be housed in the same building where Saint Laurent worked, the designers in Marrakesh had the opportunity to create a unique building (Ascoli et al. 77). They used local materials to construct a building that resembled Moroccan palaces, but with an interior that resembles the modern architecture popularized by western architectures. Figure 7 below shows the museum’s eastern entrance.

The YSL museum in Marrakesh has received considerable praise, not only from the local community but also from international society as a move to spread knowledge of Saint Laurent’s oeuvre as a fashion designer around the world. Morocco is one of the countries in Africa where fashion is given considerable attention. The museum is set to transform the city of Marrakesh by attracting students of fashion and fashion tourists. The city’s rich trading history and its modernization before the invasion by western powers are preserved in several sites. The introduction of the museum will elevate the position of the city as a center for historic artifacts. The Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent has given its commitment to ensuring that the facility will continue to receive original works of Saint Laurent, as had been initially planned.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech.
Fig. 7. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech (Ascoli et al. 41).

The Trend of Fashion Brand as Museums

According to Golbin and Legendre, a trend is emerging where top fashion brands are transitioning into museums all over the world (76). It is often said that there is a thin line between fashion and art. Fashion designers must be artists. They must think creatively to be able to invent something that is both unique and functional. Many people have made successful careers in the field of fashion and currently, there are several top fashion houses in Europe, North America, and parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

However, Cassati states that like any other area of aesthetic accomplishment, top artists often take their skills to the grave when they die (69). Out of a desire to preserve some of their works, a trend has emerged where fashion houses are establishing museums to create lasting monuments to the creative achievements of such talented artists. It is important to look at some of the top fashion brands that have transitioned into or set up museums to preserve the works of some of their top fashion designers.

Fondation Cartier

Founded in 1984, the Fondation Cartier moved to Paris ten years later (1994) where it established a museum in Jouy-en-Josas, which is near Versailles (Ascoli et al. 45). Cartier continues as one of the top fashion houses while at the same time running a museum where it showcases works of art by various fashion designers and international artists. Its museum has remained popular in Paris for years because of its rich collections. Unlike the YSL museum set to open in Paris and the museum in Marrakesh meant to focus on the works of Saint Laurent, the Fondation Cartier museum showcases the works of many artists from around the world. The museum was designed by Jean Noivel. The facility is wholly owned by the Fondation Cartier. The figure below shows the building that houses the museum (see fig. 8).

Foundation Cartier.
Fig. 8. Foundation Cartier (Mears and McClendon 52).

Gucci Museo

Gucci, an Italian fashion house with a brand that is popular globally, has also started its museum known as Gucci Museo (Golbin and Legendre 71). This top fashion brand acquired Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, a building constructed over a century ago, and transformed it into a museum. Some of the designs of Gucci’s top fashion designers are now available at this museum. The facility is open to members of the public, but it is wholly owned by Gucci.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton, popularly known as LVMH, is currently one of the top global brands in the fashion industry. After years of corporate success and patronage, the management decided to establish a museum that celebrates top fashion designers around the world, especially those who made important contributions in defining what LVMH is today. The management authorized the expenditure of over US$134 million to construct the building that currently houses Fondation Louis Vuitton, a museum that showcases works of art created by fashion designers from all over the world (Ascoli et al. 24).

The company’s management stated that the decision was made to establish the foundation as a way to honor artists both of our time and those of previous centuries and to develop a virtuous circle that will promote art and design for years to come. Other fashion houses such as Prada and Ermenegildo Zegna have also established their museum where designs and other works of art can be viewed by the public.

The Link between Artists’ Foundations and Fashion Museums

La Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent is set to become the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris in October 2017. Saint Laurent himself did not know that his foundation would ultimately be transformed into a museum in his honor. However, the artist worked closely with his friend Pierre Bergé to transform the fashion house where he had spent years working as a designer into an exhibition center. That was the first step in transforming the foundation into a museum.

It was at this point that the foundation started being linked to a museum. Although the foundation did not start as a museum when it was founded, the services it offered resembled those that a museum would offer. People visited the place to see the works of the legendary fashion designer, Saint Laurent, who spent most of his time working on women’s fashion.

It was, therefore, no great surprise when a decision was finally made to transform the foundation into a museum open to members of the public. At its onset, the foundation set out the structures and systems that would make it easy for the institution to be transformed into a museum. The artworks and numerous other collections were already available at the foundation by the time a decision was made to transform it into a museum. What is not yet underway is the restructuring necessary to allow for easy movement of a larger number of visitors through the facility when it opens as a museum honoring Saint Laurent by showcasing primarily his works. Figure 9 below shows some of the iconic works created by Saint Laurent which are already available for display:

Saint Laurent’s drawings from 81 haute couture collection.
Fig. 9. Saint Laurent’s drawings from 81 haute couture collection (Flaviano and Freschard 22).

Creating a Museum Institution in the 21st Century

In the 21st century, several technological advancements have been witnessed that are completely changing many aspects of life. According to Flaviano and Freschard, in previous centuries, things like smartphones and other personal media and storage devices currently available to members of the public at affordable prices were not available (34). As such, creating a museum institution in the 21st century is a more complex process than it was in the past. Modern audiences are more sophisticated viewers of museum exhibitions. Casati states that when creating a museum, there are several factors that one must take into consideration (78).

The first factor is that a museum is a public platform in a community that seeks to catalyze creativity among its visitors. It must be able to evoke creative thoughts among members of the community who come to visit by showcasing the creativity of past and present artists. It should also act as an educational center where visitors learn about the past and the path that was taken to bring about the present condition. In the 21st century, visitors must be considered as active participants who should interact with employees at the museum and share their views about what they think is lacking and the changes that can help the institution better meet its goals.

Cassati also insists that in the 21st century, a museum should have a complementary web presence that people can visit before or after visiting the physical facility to learn more about the institution and what it offers to members of the public (77). Golbin and Legendre also note that a museum that meets modern standards should be as interactive as possible (60). The designers of Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris have made the facility interactive by not only utilizing introductory video clips but also by making it possible for the visitors to share their experiences and make comments about areas within the facility that in their view need major changes.

It is also important to ensure that each museum is unique. The city of Paris has several museums. Other new museums must be distinct from those that already exist in terms of design and content to attract visitors. The management of Musée Yves Saint Laurent must consider all these factors. They must ensure that they create a building that meets the basic standards of this century. There must be something unique about this museum that will make current and future generations have the desire to visit it.

Preparations for Authorizing the Museum as an Official Museum in France

In France, the Council of Foundations is responsible for granting authorization to institutions to become museums. The council defines the basic requirements of a museum, the expectations for and responsibilities of museums, their operational designs, and the dissolution of failing museums. According to Cassati, every foundation is classified into a specific type based on what it offers to the public and how it operates (98).

The council then determines the level of financial charges be levied on the institution before and after it begins operation. Each foundation must operate under the guidelines provided by the council and must strictly offer the services that were were authorized without deviating into other products or services. It must comply with all legal requirements to ensure that it is always protected by law (Ascoli et al. 82).

The management of Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris has made preparations to obtain authorization for the foundation to operate as a museum in France. Before closing its doors for the renovation and redesign of the interior of the facility, and approval had already been obtained from the relevant authorities to ensure that everything could proceed without interruption. The Council of Foundations has already given its approval for the institution to become a museum and everything is set for the October 2017 launch. It will become the first museum in France to focus on the works of an individual artist. The next chapter focuses on the methodology that the researcher used to collect, analyze, and present data in this study.


