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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How Revealing Can An Yves Saint Laurent Biopic Be?Hollywood.com, December 6th
The fact that the film Yves Saint Laurent has the stamp of approval of Saint Laurent's former business and life partner, Pierre Bergé, is a double-edged sword. Where estates are concerned, the truth is generally eclipsed by the attendant questions of...Read more
Saint Laurent opens Chicago store after 3-year absenceChicago Tribune, December 4th
After a three-year absence from the retail landscape in Chicago, the new Saint Laurent (formerly Yves Saint Laurent) opens a 2,000-square-foot store in the Waldorf Astoria Chicago hotel on Thursday. For a brand that had become known chiefly for...Read more
Jalil Lespert's 'Yves Saint Laurent' biopic Lures More Buyers (EXCLUSIVE)Variety (blog), December 3rd
MARRAKECH, Morocco– Jalil Lespert's “Yves Saint Laurent,” a biopic of the famed French designer, is set to travel worldwide. Paris-based sales outfit SND, the commercial arm of French net M6, has closed a string of pre-sales for outstanding key...Read more
Marrakech: 'Yves Saint Laurent's' Pierre Niney on Taking on the Role of Famous ...Hollywood Reporter, December 2nd
MARRAKECH -- Twice nominated for a Cesar Award in the most promising young actor category, Pierre Niney's upcoming star turn in the highly-anticipated Yves Saint Laurent biopic could earn the 24-year old a main acting nod. One of two biopics about the ...Read more
The Fashion Audit: Yves Saint Laurent's Special Touche and Christopher KaneThe Independent, December 1st
We're buying… Special Touche. Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat, for those not in the know, is a cosmetics classic thanks to its legendary highlighting abilities. For Christmas, the brand has created a limited-edition collector's version that will...Read more
Morrocan city inspired fashion iconStuff.co.nz, November 30th
The colours and textures of Marrakech proved an unlikely source of inspiration for fashion powerhouse Yves Saint Laurent. A prosperous Islamic capital from the 11th to 13th centuries, Marrakech, one of Morocco's most popular tourist destinations...Read more
Fashion archive: An early interview with Mr Saint-LaurentThe Guardian, November 18th
If a faun could go through a needle's eye it would come out looking rather like Yves Saint-Laurent. He is uncommonly fine-drawn and, with a designer's eye to effect, enhances this spindleshanks look by the tightness of his drawn clothes. With strangers...Read more
Watch: Teaser Trailer For Fashion Biopic 'Yves Saint Laurent'Indie Wire (blog), November 12th
Jalil Lespert, perhaps best known for acting in such French films as “Human Resources” and Guillaume Canet's “Tell No One,” has recently finished co-writing and directing “Yves Saint Laurent” and a subtitled teaser trailer for the film has just been...Read more