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Photography by Francesco Casarotto

Fascinating Knitscapes: YSL and Pour Toi

An exhibition in Schio, Italy, explores and compares Yves Saint Laurent’s knitwear with the designs produced in the ‘80s by Pour Toi.

Yves Saint Laurent might be more famous for his Mondrian dresses, his safari jackets and tuxedo suits than for his knitwear, but it was the latter that the curators of an interesting exhibition which opened last weekend at the Ex Lanificio Conte in Schio, near Vicenza, took as starting point for an intriguing comparison. “La materia dell’archivio. 1 mostra 1 incontro”, curated by Maria Luisa Frisa, lecturer in fashion design at Venice’s IUAV University, in collaboration with Italian fashion designer, photographer and exhibition designer Francesco Casarotto, focuses on the knitwear designs produced by Yves Saint Laurent and by duo Coelli-Rey, creators of knitwear line Pour Toi.  

The designs are neatly arranged inside the stark rooms of historical wool factory Conte: a few garments, accessories, drawings, magazines and photographs are presented on solid wooden tables, while the best and most striking outfits are displayed on dummies. Rediscovering Yves Saint Laurent’s stripy jumpers, zig-zagging sleeveless jackets or gold lame knitted cardigans and trousers is an absolute pleasure, but visitors who have never heard about Pour Toi will be astonished by its designs that include two tone black and white jumpers, cardigans and coats characterised by ample collars or featuring big swirling motifs and dreamy musical notes. There are also some ethnic designs such as jumpers and dresses in an autumnal palette decorated by rows of bronze-coloured discs and cones or by hundreds of mother of pearl buttons. Italian architect and art director Luca Coelli and American artist and embroiderer Sam Rey started working as a duo in the ‘80s producing first a collection of handmade knitted garments under the Yoko label.

Considering themselves as hybrid artists rather than just designers – Coelli conceived fashion as something that could have been created season after season by a different group of creative minds – in 1985, they launched a new knitwear line, Pour Toi, at the Milan Fashion Week. Coelli and Rey’s knitwear designs were characterised by fluid and at times asymmetrical silhouettes, a passion for geometric figures and a bold graphic style and by interesting chromatic contrasts and combinations. The knitwear designs exhibited in Schio are also a testament of the in-depth research into materials the duo carried out throughout the years of their collaboration. The modernity of the Pour Toi label stood in fact in the way it fused and combined shapes, silhouettes and colours with dynamic materials and yarns.  

At the end of their walk through the knitwear lines exhibited in Schio, visitors will be struck by one thing: the designs produced by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pour Toi were definitely very different from each other, but there are two very special threads that bind them; creativity and innovation.    

“La materia dell’archivio. 1 mostra 1 incontro”, Ex Lanificio Conte, Via XX Settembre, Schio, Italy, 1-2, 8-9 November 2008. For further information on the exhibition, please check the site.