When conducting a research project, one of the most important steps one must consider is the methods that will be used to collect the needed data from various sources and to analyze it with the aim of obtaining results that will inform the conclusion and any recommendations. A research project must be carefully planned for one to achieve the desired success. The approach and philosophy that will be used must be clearly defined and an appropriate strategy for the study, based on the aim of the research and the questions it will address, must also be chosen in order to elicit patterns within the evidence.

McNabb states that during the planning stage, a researcher must choose appropriate sources of data that will inform the study, the collection approach that will be used, and any other relevant information that is critical in ensuring that the entire process is conducted systematically and the desired goals are achieved (23). Tracy argues that a carefully planned research project will be more successful and likely to achieve its set goals than a study that has no proper plan (42). For these reasons, this section is dedicated to discussing the plan that was put in place for the study, the approaches used to achieve the desired goals, and how issues such as ethical considerations were affected how the study was conducted.

Research Philosophy

In social science research such as this study focusing on art and design, it is necessary to define research philosophy used. According to Kara, research philosophy involves a definition of the nature, source, and development of knowledge in a study (19). It is important for a researcher to be fully aware of, and capable of formulating, the beliefs and assumptions that will guide the study (Wang and Groat 33).

One must first define the philosophy that will guide a study before focusing on other aspects of the research. The guiding philosophy that a researcher has chosen to follow will define the approach and strategy of the research project. Broadly speaking, there are four philosophies in the social sciences (pragmatism, positivism, realism, and interpretivism) that a researcher can embrace depending on the nature of the study.

It is important to look at each of the four research philosophies briefly before explaining why one of them was chosen for the study. As a research philosophy, pragmatism holds that a concept is acceptable only if it can support an action. According to Tracy, pragmatism recognizes “that there are many different ways of interpreting the world and undertaking research, that no single point of view can ever give the entire picture and that there may be multiple realities” (67).

This philosophy is opposed to the idea that there is only one valid way of interpreting the world. As such, it allows for different interpretations as long as an interpretation is capable of supporting an action. This philosophy is more flexible and it allows a researcher to use different research approaches based on their objectives as long as they can achieve the ultimate goal of their study. It only emphasizes the need to justify the approach and to prove that it is capable of supporting an action.

The philosophy of positivism holds that only knowledge gained through the senses (mostly through observation and measurement) is trustworthy (Brennen 51). When using this philosophy, a researcher’s role is limited to that of a data collector and interpreter in an objective way. The findings given by a researcher must also be observable and quantifiable. It is very a popular philosophy in statistical research. It is often used by pure scientists that deal with observable and quantifiable objects in their study.

However, its strict conditions and its requirement that the outcome of the study must be observable makes it an inappropriate research philosophy in many research projects in the social sciences such as this project focusing on the works of Saint Laurent. For example, it is not possible to precisely quantify people’s emotions toward the museum and neither is it possible to make them observable through research. In view of these factors, pragmatism would be an inappropriate approach when conducting this study. As such, it was not the ideal research philosophy.

As a research philosophy, realism holds that reality is independent of the human mind (Wang and Groat 41). Realism is broadly categorized into two different groups, direct and critical. According to McNabb, direct realism holds that whatever one sees is what one gets. It portrays the world through personal human senses (32). Many researchers who adhere to this philosophy rarely base their argument on direct realism. Instead, they prefer critical realism. Critical realism holds that humans often experience images and sensations of the real world, but some of these sensations can be deceptive and fail to portray the real world (Bryman and Bell 49).

Sometimes these illusions in the mind or predetermined judgments undermine our minds’ processing of the reality of society. Prejudice and stereotyping are some of the factors that make us unable to see reality even when it is presented to us. In research, our senses may get in the way of a researcher’s ability to see reality (Brennen 112). As such, realist scholars appreciate the need for multi-level studies so that cases of prejudice and misconception not addressed on one level can be addressed on another level of the study. It is a highly appropriate philosophy for this study. The fact that realism can be interpreted as two different approaches, however, lessen its relevance as a method for this study.

Interpretivism is another common research philosophy used by both natural and social scientists. According to Jacobsen, researchers who embrace this philosophy assume that “access to reality (given or socially constructed) is only through social constructions such as language, consciousness, shared meanings, and instruments” (17). It places emphasis on the need to collect both primary and secondary data for the purpose of coming up with an interpretation of a given meaning. This approach is popular when a researcher is planning to collect data through interviews and observation. It rejects the argument that meaning may reside within the world independent of consciousness (Wang and Groat 61).

For this reason, interpretivism was not considered appropriate for this study. The researcher believes that it is possible for knowledge or reality to exist independent of consciousness. There is always the possibility that one is not enlightened enough to know a given fact. Under such circumstances, what one thinks may not be what reality is. Therefore it was necessary to reject this philosophy for this study.

The researcher considered pragmatism as the most appropriate philosophy to guide the research design. The methods consistent with pragmatism will make it possible to conduct a deeper investigation of the issue surrounding the YSL museum, taking into account what other researchers have found in their studies on the topic and the practicalities of the concepts and models proposed (Brennen 97).

The theoretical concepts will be the basis not only of the conclusion and recommendations that will be made pursuant to this study. It is also incumbent on the researcher to ensure that any proposals are practical under the current circumstances. This is particularly important because the study focuses on the transformation of the YSL Foundation from an haute couture house to a museum, a question of practical importance. Given that the information obtained from the study may be relevant in informing future practices, it is necessary to emphasize the practical aspect of the recommendations that will be made.

Research Approach

According to Tracy, when a researcher has identified an appropriate research philosophy that is suitable for a given study, the next important stage is to narrow down the research approach that is relevant for the project (65). Deductive, abductive, and inductive reasoning are the three research approaches which are often used in social sciences research (Jacobsen 21). Each of the three approaches is unique in its own way.

Deductive reasoning focuses on development of hypotheses on the basis of an existing theory, and then coming up with a research strategy that will help in testing it (Bryman and Bell 62). It entails reasoning from a particular issue to a more general issue during an investigation. Depending on the nature of the study and the research question, this can be considered an appropriate research approach, especially in social sciences. Deductive reasoning often starts with identification of a theory. Using the theory, a researcher is expected to come up with a hypothesis. The developed hypothesis will then be confirmed or rejected based on the observations made. It is an appropriate research approach when one wants to confirm if a popular concept is true or not.

The inductive approach, also called inductive reasoning, is another popular research approach based on the goals and objectives of a given study (Brennen 93). The approach starts with observations being made and then developing theories based on the results of the observations (Jacobsen 53).

It involves the development of theories or the projection of patterns based on the kind of observations made in the study. Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. This approach moves from generalization to specific theory. It is popular among both social and natural scientists. They start by observing an issue of interest. After making observations for some time, they develop a hypothesis based on what has been observed. Then an experiment is conducted to confirm or reject the developed hypothesis. In case an experiment is not possible, as is often the case when dealing with human subjects, then further observations are made to help confirm the hypothesis (or proposed pattern).

The outcome of the inductive approach is the development of a theory. The developed theory will be based on observed and tested facts and confirmed through experimentation or further observation. This research approach is not appropriate for this study, however.

