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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Films about Yves Saint Laurent and Life Under Jihadists Lead French AwardsJakarta Globe, January 28th
An undated handout film still provided by the Cannes Film Festival organization on 17 May 2014 shows French actor Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent in a scene of 'Saint Laurent' by French director Bertrand Bonello. The nominations of the 40th Cesar ...Read more
Yves Saint-Laurent doc screens in Midtown boutique this FridayDetroit Metro Times (blog), January 28th
Karamoko emailed us to let us know that she's hosting a screening of the Yves Saint-Laurent doc L'amour Fou — and you're invited. Framed around the 2009 auction of Yves and partner Pierre Bergé's personal art collection, the movie takes a look at the ...Read more
Raglan model scores 'phenomenal' gig in France for Yves Saint LaurentNew Zealand Herald, January 27th
Vinnie Woolston, a model from Raglan, is the new face of the Yves Saint Laurent men's scent La Nuit de l'Homme. He is the third "face" of the fragrance, until now fronted by movie stars - first French actor Vincent Cassel in 2009 and then American star...Read more
Actor, vlogger, singer now Yves Saint Laurent model — is there anything Troye ...The Daily Telegraph, January 26th
Sivan, 19, landed the gig after becoming friends with Saint Laurent's creative director Hedi Slimane, who casts the models for the parade. “Alright so I just walked in the Yves Saint Laurent show for Paris Fashion Week,” Sivan wrote on Twitter. WHICH...Read more
First-Ever Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition Will Land on British Soilartnet News, January 23rd
The retrospective, "Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal," will present 50 pieces spanning the designer's career, including styles from his early days at the helm of Christian Dior and his art-inspired dresses. The show is a partnership between the...Read more
A Yves Saint Laurent Exhibit Is Coming to the UK for the First Time EverComplex, January 21st
Bowes Museum in Britain will hold the first-ever Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in the UK starting this July. The retrospective, "Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal," is a collaborative effort between the museum and the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves...Read more
Cara Delevingne can't resist acting up at Yves Saint Laurent product launch in ...Daily Mail, January 20th
So it's perhaps natural that Cara Delevingne would want to demonstrate her range of facial emotions while in front of the world's press. And that's exactly what she did when she helped launch the Yves Saint Laurent Beaute Luxurious Mascara launch in ...Read more
UK's first big Yves Saint Laurent exhibition brings Paris to Co DurhamThe Guardian, January 18th
The first major UK exhibition devoted to the design genius of Yves Saint Laurent is coming not to a London museum but to the Bowes Museum, housed in a magnificently improbable French-style chateau purpose-built as a museum in the late 19th century in ...Read more