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Mona Lucero dishes on YSL and the magic of haute couture

While I think I have taste, I'm just another plebe at the

Yves Saint Laurent show

, wandering through the DAM, slobbering and snorting smelling salts to keep from fainting at each new discovery. So when it came time to pick favorites, I asked someone with a more sophisticated eye -- Denver fashion fixture Mona Lucero, a designer who's been developing her Colorado niche for many years.

Lucero had the good fortune to work alongside the experts who unpacked and prepared each outfit for exhibition -- a sort of internship that gave her a front-row seat from which she could see all the detail and artful craft that's gone into each Yves Saint Laurent creation. We recently caught up with her to hear about the experience:

Westword: What was it like to open those boxes?

Mona Lucero: You get excited about what is going to be underneath there, while being in shock at how impeccably packed they are. As we got all the packing out of the inside of the garment, just looking at it and seeing all the detail is amazing. Because I'm a designer and know how to sew, I can see how well-made it is, but at the same time, wonder, 'How did they do that?' -- like when some of the beading is raised, some is actually 3-dimensional. Did they put something underneath it, or just loosen threads as they went?

It's interesting because you realize how meticulous it is. I can only imagine what it's like when you are making or creating the designs -- every little detail has to be thought out ahead of time. The experts can look at each design for half and hour to an hour making sure nothing has come off, that there are no tears or stitches undone. Just taking them out of the boxes and getting them hung up and ready to go is the most work, it's so painstaking. We take it for granted now that they're up, but in reality, you can't just take it out of the box.

Weren't you a little bit afraid to touch them?

They are delicate, but also not delicate in some ways. They are made so beautifully that they can handle a lot more than you think. What goes through your mind as you get a closer look at these garments and ensembles?

YSL is at the height of fashion world. To see couture at this level -- it's like I'm looking at heaven and asking, 'What did this God say?' and then realizing 'Okay, so God does things a lot like I do.' I look at how they hand-stitch details or how they put up a hem -- it's similar to what I do, but they might take extra steps that most people don't take. The sewers are obviously the absolute best, the draping is the best. What they do raises it up to an art form. It has soul and spirit -- it's not just thrown together.

Designers are like magicians, but the reason is not because of magic: it happens because they take their little hands and work their asses off to make it happen. It's actually about thread and fabric and amazing craft people putting their skills to work.

What makes your favorites favorites?

I didn't choose any of the big ball gowns. I like the more simple cuts, and I love the stuff inspired by art. Many of these outfits were worn only on the runway, and lot of it is wearable, but it's also pure fantasy. I don't live that lifestyle, but I began to think, 'Whoa, people live this way.'

It was hard to come up with just five, so I came up with eight, instead. If I could have any of these pieces -- that's what I chose.

The black dress with red sequin lips. It might be inspired by Dali. There is a white dress with birds (Tribute Dress to Georges Braque, 1988). And there's a white beaded cape, also with birds. The beading on it is really cool -- you look at it and almost don't see the beads, they are so tiny. Two body sculpture pieces: Gold with crepe georgette. There's one African dress with black beads that shine and two breasts that jut out -- and they are all made of beading. This was from way before Jean Paul Gaultier or Madonna -- from 1967. Then, there are a few simple ones that I absolutely love: One fairly famous one is the lace-up safari jacket from 1968. It has a big belt made with big circle loops. (Editor's note: Famous because it was modeled by the striking six-foot-tall model Verushka) This one, when first saw it, I said, 'Omigod, I would just totally wear this. It's a little black toreador jacket with a Nehru collar, worn with a white blouse, black a-line skirt and a big, fat black belt. The last one -- well, if someone said I could only have one piece in the whole show, it would be the Mondrian dress. Just to be near it -- that was good enough.

Yves Saint Laurent: A Retrospective opens Sunday, March 25, at the Denver Art Museum, and continues through July 7. Go to the YSL Denver website. for details.

To keep up with the Froyd's-eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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