The abductive approach (abductive reasoning) was developed to help address the weaknesses of deductive and inductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is an approach that takes into consideration both deductive and inductive reasoning because it was developed after these two approaches were already in use. For instance, inductive reasoning has faced criticism because not all empirical data analysis will enable development of a theory. On the other hand, deductive reasoning has faced criticism because it lacks clarity when it comes to selecting a theory that should be tested through formulation of hypotheses (Jacobsen 33). Abductive reasoning is seen as an approach that addresses the weaknesses of the other two approaches that have long been in use among researchers.

In this study, the researcher considered inductive reasoning to be more appropriate in understanding the transformation of the YSL Foundation from a fashion label to a museum. The study will begin by making observations and reviewing existing knowledge. The goal is to determine how the transformation from a fashion label to a museum was brought about. The observational step involves examining how other fashion labels followed the same pattern in becoming museum houses. In the literature review, a number of luxury fashion brands have been identified which have established museums as a way of preserving the history of art. From the observation of similar transformations, a pattern will emerge. From the pattern, a hypothesis will be developed. The hypothesis/pattern will then be confirmed or rejected through analysis of primary data. The analysis will help lead to a conclusion about the pattern of fashion houses transforming into museums.

Research Strategy

At this stage, the research philosophy and research approach used in this study are clear. It is now important to narrow down further the research strategy used in this project. According to McNabb, viable strategies for a study include experimental, survey-based, archival, ethnographic, and narrative inquiry approaches (54). In this section, the researcher will only look at the strategies that were considered appropriate for this study.


Surveys are very important when conducting research that needs data from primary sources. According to Kara, surveys make it possible for a researcher to collect data from respondents by asking them relevant questions based on their knowledge and experience (57). A number of museums have been established by fashion houses across Europe, including in Paris, the capital of fashion. However, the researcher will be interested in collecting data from individuals who are currently working at the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation or engaged with its transformation from a fashion label into a museum institution.

Through this survey, the researcher will present a number of questions that the participants will respond to directly. Pierre Bergé is best positioned to answer all the questions in this study in the most detailed and correct way possible because he worked alongside Yves Saint Laurent since the fashion house was founded in 1961 before it even moved to 5 Avenue Marceau. However, it is important to appreciate that given his advanced age and the tight schedule he has trying to ensure that everything is done to transform the fashion house into a museum, it may not be possible to engage with him. For this reason, the researcher chose two individuals who have knowledge about the operations of and events at this institution as it transitions into a museum. The method that was used to collect data from these respondents is discussed in the section that follows.

Case study

The researcher also decided to use case studies as another way of obtaining data for the study. According to Tracy, case studies enable a researcher to focus on a specific phenomenon, looking at the pattern of events, their causes, and their outcomes in a way that can be related to the issue under investigation (79). Case studies help in justifying a conclusion. It makes it possible for a researcher to conclude that if a given pattern resulted in a given event, then the same can also be repeated if the forces remain constant. The YSL museum is going to be a special type of a museum because in it there will only be the works of Yves Saint Laurent.

It is of interest for this study to determine whether or not the new institution will be successful. One of the ways to determine that is to look at similar cases and evaluate whether they were successful or not. If the available cases enjoyed success, it may be possible to make recommendations based on the patterns that should be followed to achieve a similar level of success. If the other cases experienced failure, then the discussion of possible recommendations may involve outlining what needs to be avoided to ensure that this specific project is a success. As shown in the review of literature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art once organized a solo exhibition for Saint Laurent’s works of fashion design and it was a huge success. By examining similar cases, it will be possible to make recommendations about how this institution should organize its operations to achieve success.

Archival research

As a student of art and design, archival research will be critical in this study. The research itself is based on the importance of an archive (museum) that is specifically dedicated to the works of one of the finest fashion designers of all times. It is prudent to visit a local archive to have a clear picture of the issue under investigation. It would be of interest to visit the YSL Foundation to see the collections of Saint Laurent first hand. However, that is not possible because of the time available for the study and the fact that the foundation is already closed for renovation until October 3, 2017. As such, the only option is to visit locally available archives.

The researcher visited the National Archives at Abu Dhabi National Hotel Building located behind Carrefour Supermarket at 8th Street, Airport Road in Abu Dhabi. At the archive, the researcher was not fortunate enough to find works of Saint Laurent. However, a number of artworks from other local and international artists and fashion designers were available. These materials are inspiring and they help one to understand the minds of these designers when they were developing their creative works. The researcher took notes to help complement the information gathered from other sources.

Data Collection Approach

One of the most important stages of conducting research is to collect data from various sources. In this study, the researcher relied on data from three sources. The first one was the primary data that was collected from books, journal articles, and other reliable online sources. The second one was the primary source in the form of survey responses collected from participants who were contacted to be part of this study. The third source was the information that was obtained from the National Archive in Abu Dhabi. The information obtained from the secondary sources was reviewed comprehensively in chapter 2 of this document.

Data from the national archives was personally important for the researcher to understand the importance of archiving important artifacts and the role that the museum will play in preserving the works of one of the world’s top fashion designers in the 20th century. The section below will explain how primary data was collected from the participants.

Instruments of data collection

It would have been desirable for the researcher to visit Paris and see the ongoing activities at 5 Avenue Marceau and to directly engage with some of the important players in the project. However, that was not possible because of the geographical distance, time available for the study, and other constraints. That did not stop the researcher from collecting the needed data from the respondents. The researcher was able to contact two individuals online who had the needed information about the project. They agreed to become participants in the study. The researcher prepared a questionnaire that was used to conduct the online interview. It is important to understand the design of the questionnaire that was used in the study. It had 3 sections.

The first section of the questionnaire focused on background and demographic information. This was an introductory section to introduce the participants to the planned research. The section also focused on demographic characteristics and the gender of the participants. According to Bryman and Bell, there are cases where demographic factors and gender issues influence the pattern in which respondents answer specific questions, especially if the question may elicit varied responses from a variety of people (90).

It is also possible to have a skewed data set that is specifically influenced by people’s gender or other demographic factors. As such, any generalization when answering some questions could be captured in the demographic space. The third section of the questionnaire deal with the academic credentials and experience of the respondents. McNabb states that people with different levels of education often reason differently when faced with different issues because of their difference in knowledge (62). Experience that one gains also affects one’s level of knowledge in a given field, and as such one is likely to respond based on what has been witnessed in the past.

For this reason this section was considered an appropriate part of the questionnaire. The last section of the questionnaire focused on specific questions regarding fashion design and how the YSL Foundation was transformed from a fashion label to a museum. The questionnaire used in this study employed both closed and open-ended questions as a way of capturing data in the most comprehensive manner possible, as the research included both qualitative and quantitative methods. Using a mix of closed and open-ended questions made it possible to conduct a mixed methods research project.

According to Kara (53), open-ended questions are always important when a researcher is seeking detailed answers from the respondents given in their own words. The use of open-ended questions makes it easy for a participant to think through a question and provide an answer based on their personal knowledge. It also gives them an opportunity to justify their responses. That is particularly important in cases where respondents who have had a similar experience answer similar questions in completely different manners. Allowing them to provide a justification for their answers enables a researcher to understand the context of the respondents’ thoughts when they provide their responses.

On the other hand, closed-ended questions are easy to administer. Instead of recording long answers to each question based on what the respondent thinks, closed-ended questions are structured. The respondents are restricted to a specific pattern of thinking and they only have to select the option they believe is closest to their own views without having to give a justification for their choices. Closed-ended questions are also easy to code and analyze using statistical or mathematical methods.

