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
Runway to irrelevancySacramento News & Review, May 27th
The Yves Saint Laurent that we see here devolves from a man into a brand into mere initials, and finally into nothing. By the end of his life, an oversized photo of Saint Laurent is deemed an acceptable, even preferable, stand-in at an important...Read more
Latest Saint Laurent Film Is a Portrait of the Times, Not the ArtistHyperallergic, May 27th
No fewer than two French biopics about Yves Saint Laurent have been released in the last two years, suggesting that a competitive rush to make the Saint Laurent film began immediately following his death in 2008. Such antagonistic haste also proposes...Read more
'Saint Laurent' degenerates into another drug addict sagaChron.com, May 21st
That's interesting, but it doesn't make Yves Saint Laurent interesting. As played by Gaspard Ulliel, Saint Laurent is little more than a neurasthenic cypher. Curiously, Ulliel was nominated for a best-actor César against yet another actor playing Saint...Read more
Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent owner sues Alibaba over counterfeit goodsInsideCounsel, May 18th
Kering, which operates brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, filed suit against Alibaba in U.S. federal court. The lawsuit claims that Alibaba and the companies that it works with “knowingly encourage, assist, and profit from the...Read more
Why do filmmakers insist on portraying Yves Saint Laurent as a 'fragile genius'?Washington Post (blog), May 15th
The most sympathetic character in the latest film about Yves Saint Laurent is Moujik — his French bulldog. Moujik is felled after innocently poking his snout into a pile of pills that the designer has spilled on the floor after a night of feasting on...Read more
15 Things You Didn't Know About Yves Saint LaurentFlavorwire, May 9th
It was just provocation on the part of Yves Saint Laurent. The picture didn't specifically target the gay population, even though it resonated strongly among them. In any case the photo was hardly published at the time. Just barely in the French press...Read more
Victoria Beckham makes 'inspiring' trip Yves Saint Laurent memorial in MarrakechExpress.co.uk, May 4th
But today Victoria took a break from the festivities to remember legendary fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Yves passed away in 2008 after a battle with brain cancer, aged 71. His ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech – a...Read more
Drama over competing Yves Saint Laurent filmsPage Six, April 30th
The Bergé-endorsed “Yves Saint Laurent” by Jalil Lespert was out last year from the Weinstein Co. Gaspard Ulliel who plays Laurent in Bonello's film told us that a competing project “adds a little bit of pressure.” But, “I got this big relief when I...Read more