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.
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Fashion Icons Exhibition – Chanel, Balenciaga & Yves Saint LaurentELLE, December 16th
Exclusively to ELLE Inner Circle, members are invited to see the exquisite Fashion Icons exhibition at Art Gallery of South Australia. Enter '1947toNow' when you purchase your tickets online here. THE NEW LOOK TO NOW - THE GLAMOUR OF PARIS ...Read more
"Saint Laurent"Indie Wire, December 16th
It's impossible to be in Marrakech without thinking of Yves Saint Laurent, the city's European patron saint. He found inspiration from the traditional Berber clothing and from the light and colors of the city, which he describes as "insolent mixes." He...Read more
Gucci eyes YSL's Slimane to replace creative directorPage Six, December 15th
As speculation mounts over who will take the reins at Gucci following the dismissal of CEO Patrizio di Marco and creative director Frida Giannini, fashion insiders say Saint Laurent's Hedi Slimane tops a short list being considered by parent company...Read more
Memorable make-up: Yves Saint Laurent lead cosmetic innovation as they ...Evening Standard, December 9th
Have you ever had your make-up done by the professionals at the counter, spent the day fluttering your lashes and gawping in the mirror at your own luminosity, only to wake up the next morning and feel it was nothing but a beautiful (...even if you do...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Launches Google Glass Makeup TutorialFashion Times, December 9th
"Yves Saint Laurent Beauté is committed to encouraging consumers to elevate their skills. This multi-touch point approach is an exemplary initiative where both technology and customer service is brought together," the brand said, according to The...Read more
When Brigitte Met YvesStyle.com, December 8th
Yves Saint Laurent S/S 1993 campaign; photograph by Helmut Newton, makeup by Brigitte Reiss-Andersen. Photo: Courtesy of The Thick. Makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen on her induction into an iconic fashion house. In the '80s, I was chosen to be the ...Read more
Morocco: Marrakech an inspiration for Yves Saint LaurentToronto Sun, December 5th
After Majorelle's death the garden became neglected, and was doomed to redevelopment as a hotel complex, but was saved at the last minute by fashion superstar Yves Saint Laurent and his partner. They renovated the studio, replanted the gardens and ...Read more
#TBT: Tim Blanks Reflects on Yves Saint Laurent's Creative GeniusStyle.com, December 4th
YSL. Most designers can only dream of being recognized by their initials like the late Yves Saint Laurent. In today's Throwback Thursdays video, Tim Blanks looks back on the designer's creative genius, lavish lifestyle, and “coconspirator” Loulou de la...Read more