McNabb also notes that administering structured questions takes a very short time (78). The two types of questions complement each other, especially in a detailed study such as this that focuses on one of the most important fashion designers of recent times. For all these reasons, using both types of questions was necessary to enable the researcher to achieve the set goals.

After making the necessary arrangements, it was agreed that the interview would be conducted via Skype. The researcher e-mailed the questionnaire to the respondents two days before the interview to help them prepare for the study. The respondents were engaged and allowed to choose the time that they were most comfortable with for the interview to be conducted. On the day of the interview, the researcher used Skype as a platform where the questions could be posed to the participants and their response recorded electronically.

This method was appropriate because it created the impression of having a face-to-face interaction with the respondents although they were many miles away. Just as with face-to-face interviews, it was possible to read the facial expressions of the respondents each time they answered a question. The fact that the entire engagement was recorded made it easy to revisit some of the responses for clarification during the analysis. It was also a less costly method compared with cases where one must travel to meet the respondents. It was also a less time consuming method. The questionnaire that was used to collect data from the respondents is shown in appendix 1 of this document.

The researcher requested the two respondents to send the questionnaire to ten other people who could help us get the further information that was needed. It means that although the actual interview through Skype was conducted on only two participants, data was collected from 20 participants. That was necessary to facilitate statistical analysis of the data in chapter 4 that follows.

Sampling and sample size

Sampling is an important process in any research undertaking, whether it is an academic study or not, especially when dealing with large populations. Sometimes the population of the study may be so large that it may not be realistically possible to collect data from everyone. In such cases, it is important to select a sample that is as representative of the entire population as possible (McNabb 64).

In this study, a number of people can provide the needed information about the YSL Foundation and its path from a top fashion label to one of Paris’s unique museums. However, time available for the study and the geographic constraint made it necessary to rely on a relatively small sample. Given that the researcher had little choice in determining who would be available and ready to take part in this research, a simple random sampling was considered appropriate. The researcher opted to pick two individuals who have the needed information about the YSL Foundation and the plans which are currently underway to transform it into a museum.

Data Analysis

Data collected from the respondents was analyzed using mixed research methods (Brennen 108). The decision to used mixed methods of data analysis was arrived at based on the set goals and objectives of the study. As explained in the above section, the use of case studies was considered one of the most appropriate strategies for analyzing data. The phenomenological approach was considered appropriate for understanding how similar museums were created and how successful they have been in achieving their goals and objectives. Through explanatory research, it was possible to explain why the stakeholders chose to transform YSL from an haute couture house to a museum.

Quantitative data analysis was considered equally important because of the need to use statistics to explain the issues under investigation. The researcher used Microsoft Excel software to conduct the statistical analysis. The outcome of quantitative data analysis is presented in graphs and charts for the purposes of clarity.


According to Kara, any research project requires adequate resources in order to achieve the desired goal. In this research project, it was necessary to have a number of resources (68). Time was one of the most important resources for the project. The researcher had to plan activities properly to ensure that everything was completed within the limited time available for the project. An Internet-enabled personal computer was also an important resource. Using this computer made it possible for the researcher to conduct online research. It was also used to engage the respondents with the help of Skype software.

The same computer was used to conduct primary data analysis and in compiling the entire report on the project. When visiting the National Archives in Abu Dhabi, the researcher used a camera to take a number of photos relevant for the study. Stationery was also necessary to help in taking notes and ensuring that any important detail in the field that could not be recorded electronically was captured in the notes. A voice recorder was another valuable resource when the researcher started interviewing the respondents. It helped in recording the entire conversation between the researcher and the participants.

The questionnaire was considered an important resource because it made it easy to collect data in a consistent and clear manner. The project also needed financial resources to ensure that everything was done as per expectation. The finances were needed to facilitate movement of the researcher, to contact the respondents and the institution, and to pay for some of the resources mentioned above.

Research Ethics

When conducting an academic research project, one of the most important responsibilities that a scholar has is to ensure that ethical considerations are observed at all times. McNabb states that from the time of collecting data to the stage where it is analyzed, it is important to ensure that the researcher remains fully responsible for all the activities involved in the project (83). When a decision was made to collect data from a sample of respondents who are currently working or associated with the YSL Foundation that is currently being transformed into a museum, the researcher considered it ethically important to contact the management of the institution.

They deserved to know our intentions and had the power to authorize it or not. As such, the management was contacted electronically and the researcher explained the entire research project’s goals and objectives and the desire to interview a number of people currently associated with the institution. The management approved the request and helped the researcher to identify individuals who had the capacity to provide the information that was needed for the research.

When the researcher received the contact information for the individuals at the YSL Foundation who could help in collecting primary data, it was ethically necessary to contact them and explain the relevance of the project and what their role would be in it. The researcher informed them that participation in the project was voluntary and that they had the right to withdraw from it at any stage for any reason without having to justify it to the researcher.

All the questions that they had about the research were answered thoroughly to ensure that they were fully aware of the events that would take place during the period when they would be participating in the project. During the entire period of data collection, the researcher made an effort to avoid any form of bias in the study. The knowledge and beliefs that the researcher has about the topic were not allowed to sway the process of data collection in a given direction without considering facts available in secondary and primary sources.

Findings and Case Study

Findings from the Interview

In this chapter, the researcher will focus on the analysis of primary data that was collected from the respondents. As stated in the section above, the researcher was able to interview two participants through Skype. Eighteen other respondents filled in the questionnaires to help facilitate the statistical analysis. As explained in the methodology section, this research was heavily qualitative, but it was also important to conduct a quantitative analysis to prove some facts. The mixed method analysis was considered the most appropriate way of reaching a comprehensive outcome to this study.

Fundamental issues about the museum

The research questions that were posed to the participants focused on determining a number of fundamental issues about the museum. It is important to look at the manner in which the participants respondent to the questions that were posed to them. The first question was posed primarily to the first two respondents who were interviewed through Skype. The question focused on determining when the decision was made to transform the YSL Foundation into a museum and the people who were involved.

When was the decision made to transform the YSL Foundation into a museum? Who was involved in making this decision?

The two respondents stated that as soon as Saint Laurent passed away on June 1, 2008, Pierre Bergé developed interest in transforming the foundation into a museum. At the time, the two respondents noted that the YSL Foundation was an exhibition space where people from all over the world could visit and see the great works of one of the world’s finest fashion designers of the 20th century. Bergé worked with a number of stakeholders to push for the elevation of this exhibition space into a museum. October 3, 2017 will become an important day in its life and in the history of Yves Saint Laurent, as the foundation will officially become a museum. The entire process involved detailed engagement with a number of stakeholders, as shown in the statement below that was given by one of the respondents:

“After a civil discussion we shared these ideas with Nathalie Criniere who is in charge of the set design for the museum, and we exchanged some ideas as well with other experts” (Respondent 1).

The next question focused on determining if the respondents believe that it was right to transform the institution into a museum.

Do you believe it was the right decision to transform this institution into a museum?

The question was answered by all the respondents and the figure 10 below shows the outcome of the analysis of their response.

Was it right to transform YSL Foundation into a Museum?
Fig. 10. Was it right to transform YSL Foundation into a Museum? (Developed by author).

As shown in the figure above, an overwhelming majority of the respondents (those who agree and those who strongly agree) believe that it was the right decision to make given the role that the institution had been playing to promote fashion design in the 21st century. Fifteen out of the twenty respondents felt that it was the right decision. Only four of the participants had a contrary opinion, stating that it would have been better to have Saint Laurent’s collections made available at other museums within the city. The next question focused on the relevance of the soon to be opened museum.

