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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New York Film Fest: 'Saint Laurent' Director Talks Screening Designer Biopic ...Hollywood Reporter, September 30th
Although this film was made without official support (YSL's longtime companion and business partner, Pierre Berge, instead threw his weight behind Jalil Lespert's project Yves Saint Laurent, granting that production access to the couple's estates in...Read more
Front Row at Saint LaurentWomen's Wear Daily, September 29th
Several of the guests appear in “Sonic,” a selection of his black-and-white portraits on show at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent until Jan. 11. Carl Barât, in town for the next leg of the Libertines reunion tour, was unaware he had made...Read more
Cara Delevingne rocks eccentric military vibe for Yves Saint Laurent for PFWDaily Mail, September 29th
She has a diary packed full of engagements throughout Paris Fashion Week but no doubt supermodel Cara Delevingne was particularly looking forward to her job on Monday night. The 22-year-old was enlisted to walk the runway for the Saint Laurent show, ...Read more
Critic's Notebook: All About Yves (The Battle of the Saint Laurent Biopics)Hollywood Reporter, September 27th
But last year, another, perhaps more thrilling battle was declared when two separate biopics about infamous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (who died in 2008) were announced and concurrently touted at Berlin's European Film Market, where ...Read more
Oscars race for best foreign-language film expands as Saint Laurent biopic ...The Guardian, September 23rd
It is the second of two French biopics of the designer to be released in 2014, following the Jalil Lespert-directed Yves Saint Laurent – which itself may have expected to receive Oscar favour after securing a US distribution deal with the Weinstein...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Uses Google Glass for Beauty Tutorial VideosGlass Almanac, September 16th
The beauty industry giant Yves Saint Laurent recently tested Google Glass as a customer service and education tool in the heart of New York City. Back on September 4th and 5th, for eight hours both days, YSL beauty experts wore Glass at the 59th Street ...Read more
lifeUSA TODAY, September 11th
Fashion designers bestride our culture like colossi, but you don't see them striding much on the silver screen. All the more curious that there are two movies this year about Yves Saint Laurent. Not so long ago, in 2009, there were two biopics about...Read more
Yves Saint LaurentArkansas Online (subscription), September 4th
There's a remote feeling to Jalil Lespert's bio-pic of Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion designer who died in 2008, that suits the world the man apparently lived in -- the louche luxury of what used to be called the "jet set." While at no point...Read more