The Style of Student Affairs

The Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospect exhibition is currently being displayed at the Denver Art Museum.  Here’s a short history lesson so we are all on the same page.
Yves Saint Laurent was an haute couture designer.  He received his start at the House of Dior in 1955, and became head designer upon Christian Dior’s death in 1957.  Yves Saint Laurent started his own Couture House after his 1960 creations for the House of Dior received negative responses from the public and media because of their non-traditional boundary-pushing nature.  Laurent showed his last runwayshow in 2002 and passed away in 2008.  My undergraduate degree is in Merchandising, so you know I made it a priority to see this exhibition.

I finally had a Saturday free to soak in this fashion history.  As I entered the exhibition, I became emotionally overwhelmed from the experience of the dimmed lights, the audio account from Yves Saint Laurent himself, and the anticipation of being only inches from couture garments.   I will be honest: I teared up a bit during the first five minutes.  I spent the next two hours soaking in the richness of Laurent’s story, the fabrics and designs, and the ways I could find parallels to my own experiences.

“Fashions come and go, but style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent
Laurent did not believe in falling into fads.  Rather his only priority was to design for the grace of a woman.

As we consider the amount of information we receive on a daily basis from state, regional, and national organizations from which we subscribe, it is important to consider how these new concepts and theories fit in with our campus culture and student body with whom you currently work.  My supervisors encourage the idea of recognizing our unique student population and using what works for them, rather than what is trendy in Higher Education.  This does not mean we never adjust or modify our approach; rather we work to evolve as our students evolve.  Laurent was instrumental is creating the pantsuit for women, a feminine version of the masculine business suit.  Laurent saw a need and filled it.  We do the same with our students.

Take time to revitalize.
Twice a year in June and December, Laurent spent three weeks at his house in Marrakech, Morocco to ground himself, to sketch, and to revitalize.   He took inspiration from the bountiful colors and where he developed his collection for the following season. 

It’s graduation season for Higher Education!  How are you going to take time to revitalize after a busy semester/quarter and year?  I plan to take some vacation days, travel, see family and friends, and explore the great outdoors that the great state of Colorado has to offer!  Laurent needed that time to find his creative juices and continue to produce amazing work, and so do we!

Develop expectations and maintain them.
Laurent had high expectations of all of his garments.  He would scrutinize every detail of each garment.  If even one tiny detail was off, the garment would be re-made.  Because Laurent developed personal relationships with each person who worked in his House, they would diligently re-do what needed to be re-done to ensure it met Laurent’s expectations.

I feel like Student Affairs professionals work hard to develop strong personal and professional relationships with those with whom we work, both student and professional staff.  We also value expectations and have developed systems of holding our staffs accountable.  While I think we do these things well, I also think it is easy to let some of the smaller details slide when we get busy, like now, during closing.  Laurent’s critical eye pushed his designs to the top tier.  We should use our critical eye to ensure we maintain our quality of work and finish strong!

The exhibition was absolutely epic.  If you are able to travel to Denver before July 8, 2012, you must experience all of the glory of Yves Saint Laurent!

Katie Schmalzel

Check out the exhibition:

Student Affairs - the First Years

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