What is the relevance of Yves Saint Laurent as a museum in the fashion city of Paris?

The respondents were asked to state whether they felt it was relevant to have this museum set up in the heart of Paris. Figure 11 below summarizes the responses obtained from the participants.

The relevance of YSL museum.
Fig. 11. The relevance of YSL museum (Developed by author).

As shown in the figure above, 19 out of the 20 respondents either felt that the museum is very relevant or relevant to the city of Paris. They believe that for Paris to hold its position as the top global center of fashion, such museums should be established. Museums devoted to fashion and fashion designers like Saint Laurent will not only motivate creativity among the emerging fashion artists, but also preserve works of Paris’ greatest fashion designers of the past century. The question that follows focused on how the museum will be of benefit to fashion designers and members of the public.

How will the public and fashion designers benefit from the two museums?

When asked this question, the two respondents stated that the museums founded in Paris and Marrakesh in honor of Saint Laurent are highly symbolic. The top fashion designer of the 20th century spent over 40 years in Paris designing unique dresses for modern women. For about 30 years, he was at 5 Avenue Marceau as a career fashion designer. As such, the decision to transform the same place into a museum in his honor was well informed. It will greatly benefit designers who have been inspired by his work. They will be able to observe the environment in which Saint Laurent spent close to half of his life as a fashion designer.

The museum will also be important for the current and future designers who may want to understand the works of art of some of the greatest designers in the past century. The museum in Marrakesh will be equally important. One of the respondents explained that “the reason to open the YSL museum in Marrakech is that Saint Laurent spent a considerable amount of his career there, and he was greatly inspired by the beauty of the city. He played a critical role in preserving its rich historic and cultural heritage.”

As such, it was appropriate to honor him by founding a museum in the city. To members of the public, this museum will be an excellent place to spend a pleasurable time while seeing some of the finest works of art. The question below focused on determining whether the move to transform the institution into a museum will have a significant impact on fashion design in contemporary society.

Do you believe the decision to transform the institution into a museum will have significant impact on fashion design in the contemporary world?

When asked this question, the response given by the participants was mathematically analyzed using Microsoft Excel software, and figure 12 below shows the responses.

Impact of the museum on contemporary fashion design.
Fig. 15. Impact of the museum on contemporary fashion design (Developed by author).

The practice of preserving art in museums has been with us for a very long time and it remains the best way of preserving the works of some of the greatest fashion designers such as Saint Laurent. As shown in the figure above, over 80% believe that the decision to transform the YSL Foundation into a museum will have significant impact on fashion design in the contemporary world. Only 2 of the people interviewed had a contrary opinion.

Their response is in line with the arguments of Denscombe, who states that in order to predict the future, one needs to look at the past and then compare it with the present (26). Fashion keeps on changing as designers constantly try to come up with something new and unique. Contemporary fashion designers can benefit greatly from this museum by looking at the pattern of change in the past century. They can understand why a given design was a major success and why others failed to achieve significant public acceptance. The contemporary designers can, therefore, predict the designs they need to come up with to ensure that they find public acceptance. They can also learn from the works of these previous artists how and when to introduce a new design based on chronological analysis of their work.

Will the cost incurred in transforming and managing the museum be in line with the benefits that will be generated?

After getting the authorization from the government to transform the YSL fashion house into a museum, the foundation has spent a significant amount of resources in structural development. It is important to determine if indeed the resources spent in the renovation and expansion of the space will be in line with the benefits that the museum will offer. Figure 13 below summarizes the sentiments of the participants.

Cost and benefit analysis.
Fig. 13. Cost and benefit analysis (Developed by author).

As shown in the figure above, a slight majority (55%) of the respondents feel that the benefits that will come from this institution will be in line with the cost incurred. A few held the contrary opinion, arguing that the city of Paris already has numerous museums and that the YSL Museum may not be able to sustainably attract the expected high number of visitors. It is true that the city has a number of museums, especially after other top fashion houses decided to establish their own museums.

This development means that this museum will have to compete with other museums in the country for an audience. As such, it was necessary for the researcher to determine if indeed the new museum has what it takes to compete favorably and sustainably in the current competitive environment. The following question was posed to the respondents:

Do you believe the institution has what it takes to achieve success as a museum in the 21st century?

The response obtained from the participants was analyzed mathematically and figure 14 below shows the outcome:

Ability of the museum to achieve success in the 21st century.
Fig. 14. Ability of the museum to achieve success in the 21st century (Developed by author).

As shown in the figure above, an overwhelming majority, 18 out of 20 respondents, stated that they believe the institution has what it takes to achieve the desired success. Only one person doubted the preparedness of the new institution to achieve the desired success. The respondents agreed that the YSL Foundation already has a great collection of works of art that will attract not only local citizens but also international visitors.

The Preparations for Authorizing the YSL as an Official Museum in France

One of the main reasons why the researcher selected two of the twenty participants to play a special role in this study was to engage with them more intensively through an interview in order to understand the preparations for obtaining authorization for the YSL as an official museum in France. The date has already been set for the official launch of the museum, but it was important to engage directly with people who are involved with internal activities at the museum.

In this section, the focus will be on discussing the preparations that have been made to obtain the authorization and to prepare the institution to become an official museum in the country. According to Denscombe, Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent was turned into a cultural house where exhibitions of Saint Laurent’s work were displayed (54). There were no serious plans to transform it into a museum before 2014, as one of the employees of this foundation stated.

However, the growing demand from Parisians and international tourists forced the management to start thinking about the possibility of transforming it into a museum. It became clear that it was necessary to expand the space to meet the demand from the increasing number of tourists in the country. It was at this point that the head curator and other officials among the upper management unit made the decision to transform the haute couture house into a museum.

To achieve the status of museum, an application had to be made to the Ministry of Culture. It is the responsibility of this ministry to give the relevant approval for an institution to become a museum that is recognized as such by the state. When the application was made, a team from the ministry was sent to inspect the facility to confirm that there was indeed a cultural heritage that deserved to be preserved in a museum. The management had already made preparations for the inspection.

This was not a new stage in the preparation process because the foundation had been organizing exhibitions for years and the number of visitors was increasing with time, a sign that the foundation had what the public desired to see. As one of the respondents noted, the ministry officials were not just interested in inspecting the materials in possession of the foundation. They were also interested in determining how the institution was preserving them. The ministry had to be convinced that once granted the status of a museum, the institution would be able to preserve these valuable materials not only for the current generation but also for future generations.

The ministry officials completed their inspection and were fully satisfied that the institution was fit to become a museum due to both its collections and the manner in which they were preserved and displayed. However, an instruction was issued by the ministry that the space had to be redesigned to make it able to accommodate a greater visitor traffic without exposing them to any physical danger. The officials stated that the current space was fit for a small exhibition center, but not a museum.

The foundation management immediately took measures to ensure that the suggested changes would be introduced. A set designer and a decorator were identified to help redesign and restructure the space to meet the standards. This led the foundation to close its exhibition space for renovation. The ministry is satisfied with the new space design and the measures put in place to ensure visitors’ safety. Further improvements are still ongoing, but the institution is currently recognized as a soon to be museum by the Ministry of Culture. As a museum specifically dedicated to an individual fashion design artist, Yves Saint Laurent, it is set to be the first of its kind.

