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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What Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent Couture News Means for YouVanity Fair, August 3rd
When, in 2012, it was announced that Hedi Slimane would be taking over at the legendary house of Yves Saint Laurent, it set the fashion world abuzz. Let's face it, though, it doesn't take much to rile up the fashion set. (Can you imagine if we heard...Read more
L'Oréal showcases fragrances from Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent ...FTNnews.com, August 3rd
The “house” of Yves Saint Laurent invites passengers on a journey from heritage to modernity with fashion pieces from its Oriental Collection and its fragrance Black Opium, while Lancôme showcases its new Oud Bouquet fragrance alongside the timeless ...Read more
The Style of Yves Saint Laurent Is Set to Arrive in SeattleNew York Times, July 30th
“It's like a rehearsal,” said Florence Müller, a fashion historian and independent Paris-based curator who will show the doll house for the first time in the United States at the Seattle Art Museum in fall 2016, as part of the exhibition “Yves Saint...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Returns To Couture For The First Time In Over 10 YearsHuffington Post Canada, July 28th
Hedi determines which of these pieces will carry the atelier's hand-sewn couture label 'Yves Saint Laurent'. These couture pieces may be women or men, a tuxedo or an evening dress, daywear or eveningwear. The 'Yves Saint Laurent' private atelier label...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Couture ConfirmedVogue.co.uk, July 28th
YVES SAINT LAURENT is set to return to couture for the first time in more than a decade. The French house - which last showed a couture collection created by the founder in 2002, just before his retirement - has not yet confirmed whether it will show...Read more
CompaniesWeak euro lifts sales at Gucci, Yves Saint LaurentFinancial Times, July 27th
The weaker euro has provided Kering, the owner of luxury goods behemoth Gucci, more time time to turn round its flagship brand. Sales at the luxury group, which is also home to Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney ...Read more
Inside Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is EternalVogue.co.uk, July 13th
For the first retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent's work to be held in the UK, many would expect one of London's revered institutions to play host, however it is the lesser-known Bowes Museum in County Durham that has the honour of hosting Yves Saint ...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent's 'Scandal' CollectionNew York Times, July 6th
“Yves Saint Laurent 1971: The Scandal Collection,” on display at the Fondation Pierre Bergé — Yves Saint Laurent, recreates the 80-piece spring collection from that year, the first by Saint Laurent to be considered, at least by the press and customers...Read more