Of Comic Books and Couture


In 1967, Yves Saint Laurent introduced La Vilaine Lulu, the beastly little star of a comic book — or bande dessinée — that he wrote and illustrated.

Short and squat with a froggy face, wearing a beribboned boater and a scarlet cancan skirt that she would flip up to expose her naked derrière, La Vilaine Lulu terrorized her teachers, schoolmates, passers-by — well, everyone, really. A devil child, that Lulu.

Now she is a cornerstone for “Mode et Bande Dessinée” (“Fashion and Comic Books”), which its organizers say is the first major exhibition to take a comprehensive look at fashion in comic books and graphic novels, through Jan. 5 at the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image in Angoulême, France.

As the fall couture season begins on Monday in Paris, the show is a reminder that, while luxury fashion is often viewed as elitist, it has a way of trickling down commercially and artistically to unexpected yet highly accessible places — and vice versa. Comic-Con International and the elaborate character outfits worn by fans are just one flash of the impact.

“Even Tintin has a look,” Mr. Lungheretti said.

The Cité’s six-part exhibition begins with a study of similar pen strokes found in renderings by fashion designers like Elsa Schiaparelli and Saint Laurent and such B.D. luminaries as Winsor McCay, the early 20th-century American cartoonist of “Little Nemo,” and Jean Giraud, the French artist also known as Moebius, who died in 2012.

In this section La Vilaine Lulu pops up at her most naughty — hosing chums with ice water, stringing up innocents, lashing adults to bedposts or tossing them out skyscraper windows — in original drawings on loan from the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. “It’s remarkable to see that Saint Laurent chose this mode of expression to illustrate his universe, with an imagination that was very tortured, even violent,” Mr. Lungheretti said, adding that the comic “explains a lot who he was.”

The show then turns to B.D. homages and influences on the catwalk and in advertising, such as Parfums Dior’s Eau Sauvage campaign of 2001, which featured Corto Maltese, the enigmatic title character of Hugo Pratt’s high seas adventure series. There also are panels from Marvel’s Millie the Model, which ran from 1945 to 1973, as well as Les Triplés, a regular comic feature about three precocious children that has appeared in Madame Figaro, Le Figaro’s weekly fashion supplement, since 1983.

For a 1990 strip, the Triplés author Nicole Lambert, herself a former model, drew a camellia-adorned black velvet boater just like one Karl Lagerfeld had originally designed for Chanel (the cartoon and hat are both on display). Though perhaps no B.D. so closely joined the shows and the comic squares as Annie Goetzinger’s “Jeune Fille en Dior,” or “Young Woman in Dior,” a 2013 graphic novel that recounted the adventures of a junior fashion reporter covering the couture house’s first défilé.

As the brand prepares for yet another, it could be required reading on the front row.



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