Strategic approach of the museum

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris has taken a completely new strategic approach that cannot be compared with other existing museums in France. According to Falk and Dierking, most museums around the world, and particularly in France, often have on display works of various artists (41). In fact, most of them have works of architects, sculptors, graphic designers, custom designers, painters, photographers, musicians, folk artists, craft artists, industrial designers, and fashion designers among others. It is only recently that top brands such as Louis Vuitton have started museums that specifically display the work of top fashion designers.

However, these museum display the works of various artists who made significant contributions to defining the position of the company as a top global fashion house. In fact, they even have a collection of artwork not directly related to fashion design in their collection. Having a variety of artwork makes a museum rich and attractive to a variety of people. A musician, a fashion designer, a sculptor, or a painter will find such museums relevant to their field or profession. The ability of a museum to attract people from different careers determines its ability to achieve success.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent has embraced a new approach that no other museum in the country has ever taken before. This museum will exclusively display works of Saint Laurent from the time he started making his sketches as a teenager to the time when he finally decided to retire from the industry. According to Falk et al., one of the unique things about Saint Laurent as an artist is that he collected most of his works to help him personally trace the path that he had taken in the career that he loved so much (78).

He kept his drawings, sketches, garments, pictures, and many more artifacts from different stages of his work. Simon states that Saint Laurent’s collection is one of the largest collections of a single fashion artist in recent history (23). That is why the foundation considered it appropriate to have a museum specifically dedicated to the works of Saint Laurent. The library might be viewed as one that only seeks to attract fashion designers and people who have a high degree of interest in the field. However, the artistic skills of Saint Laurent are likely to attract a larger audience.

According to Flaviano and Freschard, the set designer Nathalie Crinière and decorator Jacques Grange have come up with a display design that will help tell the story of Saint Laurent as a designer (90). When visitors enter the museum, a short film will introduce them to Saint Laurent as an artist and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. Then the designs, sketches, and gowns made by Saint Laurent in the early years of his career follow immediately after the video.

As visitors walk into the museum, they will find other works that the artist designed in his later years. As one of the respondents noted, the structure not only helps in telling the story of this fashion designer but also in explaining the path that women’s fashion has taken over the years. Kvale states that nothing illustrates the history of women’s fashion better than the works of Saint Laurent (45). He was at the forefront in defining women’s fashion in the 20th century. His decision to keep a collection of his work makes it easy for people now to understand how trends in women’s fashion changed. One can see how one fashion design led to another, from the 1960s to the year 2002, when Saint Laurent finally left the industry.

Challenges of creating the project

This ambitious project is not without challenges. The respondents interviewed acknowledged that there are a number of challenges that are already affecting the project, and others are expected to emerge as the institution is transformed into a museum. One of the biggest challenges already witnessed is taking into consideration the proposals of the public concerning the design of the museum. As the team works on the new space, it was considered appropriate to take into consideration suggestions from members of the public.

However, the curator, the set designer, and the decorator have all agreed that it is challenging to take into consideration ideas from members of the public because they vary. What one section of the community thinks is the appropriate approach is the complete opposite of what another section thinks. At first, the team tried to incorporate some of the public’s suggestions to arrive at an appropriate space design. However, it became clear that they now have to rely on their knowledge and experience and the suggestions from top leaders of the foundation to come up with an appropriate design.

According to the curator who is involved in this project, setting up a museum is not a common occurrence even in a lifetime of a curator. In most cases, a curator is charged with managing the collection. This was a rare case where the team had to come up with a museum that meets the standards set by the ministry. In her life, the curator had never before had the opportunity to witness such a transition. Limited experience on her part was a major challenge when undertaking this project.

A number of people had to be consulted and it had the effect of prolonging the time required to complete specific stages of the project. The fact that the entire project was under close supervision by the Ministry of Culture put even greater pressure on the team. Everything had to be done to perfection to ensure that authorization was given for the institution to become a museum.

One of the participants interviewed stated that it might be a challenging task to convince the younger generation to understand the museum’s relevance. Fashion keeps on changing and what was popular in the 20th century may not be very appealing to the modern generation. It is important to find ways to convince the younger generation to view the objects in this museum as a history of fashion design that explains some of the major changes that took place as society transitioned into the 21st century. The existence of the YSL brand in the market today is also considered another major challenge that the management will have to deal with when museum operations are initiated.

The designs offered under the YSL brand are very different from the materials currently available for display in the museum. It may not be easy explaining to the public the cause of this major difference, especially among the current consumers of this brand who would expect to find similar products on display. The guides will have to explain to them the cause of the shift from traditional designs that were available at the YSL Haute Couture House and those that are currently available under the YSL brand name. Some of the products such as wrist watches were not previously available at the haute couture house. Reconciling these inconsistencies may prove challenging to the new team that will be responsible for running the institution.

Branding and developing a strong communication plan

Brand is a powerful tool in the field of marketing. It enables a firm to acquire an identity that makes it stand out among the rest of the market. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris will need a brand that will be used by its marketing team to promote it in the international market. The main problem, as discussed above, is that there is already a brand using the same name and label in the market. The following figure 15 shows the brand currently used by Yves Saint Laurent fashion house:

YSL fashion brand.
Fig. 15. YSL fashion brand (Flaviano and Freschard 32).

The management has been forced to find a new brand specifically for the museum. The brand cannot be very different from the brand image that Saint Laurent used in his designs to ensure that the identity is not lost. The brand must also emphasize the fact that it is now a museum, not the fashion house it used to be in the past. Figure 16 below shows the brand that will be used to promote the museum in the local and international community:

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris brand.
Fig. 16. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris brand (Flaviano and Freschard 36).

The team has already devised a communication plan for promoting this new brand. The plan includes the use of both mass and social media to create awareness about the existence of the new museum and what it will offer to its visitors.

Grand opening and the museum programs

According to the information collected through the case study, it is clear that the management has put in place a dynamic program to ensure that the museum alternates between retrospective displays and contemporary thematic exhibitions in its exhibition space (Flaviano and Freschard 56). The grand opening of the museum has been scheduled for October 3, 2017, both in Paris and Marrakech. From October 2017 to September 2018, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent will hold a retrospective exhibition in its first 12 months of operation. The program has been set to ensure that some of the works will be rotated after six months for the purpose of conservation. From October 2018 to January 2019, the museum will have its first thematic exhibition, to be entitled L’Asie rêvée d’Yves Saint Laurent (Flaviano and Freschard 94).

The exhibition will present the works of Saint Laurent as well as other materials that will be borrowed from private collectors and other museums around the world. From February to September 2019, there will be a second retrospective display at the museum. The head curator has stated that the alternation between retrospective displays and contemporary exhibitions will help in ensuring that the institution remains dynamic and capable of offering the best to its visitors at all times. It will also give the institution time to find ways of redefining its collection to ensure that it remains relevant.

Relevance of case study approach

This study focused on using a case study report as one of the main methods for obtaining information about the new museum. According to Brennen, case studies often allow for collection of detailed data about a specific issue of interest (59). It allows a researcher to collect data in cases where large samples of participants are not available (Simon 52). As mentioned in the methodology section of this paper, it was easy to get a large sample of participants for this research project. As such, a case study was considered a more relevant approach for collecting data about the new institution.

