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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Fashion Columbia Study Collection
1960s Fashion and Textiles
Vintage Fashion Guild
Clubs & Associations
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Yves Saint Laurent
Source: Google News
The £30m bookshelf: Pierre Bergé and the greatest stories ever soldThe Guardian, November 25th
With Impressionists on their walls and priceless books on their shelves, Pierre Bergé and his former partner Yves Saint Laurent were the ultimate collectors. But now the art and YSL have gone, Bergé says it's time 'to attend the funeral' of his library...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent launches 5 news men's scentsGQ India, November 25th
Set to become timeless classics, Parisian fashion house Yves Saint Laurent looked to its archives for this new fragrance line. The wardrobe of scents reinterprets iconic pieces that have marked fashion history just as much for their cuts, as the way in...Read more
Les Vestiaires des Parfums: il guardaroba di fragranze di monsieur Yves Saint LaurentElle, November 24th
5 profumi per 5 creazioni sartoriali che hanno fatto la storia del costume: nasce così la collezione Les Vestiaires de Parfums di Yves Saint Laurent. Un vero e proprio guardaroba olfattivo che richiama fin dal nome i capi cult "reinventati" da monsieur...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Couture Kajal goes on smoothly with great pigment payoffThe Globe and Mail, November 11th
The Product Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Couture Kajal, $35, Sephora, The Bay, Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom The Promise A three-in-one pencil that acts as a kohl, precision eyeliner and smoky eye shadow, this product will help you achieve a variety of looks...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent show at Bowes finishes extended runBBC News, November 8th
The first major UK exhibition of the work of French designer Yves Saint Laurent is ending its run after being extended by two weeks. Style is Eternal, which showcases key items from his 50-year career, has been at the Bowes Museum in County Durham...Read more
Halston, Yves Saint Laurent show explores 70s fashionThe News-Press, November 5th
They weren't just fashion designers. They were rock stars of the runway — the first of their kind. Halston and Yves Saint Laurent rarely sat quietly behind a sketchbook, it seems. There was way too much partying to do. Instead, the 1970's two most...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent bags registered Community designs - General Court dismisses ...Lexology (registration), November 3rd
The General Court (GC) has declared two Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) registered Community designs (RCDs) for handbags valid in reaching the conclusion that invalidation actions brought by H&M were unfounded. Background. The designs were registered in ...Read more
It's only rock'n'roll but they like it: Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent makes it ...The Guardian, October 29th
Those reviews of Yves Saint Laurent's infamous Liberation collection in 1971 must make heartening reading for the house's current designer, Hedi Slimane, a man who has himself become accustomed to feeling the pointy end of a fashion critic's pencil...Read more