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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Recent News: Yves Saint Laurent

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Yves Saint Laurent launches luxury edition of Suprême Bouquet
The Sun Daily, August 31st

Just over a year after the fragrance was created by nose Dominique Ropion, Yves Saint Laurent is celebrating its success. While the formula remains unchanged, the brand has given Suprême Bouquet a new, shimmery appearance by adding 24-carat gold ...Read more

Cara Delevingne smoulders for Yves Saint Laurent
Vogue Australia, August 31st

Model of the moment Cara Delevingne reveals her sexiest look yet for Yves Saint Laurent's new beauty campaign. The British It girl fronts YSL's Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain campaign in a lip colour from the appropriately named Dangerous Reds ...Read more

'Yves Saint Laurent': Biopic plays up designer's dark side
Chicago Sun-Times, August 28th

Now joining the pack is Jalil Lespert's “Yves Saint Laurent.” Based on Laurence Benaim's biography, the biopic is a sometimes sluggish, sometimes fascinating account of a precocious talent on the verge of being overshadowed by a troubled personal life...Read more

Gire: 'Yves Saint Laurent' not as inspirational as it should be
Chicago Daily Herald, August 28th

If you'll excuse the wording, Jalil Lespert's bio-drama "Yves Saint Laurent" is ill-suited to tell the story of the French fashion wunderkind who, at 21, took over Christian Dior's Paris empire soon after his death in 1957. Saint Laurent is played as a...Read more

Getting a sense of Yves Saint Laurent's style
Chicago Sun-Times, August 25th

In “Yves Saint Laurent” (opening Friday), Niney plays the designer from his early diagnosis as manic depressive to the rise of the house of Saint Laurent fashions in Paris. In between, Saint Laurent dealt with drug abuse, a destructive affair with a...Read more

Saint Laurent Bets on Rock-Star Style
Wall Street Journal, August 20th

She noted that Los Angeles plays the same creative role for Mr. Slimane that Marrakesh once played for Yves Saint Laurent. "The notion of exoticism has always been a part of the house," she said. Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent in Paris in January...Read more

Yves Saint Laurent, reviewed: Biopic of the late French designer is a ...
National Post, August 14th

Early in Yves Saint Laurent, the designer (Pierre Niney) slides a page of naughty doodles out of view, under some dress sketches. They're examples of La Vilaine Lulu, the bratty child cartoon alter-ego Saint Laurent began drawing while working at...Read more

Movie review: 'Yves Saint Laurent' offers rare glimpse into fashion designer's ...
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7th

Famed French designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008 at age 71, is one such case. To the public he had the world of high fashion at his fingertips, becoming the artistic director of the House of Dior at 21 and establishing his own fashion house...Read more