It allowed the researcher to collect information about the Musée Yves Saint Laurent from various sources. Although Weil warns that data collected through case studies may not be generalizable to a wider population, the approach makes it possible to collect more specific data (78). In this case, it was of interest to collect specific data about the museum. Compared to other museums, the YSL museum is unique because its primary focus on one fashion designer instead of presenting the works of many other artists. Moreover, the study was not focused on generalizing the information collected. Instead, it focused on understanding the path that this institution took from an haute couture house to a museum institution.

Justification of choosing the YSL museum as a case study

According to Brennen, it is always important for a researcher to choose an appropriate case study (73). The chosen case study must make it possible to collect the necessary data that will effectively inform the conclusion and any recommendations to be made. The decision to use the YSL museum as a case study was made due to the lack of an appropriate comparison case in France. This study was about a new museum institution that is set to be the first of its kind, focusing its exhibitions on the works of Saint Laurent.

It would be advisable to base the case study on an already established institution in order to have a clearer model of how the Musée Yves Saint Laurent will operate once it is officially opened. However, this was not possible because of the unique nature of this institution. The manner in which it will operate differs from that of the existing museums in the country. For this reason it was decided that the case study needed to focus on the institution itself. It had to focus on the significant steps that were made to transform a fashion label into a museum institution. It is believed that it was the only way of collecting the appropriate information for the project.

Case Study

In this case study, the primary focus was to understand YSL first as a fashion house, then as a foundation, before finally becoming a museum recognized as such by the Ministry of Culture. The case study examines the projects at the foundation that led to the authorization for the institution to become a museum. It also looks at the new challenges that the head curator of the museum and the entire team of employees will face in promoting the brand as a museum and not as a top fashion label. The study will try to uncover the importance of having a strong YSL brand in the country and the role it will play in ensuring that this museum becomes a success in the 21st century. The case study will also look at the future plans of this cultural institution as it tries to promote fashion in the modern world.

The YSL foundation project

In 2002, Saint Laurent announced that he was officially retiring from his long career as a top fashion designer. He had spent over 40 years empowering women through dresses that made them look powerful, confident, and beautiful in a century when women were fighting for their position is a male-dominated society. He had spent about 30 years of his career at 5 Avenue Marceau working on various projects, but the time had come for him to allow the younger generation to take women’s fashion to the next level. Two years into his retirement, Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent was officially launched. Pierre Bergé and Saint Laurent realized that they had a responsibility to the current and future generation to showcase great works of fashion art in the 20th century that Saint Laurent had collected. That is why they decided to establish the foundation in 2004.

According to Flaviano and Freschard, the foundation did not have major exhibition activities from 2004 to 2008, when Saint Laurent passed away on at his home (62). During the initial years, a number of visitors came to see the archived works of Saint Laurent, but for Saint Laurent himself, this was an opportunity to explain to the younger generation of fashion designers what drove him to this career and how they can define their own career path in fashion design in the future. When he died, however, Pierre Bergé sold the collection of art and antiquities (other than the works of Saint Laurent himself) at Grand Palais in Paris, generating over 375 million Euros.

It was a clear indication that society appreciated the collection that the couple had owned. Part of the proceeds from that sale were used to upgrade the space at 5 Avenue Marceau, where Saint Laurent had been working, into a proper exhibition center. It was at this stage that the management of the foundation decided to develop a program for members of the public and fashion enthusiasts to visit the facility regularly to see the works of Saint Laurent. The success of these projects saw the institution become an internationally recognized museum in 2017.

Museum marketing

France is home to over 30 museums which have a strong market presence. Some of the popular museums in the country include the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Carnavalet Museum, the Petit Palais, the Musée Rodin, the Grand Palais, the Musée Picasso, and the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, among others. Some of these museums have been operating for decades, attracting both local and international visitors. The Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain are some of the direct competitors of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, as they also focus on fashion design. In such a market where there are numerous firms offering the same products—some of which have been in existence for several decades—it requires management to rethink its marketing strategy. The Château de By and the Agropolis-Museum were successful museums when they started operation (Flaviano and Freschard 77).

However, they were soon driven out of the market because of competition and the inability of their management to maintain their relevance. The two institutions present informative cases of museums being forced out of the market. Kara states that any institution can only continue operation if it is sustainable (33). This means that the income generated from the operation must be able to sustain its operations and allow for growth and development.

The head curators at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and Marrakesh must understand that the survival of the new institution depends on its ability to attract visitors on a regular basis to support its operations. It must remain relevant to their needs and be able to deliver optimal service every time they visit. At this initial stage, one of the most important tasks is to market the museum. The management team must put in place measures that will ensure that the facility becomes known both locally and internationally, especially by fashion enthusiasts. One of the biggest advantages that the marketing team has is that Paris is still regarded as the global capital of fashion.

When fashion enthusiasts from all over the world come to the city, museums are some of the places they consider visiting. The team has to ensure that the facility is known to such tourists. In its promotional campaigns, the name of the museum, its location, and factors that make it unique compared with other museums in the city should be clearly outlined. The message should create interest among visitors to motivate them to visit the museum. The team should use both mass and social media in its promotional campaigns. As Brennen states, social media has increasingly become a major platform that companies use to reach out to their global audience (81). It is a platform that this museum cannot afford to ignore in its promotional campaigns.

Significance of YSL as a brand label

When analyzing the challenges that Musée Yves Saint Laurent may face in the market, it became clear that the existence of YSL as a brand label in the current market may be an issue. However, it is important to note that the existence of this brand may have some benefits as well. The YSL brand label has been actively involved in sales promotion both locally and internationally. The products offered by the brand are popular all over the world.

This means that the new museum can ride in the wake of a strong brand. Yves Saint Laurent retired as a fashion designer over seventeen years ago. In a world where there are numerous fashion brands, it is possible that today very few people, especially among the younger generation, would remember the YSL brand. However, the company that acquired the brand did everything possible to ensure that the brand remains as popular as possible. In fact, the firm has diversified its products into other fashion lines such as shoes, bags, and men’s and women’s jackets in addition to the products that were previously offered under the brand name. It has ensured that the brand’s presence in the market has been sustained even after the death of Saint Laurent.

The YSL brand is associated with high quality products. People who are regular consumers of the brand are expected to be some of the initial visitors. They will be interested in discovering the history of the brand that they have come to love. They will also want to know how the new brand shifted from what was traditionally a women-focused fashion brand to a new brand that offers products for both men and women. It is important to note that the fashion brand and the museum will have to operate in the market as a team to protect the YSL brand. It is in the interest of both institutions to ensure that the brand remains popular on the market.

It means that working as a team, it will be cheaper to promote the brand compared to the hypothetical case where the museum would have to sponsor the entire promotional campaign on its own. The introduction of a museum under the same brand is also a major boost to the YSL fashion house. It is an indication that French society has recognized the brand as one that stands out among the rest. It will be in the interest of the company to ensure that the museum remains operational. A close coordination between the museum and the fashion house will play a critical role in ensuring that the operations of the museum remain sustainable.

Just like the Louis Vuitton Foundation that is partly funded by LVMH, this new museum may attract sponsorship from the YSL fashion house. It is in the interest of the fashion house for the museum to achieve impressive results, as the museum’s success will be a way to promote the company’s own brand.

It is important to note, however, that the museum’s reputation also relies on the reputation of YSL fashion house. The fashion house must remain popular with the public to help the museum achieve the desired success. The two must complement each other in their operations because they now share the same brand that each needs to remain popular on the market. The management of the museum will therefore ensure that they monitor the operations of the YSL fashion house to ensure that the shared values are protected at all times. Measures should be put in place to ensure that operations of one entity do not jeopardize the existence of the other entity.

