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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

The VFG is a non-profit international educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vinta… [read review or visit site]



Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Yves Saint Laurent "rive Gauche" Jacket £789 Made In France Fr 34 Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche 2pc Blue Pinstripe Wool Skirt Suit Size 38Saint Laurent Paris Hedi Slimane New $830 Zipper Sweatshirt S5 Piece Women's Size 6 Mixed Clothin Lot Erin Featherston, Saint Laurent, FrenchYves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche 2pc Pinstripe Jacket & Pant Suit Size F 44Yves Saint Laurent Black Button Front Long Sleeve V Neck Blazer Sz 8 Bn555Yves Saint Laurent Women's Black Pinstripe Double Breasted Blazer Sz 8 FranceSaint Laurent Rive Gauche Vintage 2pc Brown Pinstripe Jacket & Pant Suit Size 40Yves Saint Laurent Pink Cashmere Silk Blouse Sz F 36 Bn 571Saint Laurent Paris 'd01 W/sk-lw' Cut Off Black Stretch Denim Jean Shorts 26Yves Saint Laurent Black 100% Wool Sort Sleeve Top/shirt Sz-s100% Authentic Yves Saint Laurent Grey Wool Coat Size: 36 Or Us 2/4 Brand New!!!Women's Black Saint Laurent Paris Skinny Jeans Size 25 D01-w/sk-lw Hedi SlimaneVintage Yves Saint Laurent Black & Royal Swimsuit Maillots De BainSaint Laurent Size 34 Multi-colored Plaid Jacket And SkirtYsl Rive Gauche, Luggage Brown Lambskin Leather 3/4 Coat Transitional Jacket 6-8Yves Saint Laurent Ysl Tom Ford Iconic Pink Silk Pagoda Jacket Nwot 42Saint Laurent Denim. Slp Denim. Ysl. BalmainYsl Yves Saint Laurent Black Pleated Trouser Pant Womens 38/ Garconne CreaturesYves Saint Laurent Ysl Purple Cotton Silk Buckle Front Tie Detail Shirt 42Ysl Pink Silk BlouseYves Saint Laurent Blouse - Women's Size Large - Lipstick RedVtg 1990s Ysl Mini Skirt

Recent News: Yves Saint Laurent

Source: Google News

Jardin Majorelle: Yves Saint Laurent's peaceful oasis in Marrakech
The News Hub, September 1st

The garden is also the shrine of Yves Saint Laurent's ashes, which were spread there after his death in 2008 together with the installation of a special memorial; the name of the street was renamed after him, too, and it is now called Rue Yves Saint...Read more

Exhibition to Examine how Yves Saint Laurent and Jacques Doucet Lived for Art

Living for Art will bring together the Belle Epoque couturier Jacques Doucet and one of the 20th century titans of French couture, Yves Saint Laurent, in the most unique manner — through their art collection. After collecting classical 18th-century...Read more

County Durham's Yves Saint Laurent exhibition 'the best I have ever seen ...
ChronicleLive, August 28th

The latest critic to fall in love with the county was Sunday Times arts critic Waldemar Januszczak who last weekend proclaimed the Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition in the Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, as the “best fashion exhibition I...Read more

Cara Delevingne Poses Pantless For Saint Laurent After Revealing She's ...
Hollywood Life, August 25th

Cara Delevingne is showing off a lot of skin (and a gorgeous red lip) in the latest Yves Saint Laurent beauty campaign. The model-turned-actress has completely forgotten her pants, but her makeup is totally on point, and that's all that really matters...Read more

Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008)
The Business of Fashion, August 23rd

Yves Saint Laurent, now allowed to use his imagination and deeply felt opinions on how modern women should dress, knew precisely what path he intended to follow. He wanted to continue the elegance that he had learned with Dior and which had won him ...Read more

Bianca Jagger, Yves Saint-Laurent and Audrey Hepburn in Andy Warhol polaroids
Daily Mail, August 21st

Alongside them are candid pictures of Bianca Jagger and Yves Saint-Laurent frolicking on the beach in France and a tender portrait of Audrey Hepburn reclining on the sofa with a cigarette. One particularly poignant snap shows John-Michel Basquiat, ...Read more

Is Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane dishonouring the great man's ...
The Independent, August 14th

It's the house of Yves Saint Laurent. I'm not just talking about the metaphorical house, the label that bears his name and is helmed by designer Hedi Slimane. Under Slimane, Yves Saint Laurent was rebranded simply – almost biblically – Saint Laurent...Read more

Hedi Addresses His Critics
Vogue.co.uk, August 13th

"I would never forget Pierre asking me to take pictures in the backstage of the final Yves Saint Laurent couture show, I have this moving archive of that historical show, Yves overwhelmed, Loulou de la Falaise next to him, looking for the last time at...Read more