Yves Saint Laurent was unique among his contemporaries for the way he incorporated everything from his love of the arts to his fondness for the styles of street culture into his fashions. Whether it was a wool jersey dress that became a canvas for colorful geometric abstractions or a line of clothes that took its cue from leather-jacket clad bohemians on Paris’s Left Bank, Saint Laurent was always looking outside the fashion world for his inspiration.
Saint Laurent began his career at a very early age, taking a job as a design assistant at Dior in 1954 when he was still a teenager. After Dior’s death in 1957, Saint Laurent, who was only 21, was named Dior’s chief designer. This was a huge responsibility for the young designer and French fashion in general—at the time, Dior accounted for almost 50 percent of France’s fashion exports. A lot would be riding on his first outing.
Happily, Saint Laurent’s spring 1958 collection for Dior was a huge success, the centerpiece of which was a line of trapeze dresses, which were narrow at the shoulders and wide at the hem. Saint Laurent had saved Dior and the French economy in one blow, but his fall 1958 collection was a critical and commercial disaster, as was the Left Bank-inspired Beat Look that followed—the world was not quite ready for all those black leather jackets and turtleneck sweaters.
In 1960 Saint Laurent was drafted into the French army, but he only served 20 days—he was hospitalized from the hazing inflicted on him by his fellow conscripts. It was in the hospital that he learned that he’d been fired from Dior. This sent Saint Laurent over the edge, which led to a stay in a mental hospital where he was regularly sedated with drugs and given electroshock therapy.
For many people that might have been the end of the story, but Saint Laurent climbed out of this hole and by 1962 had founded his own fashion house with lifelong business partner, Pierre Bergé.
One of the first influences Saint Laurent drew upon for his fashions was visual art. Early in the 1960s, André Courrèges had already created Piet Mondrian-like go-go boots, but Saint Laurent was the first to grandly appropriate the great mid-century artist’s work as bold super graphics on straight-cut dresses.
In 1966, the year after the Mondrian dresses, Saint Laurent introduced “le smoking,” which was a black tuxedo jacket that was cut to flatter the female form. Some of these jacket...
Until then, the only reliable, can’t-miss item in a woman’s wardrobe was her little black dress by Chanel or others. With the tuxedo jacket or suit, Saint Laurent gave women a brand new item for their fashion arsenals. Catherine Deneuve, Lisa Minnelli, and Lauren Bacall were instant fans—Bianca Jagger wore a white Saint Laurent suit at her wedding to Mick.
In 1966, Saint Laurent became the first major designer to get ready-to-wear right with Rive Gauche—boutiques of the same name soon followed, and the brand was eventually sold to Gucci in 1999. He was also the first major fashion designer to hire black fashion models to wear his clothes for his highly prestigious runway shows.
Embroidered African-inspired garments followed in 1967, as did more street-inspired fashions in 1968—most of these riffs on the leather-fringed attire of student protesters. Along the way, Saint Laurent added safari looks (his short-sleeve shirts had breast as well as hip pockets) and collections based on the Ballet Russes and European peasant costumes.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Fashion Columbia Study Collection
1960s Fashion and Textiles
Vintage Fashion Guild
Clubs & Associations
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Yves Saint Laurent
Source: Google News
Halston and Yves Saint Laurent's stamp on the seventiesThe Globe and Mail, March 6th
In New York, a new exhibit at The Museum at FIT celebrates the work of two of fashion's most famous designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Halston, who ruled from their respective roosts in Paris and New York during that decade, a time when fashion and the ...Read more
Balmain channels 70s and 80s Saint Laurent in ParisThe Guardian, March 5th
For his show at Paris fashion week, Balmain's Olivier Rousteing paid homage to Yves Saint Laurent in an autumn/winter collection that channelled the late designer's seventies and eighties work with all the attendant glamour, seduction and vibrant colours...Read more
The Secret of Saint Laurent's SuccessThe Business of Fashion, March 5th
And, with the exception of his debut, which critics both praised and denigrated for being a reverential take on Yves Saint Laurent's greatest hits, Slimane has crafted each of his collections for the house as an exploration of a specific musical...Read more
How Yves Saint Laurent and Halston Defined the '70sThe Epoch Times, March 4th
Currently on show at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the '70s,” an exhibition that celebrates the two designers who defined the fashions of the 1970s but whose styles and innovations...Read more
Inside Yves Saint Laurent's StudioW Magazine, February 25th
The wonderfully chaotic and creative workspace of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent had many stylish visitors over the years—from his iconic muses to his succession of French Bulldogs. Now, these intimate moments are the subject of a new book, “Yves ...Read more
Fashion museum show highlights Yves Saint Laurent and HalstonToronto Star, February 18th
NEW YORK—Yves Saint Laurent, born in Algeria, 1936-2008, and Halston, born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, 1932-1990, were two designers who defined and dominated fashion during the 1970s, as “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning ...Read more
'Ugliest Fashion Show In Paris': Revisiting Yves Saint Laurent's Nazi-Era ...Forbes, February 10th
I'm a dual Colombian-Luxembourgish freelance journalist, inveterate traveler and writer based in the world's only Grand Duchy. I write a column on European affairs for the opinion page of El Tiempo, Colombia's main newspaper. I have been a columnist...Read more
New Exhibit Puts Yves Saint Laurent and Halston Side by SideFashionista (blog), February 6th
They are loved, and envied. They are the victims of gossip, too, often compared and contrasted in the press. But no institution, until now, has ever put the works of Halston and Yves Saint Laurent side-by-side, using their clothes as ways to get into...Read more