Hosted by Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the research seminar Fashion as a Dialogue Between Cultures has gathered international researchers to discuss the complex interconnections between material culture, media and society through contemporary fashion.

Dr Leyla Neri, designer and anthropologist, program director in charge of the Anthropo Design Research Lab at Parsons Paris, delivered a communication entitled The Changing Materiality of Fashion: Reinterpreting Spanishness in Yves Saint Laurent’s Work. She examined the relationship between the hybrid stylistic and decorative features of the vernacular dress worn by local women in Oran, the birthplace of Yves Saint Laurent in Algeria where he lived until the age of 18, and some facets of the Grand Couturier’s work. She adopted an object-centered approach based on the results of a fieldwork conducted in the Mediterranean city.

As a dress that mediates between various fashion cultures and practices, the Blusa of Oran is neither completely North African, nor clearly French or Spanish. Its material characteristics and its historical trajectory reflect the Genius Loci of an African city situated across from the Andalusian coast. By extension, they shed new light on Saint Laurent’s narrative and production. The designer’s references to Spain, traditionally identified as a search for exoticism by fashion historians, are discussed here as a project connected to memory and related to wider social, cultural and gender issues.