The modernization of Chinese fashion got a monumental boost recently when the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition opened at the Peking Arts Exhibition Hall. Since the opening, each in a capacity crowd of more than 4,000 a day has paid 50 yuan (20 cents) to examine the clothes closely, looking at the Paris designer's original sketches and making their own pencil drawings of the YSL designs.
A sign at the entrance to the exhibit read "No spitting and no sketching with pen and ink."
"We're afraid that people using pen and ink might splatter the ink on the clothing," said Hugues-Alexandre Tartault, who organized the exhibition here.
Saint Laurent himself gave some coaching to fashion and art students at the Beaux Arts school here, making suggestions to individual students for improving their drawings and designs.
"The Chinese won't be able to understand what is happening in fashion today unless they know what has happened in fashion in the past," said the designer. And so he organized the 210 mannequins and designs in chronological order for this show, rather than clustering the styles as they were arranged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute two years ago.
Saint Laurent also organized the presentation. The walls of the exhibition area are covered in tussah silk from the Liaoning provinces of China, the outlines of picture frames on one wall suggesting a drawing room in one area, the door of a chateau in another.
But the clothes themselves were what the crowd wanted to see, straining over the rope to study the draping of a crepe gown, standing patiently in front of a glass case full of intricate embroideries. The clothes from YSL's African period and even his Chinese-inspired period didn't get as much attention as the big-skirted ball gowns and one black dress cut out in the back to the base of the spine. For the Chinese, most of them still wearing their traditional blue garb, that advance in fashion seems a long way off.