Backstage Onstage: Olivier Saillard and Dress Like a Man

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Published June 22, 2011

 
Sometimes the best way to show how bright your star shines is to leave the country. I exaggerate only slightly in the case of Olivier Saillard, the French fashion curator, who put on a show in Florence at the invitation of the Pitti Discovery foundation. Saillard’s “Dress Like a Man,” (Vestirsi da Uomo) was a lesson in gender-bending style by a historian who has never thought of curating in a stately, stuffy way.

The new director of Musée Galliera, the fashion museum of the city of Paris, Saillard is special. As director of programming at France’s Musueum of Fashion and Textiles at the Louvre, he was responsible for a string of groundbreaking shows on Viktor & Rolf, Yohji Yamamoto, and Sonia Rykiel, finishing off in style last year with a history of contemporary fashion in the ’70s and ’80s. At Galliera, Saillard most recently curated “Madame Grès: Couture at Work,” which runs through July 24 at Paris’s Musée Bourdelle.

“Dress Like a Man” was a performance piece similar to those Saillard stages during Paris’s couture weeks, featuring improbable, poetic and tongue-in-cheek fashion. I was surprised to see Saillard himself onstage with his muse, Violetta Sanchez, (the star wasp-waist model  from the days when YSL was Yves) and three other iconic models (Claudia Huidobro, Axelle Doué, and Amalia Vairelli) strutting their stuff  in various menswear classics (tied, twisted and turned upside down).  The result was so chic and and sexy, it made drag seem old hat!