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From Chanel to Dior, Paris’s great couture houses seem firmly anchored in tradition, but their most inventive luminaries were in fact outsiders. Some of fashion’s most memorable moments (Yves Saint Laurent’s safari suits, Azzedine Alaïa’s sensual dresses) came from this fertile melding of cultures. This season, a quartet of stylish shows – including two dedicated to reclusive Belgian Martin Margiela – celebrates these trailblazers. No front-row invitation needed.
As London gears up to pay tribute to the late Tunisian haute-couturier with a forthcoming show at the Design Museum this May, his adopted hometown beats it to the punch with this sober but powerful display of more than 40 of his sculptural creations, including the famous dress-cape he made for Grace Jones.
Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, until 10 June 2018.
This retrospective of fashion’s most secretive figure is the big ticket for spring. It’ll explore highlights from Margiela’s uncompromising, avant-garde career, from cloven shoes to human-sized doll clothes.
With more than 100 ground-breaking looks, videos of his off-the-wall catwalk shows and archive materials, it’s the show the Antwerp enigma so richly deserves.
Palais Galliera, until 15 July 2018.
For all his provocation and subversion, Margiela’s fanatical following owes far more to his spectacular talent for cut and drape than mere shock value. This tribute explores the surprising relationship between his radical work for his own label and his austerely elegant creations for the Parisian luxury house.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 22 March–2 September 2018.
Transformed after 18 months of renovations, Yves Saint Laurent’s hôtel particulier reopened last autumn as a temple to the couturier’s legacy. The museum’s inaugural collection has whittled down an extraordinary collection of thousands of garments to his most game-changing designs.
Don’t miss the faithful recreation of his studio, complete with sketches, fabric swatches and inspirational art.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent, until 9 September 2018.