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 jackets were pinstriped, with matching slacks and vest, creating a decidedly androgynous three-piece suit.
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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Recent News: Yves Saint Laurent
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This 80% Polyester Saint Laurent Jacket Costs $61KThe Fashion Spot (blog), May 22nd
The design is based on Yves Saint Laurent's iconic smoking jacket, which was made of wool with a "grain de poudre" texture. (Saint Laurent Paris currently sells "Le Smoking" tuxedo trousers composed entirely from the iconic fabric; they cost $1,150.)...Read more
EuropaCorp Lays on Sales for 'Brick,' 'Saint-Laurent'Variety, May 19th
At mid-point in the Cannes Film Market, EuropaCorp is unveiling a flurry of deals on Paul Walker action movie “Brick Mansions” and Bertrand Bonello's “Yves Saint-Laurent.” SEE MORE: Cannes Film Festival. Led by Marie-Laure Montironi, EuropaCorp's...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent meets NASA, apparentlyCreative Review (blog), May 17th
Design company Burgopak was given an unusual brief for its latest project: it was asked to create packaging that channelled Yves Saint Laurent and NASA for new “artisan electronic device”, Lapka. For those of you (like us) unfamiliar with artisan...Read more
Coloring book based on drawings of Yves Saint LaurentTribune-Review, May 16th
Celebrating over 40 years of glamorous fashion, “YSL: Pret-a-Porter” (Abrams, $18.95) is an interactive coloring book based on the drawings of Yves Saint Laurent. It includes original color drawings and black-and-white contour sketches. Get your pink...Read more
Saint Laurent opens new flagship store in ParisDezeen, May 16th
Formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent, after its founder, the fashion house's name was changed soon after Slimane took over as creative director last spring. Saint Laurent's Sloane Street concept store in London is set to open in the autumn. Saint...Read more
Cara Delevingne gets touchy with nude female friend in Yves Saint Laurent adThe Sun, May 15th
CARA Delevingne plays up to rumours she's bisexual by getting steamy with a woman and two men in a scorching new ad. The British model appears in the TV promo for Yves Saint Laurent make-up range Baby Doll embracing a girl who's seemingly naked...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent's tie dye nailsTelegraph.co.uk, May 14th
Yves Saint Laurent's tie dye nails. Introducing the latest in luxury nail art: Yves Saint Laurent's quartet of La Laque Couture Tie & Dye top coats. BY Katy Young | 14 May 2013. YSL La Laque Couture Tie & Dye Photo: YSL. When a luxury beauty brand like...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent muse who inspired his ' le smoking ' tuxedo for women ...Daily Mail, May 6th
The model muse of French designer Yves Saint Laurent is auctioning her 12,000-piece haute couture wardrobe, an historic collection of creations by fashion masters such as YSL, Claude Montana, Azzedine Alaia, Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, Christian...Read more