Walk down NW Second Avenue near 26th Street, and you'll come across an unassuming storefront with a painted portrait of Yves Saint Laurent. No big signs. No flashy lights.
But none of that is needed.
There's plenty of flash within the four walls of the Keni Valenti Gallery. Walk through a shiny silver curtain and get transported to a world of all things glam -- and a space that appears to be more fashion history museum than art gallery.
The first of its kind in Miami, the Keni Valenti Gallery is playing host to a revolving fashion exhibit. That's right -- every eight weeks a new collection will be revealed, with all of the items for sale. The first up is everything Yves Saint Laurent, and Valenti appropriately painted the entire interior the same Tiffany blue as the lining of all of YSL's signature hats. "It makes you feel like you're inside of his head, doesn't it?" he posits. It sure does.
You'll find everything from jewelry and hats to bedsheets here. "I have 10 times as much as what you see of Saint Laurent pieces, so I had to really be selective and think about and curate it, which was really difficult," he continues. Looking upon each mannequin (which is also painted Tiffany blue), Valenti has taken the time to style each head-to-toe, and given each one wholesale-style price tag. But how will you know which to dish out the dough for? We caught up with Valenti to hear about six of his favorite pieces in the collection.
Le Smoking Suits (worn by James Franco)
"Terry Richardson was shooting James Franco, and Mel Ottenberg (who's styling Rihanna's tour) was styling it. As a collaboration, we all decided on this. I have the suits back. They were worn by him. A James Franco fan would probably want these. Plus, he was a drag queen in it, so a lot of controversy for him. He did Le Smoking from the '70s originally all the way through the '90s."
Yves Saint Laurent's Russian collection
"What I love about these is wearing everything the same. It's different fabrics--this is a wool, this is a silk, this is a lighter weight cashmere. So it's like taking three fabrics but making them all the same pattern. Women don't really dress like this anymore, so that's like an era in itself that people wore everything the same. When Saint Laurent pulled together this collection, he grabbed all of these Russian prints."
Yves Saint Laurent arrow jeweled necklace
"In the late '70s there was a store called Bonwood Tellers in New York. It was where the Trump Tower was. It was a department store. I walked inside there and there was this thing hanging there on two silk strings, and I thought, 'What is that?!' It was pre-sexual revolution. They were talking to me about how women had penis envy. So Saint Laurent said, "So then I should make a penis for women that they could wear." And it's jeweled... the family jewels. It was $1,400 back then."
Photographs of Yves Saint Laurent
"I've been collecting
photographs because a lot of newspapers don't have real photographs
anymore, so they got rid of everything. There are so many great prints.
They're not very expensive. They're $350 per print. This sepia one is
Yves Saint Laurent in 1983 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when Diana
Vreeland did a retrospect. These are the posters from the 1983
Retrospect. It's the four seasons of Saint Laurent. This is the Queen of
England. Look at her! She's actually pretty [laughs]."
Crystal heart brooch/necklace, placed on a 1980's satin dress with high side slit
"This dress wasn't going to come in to this collection, but while I was curating the Oscars were on and I saw Angelina Jolie with the damn foot, so I said, 'Okay. It's going in!" It's a beautiful Satin dress from the '80s. This is the piece right here. These are crystal. It can be a brooch or a necklace. Most of his jewelry he made like that."
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1959 Christian Dior ballgown
"This is my greatest piece. This is a 1959 Christian Dior ballgown. When Christian Dior passed away in 1958, 19-year-old Yves Saint Laurent, his assistant, became the head. He did four collections for Dior before him and his boyfriend decided to go on their own. That's from the last one, the Ballet Russe collection. It lives in a Louis Vuitton trunk. That's where it's usually stored. The black rose also became his signature. If you follow his career, he put a black rose on everything."
The Keni Valenti Gallery, at 2612 NW Second Avenue. Until April 27. Open by appointment daily from noon - 5 p.m. For more info, visit kenivalenti.com.