Future plan of the museum

The management of the museum has set up a clear program that defines how it is to be run from the time it opens its doors to the public on October 3, 2017 until late 2019. The head curator has announced that there will be an alternating program between retrospective displays and temporary thematic exhibition in its first two years of operations. According to the curator, the program has been set for the first two years of the museum’s operation, but the team is open to any adjustments that may be necessary as soon as operations begin. In the first two years, it is clear that the museum will primarily focus on the works of Saint Laurent from the beginning of his career till later years.

However, the curator indicated that the museum may occasionally put on display works of other artists as well based on the nature of the exhibition and public demand. She noted that the institution will be committed to ensuring that the products are relevant to the targeted audience. It means that when there is a rising demand for the works of other artists, the management may consider having other works of art to meet that demand.

Conclusion & Recommendation

Young Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent was born on August 1, 1936 in the coastal city of Oran in Algeria. During this time, Algeria was under the colonial rule of France and it was considered part of its territory. His parents, Charles and Lucienne Saint Laurent, moved to Algeria and settled in a villa where they brought up Saint Laurent and two other children, Michele and Briggite. Saint Laurent was very close to his two sisters and his mother.

He was fascinated by art at a very early age. He started by creating intricate paper dolls for his younger sisters. He would spend most of his free time at school and at home designing various items using paper. He then developed special interest in drawing. The family led a regal life and Saint Laurent started noticing different clothing designs, especially clothing for women. Reports indicate that he would draw some of the dresses that he saw women wearing during parties that they attended. In his early teens, he started designing dresses for his two younger sisters and his mother. He always wanted them to stand out among other women and he believed that the best way of doing that was to give them the best in terms of dress.

His parents noticed his unique skills and talents in the arts and decided to allow him to pursue a career in fashion design. In fact, it is reported that Saint Laurent was so obsessed with fashion design that he spent little time concentrating on other subjects such as sciences, mathematics, and medicine that were highly regarded at that time. Saint Laurent’s parents were convinced that he had a bright future in fashion design, and so he was sent to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture at the age of 17 to pursue a career in fashion design. It did not take long at this fashion house in the heart of Paris for his works to be recognized by some of the top designers of the time.

Michael De Brunhoff, then a senior editor at French Vogue, noticed his unique skills in design and introduced him to Christian Dior, the man who helped Saint Laurent to become one of the world’s finest fashion designers of the 20th century. It was at the House of Dior that Saint Laurent matured as a fashion designer.

Empowering Women through Fashionable Designs

Saint Laurent was a staunch believer in the fact that women deserve to be empowered in society. He believed that his sisters should be treated equally with men in French society and globally. As a fashion artist, he embarked on designing dresses that he believed would empower women. He argued that an elegant, well-dressed woman is confident enough to demand what she believes is rightfully hers. This belief defined the career path of Saint Laurent, a career that would span over 40 years. At the House of Dior, he inspired a number of new designs that made this fashion house very popular in France.

It was at this house that he gained stardom, especially after Dior’s death, when Saint Laurent became the head of the fashion house. His career briefly came to a stop when he was enlisted in the military to fight in Algeria’s war of independence.

Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture House at 5 Avenue Marceau

When Saint Laurent came back to France from Algeria, his partner Pierre Bergé helped him to obtain funding from an American businessman so that they could start Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture House. In 1974 they moved their fashion house to 5 Avenue Marceau, the place where Saint Laurent spent most of his career as a fashion designer and where he regularly came up with new designs. It was at this fashion house that he gained global stardom as a fashion designer specifically targeting women’s fashion. His designs gained popularity in Europe and North America, which were the biggest markets in the world for such products.

His products also became popular in Japan. In 2002, Saint Laurent finally decided to retire from the industry after a career that lasted over 40 years. It was after his retirement that a decision was made by Pierre Bergé and Saint Laurent to open the fashion house for exhibitions.

From a Fashion House to a Museum Institution

The data collected from both primary and secondary sources show that the path that YSL took from being a top fashion house to being a museum institution is unique. Soon after his retirement from the fashion industry, Saint Laurent decided to make his works available for the public, especially to young fashion designers, through the foundation they started with Pierre Bergé. Unknown to him, this was the most important step that would be made toward creating a platform through which his institution would later become a museum. Unlike many other fashion designers of his time, Saint Laurent made a commitment to collect almost all of his artworks.

He kept pictures, drawings, designs, and garments that he designed throughout his career. He did this to help him trace the path he took from the time he was a young designer to the time that he became one of the top most designers in the world of women’s fashion. Little did he know that his personal story would become a rich source of cultural information that the French government would come to consider a valuable resource for retracing the path of 20th century fashion design. When Saint Laurent died in 2002 from brain cancer, his fashion house became an active center of exhibition where his works were made available to members of the public.

Pierre Bergé and the head curator at the foundation finally made the decision to send a formal request to the French Ministry of Culture to allow the foundation to become a museum. This was a unique request, considering that the museum would be entirely focused on the works of Saint Laurent. France is home to numerous museums, many of which are found in the capital. However, none of these museums were focused on the works of a single artist. History was made when approval was given by the ministry, making this institution the first of its kind. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent is set to become the first museum in the country to be fully dedicated to the works of a single fashion designer. That is not all. The foundation has also constructed a second museum in Marrakesh, Morocco, where Saint Laurent spent considerable time trying to preserve the rich culture and customs of the city. The two museums will be opened officially on October 3, 2017.


Musée Yves Saint Laurent is a unique museum that will primarily focus on the works of Saint Laurent, one of the greatest fashion designers of the recent times. The head curator has outlined the activities that will be conducted when the museum is launched, and it is believed that it will be a successful institution. However, it is important to note that a number of museums have recently been forced out of operation for several reasons. To avoid experiencing the same fate, it is important for the management of this institution to take the following into consideration:

  • The head curator must ensure that the YSL museum constantly remains relevant despite changes that may occur in the fashion industry. The museum stands out as a rich source of cultural information among fashion designers. They visit to learn about changes that took place in 20th-century women’s fashion and how Saint Laurent was able to remain relevant amidst these changes. As such, the display must tell a story about Saint Laurent’s past that is relevant to contemporary visitors.
  • It took a great effort for Saint Laurent to preserve tens of thousands of drawings, pictures, designs, and garments that he created throughout his career. The museum is expected to be in operation for several generations to come. However, that can only be possible if the curators make a concerted effort to preserve these materials. Having them on display is important, but ensuring that they are protected from wear and decay is equally important. The museum can only be sustainable if these important materials are kept in a sustainable manner.
  • The management of the museum will need to work in close collaboration with the YSL brand, which still markets a wide variety of luxury products, most of which were not designed by Saint Laurent. However, the museum and the company will now share the same brand name. In fact, their brand images also have a number of similarities. Any damage to the brand caused by either the museum or the fashion company will affect both entities. They must work as a unit to promote the brand.
  • It is important for this museum to work in close collaboration with other museums in the country, especially those that focus on fashion design. Although most of the items on display will be works of Saint Laurent, once in a while it may be necessary to display works of other artists. This approach will help eliminate monotony and boredom. As such, having an exchange program where works of Saint Laurent will be made available in other museums while the YSL museum displays other artists’ works will be necessary.
  • The management must ensure that there is a regular inflow of resources from its operations to enable it remains sustainable. The management must be transparent when it comes to the income and expenses of the museum.

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