PARIS – A huge collection of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion owned by the model who inspired Yves Saint Laurent’s famous “Le Smoking” tuxedo went under the hammer on Monday in Paris.
The collection — the biggest of its kind — contains some 12,000 garments and accessories and attracted keen interest from private collectors, museums and fashion lovers.
Danielle Luquet de Saint Germain built up her collection as a model and muse for Saint Laurent and later as an artistic advisor at Christian Dior.
“It breaks my heart to see these dresses go one after the other,” she told AFP by telephone, explaining that she no longer had the energy to maintain the collection.
Among around 300 lots that went under the hammer was a long black robe in sheer black chiffon with a band of ostrich feathers around the hips.
Made in 1968 with Luquet de Saint Germain as the model, the dress fetched 119,000 euros ($160,000), far in excess of its 13,000 to 15,000-euro estimated price.
The collection could be seen as a “witness to the significant moments in fashion history” in the last quarter of the 20th century, said auction house Hotel Drouot.
Luquet de Saint Germain spent 10 years at Yves Saint Laurent before taking up the role of artistic advisor at Christian Dior.
Speaking in 1969, Saint Laurent said of her: “I had nothing to teach her; on the contrary, it was she who helped free me of outdated references.”
In addition to working at Christian Dior, she also helped French designer Claude Montana with his first collection.
The model, who has lived in Geneva since 1978 and did not attend the sale, maintained a strong interest in haute couture over the years, becoming a client of Azzedine Alaia and Christian Lacroix, whose creations feature in the collection.
“The collection is the thread of my life. I kept everything that I found significant, as a baseline for those who love fashion…. Nothing is outdated. Everything is so beautiful,” she said.
Other designers represented at the sale include Montana, Paco Rabanne and Thierry Mugler.
Monday’s auction was the first of a number which will be held until all 12,000 items have been sold.
Just compiling the inventory of items to be auctioned took five weeks, according to auctioneers Gros & Delettrez which organised the sale.
Francoise Sternbach, of the French Union of Professional Art Experts, told trade journal Women’s Wear Daily earlier this year the collection was of a very high quality.
Luquet de Saint Germain had a “strong eye, she did not pick any pieces that were banal” with many “one-offs, prototypes, designed especially for her,” she said.