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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Cara Delevingne strips down for sultry Yves Saint Laurent commercialDaily Mail, September 3rd
She recently revealed she has stepped away from the modelling industry to focus her efforts on her acting career. But with the release of a sexy new Yves Saint Laurent commercial, Cara Delevingne's legacy lives on. The 23-year-old English beauty gets ...Read more
Cara Delevingne's perfect red pout in Yves Saint Laurent AdvertDaily Mail, September 3rd
Cara Delevingne's perfect red pout in Yves Saint Laurent advert. Cara Delevingne shows off her perfect red pout in Yves Saint Laurent Advertisement for Rouge Pur Couture. Cara starts off in the ad with a pale pink lip, she slowly puts on a stunning...Read more
WATCH: Cara Delevingne Is Practically Naked in Yves Saint Laurent's New CommercialCelebuzz, September 3rd
The model, who quit the fashion industry last month, stripped down to nothing for Yves Saint Laurent's new campaign for the relaunch of their YSL Beauté Rouge Pur Couture collection. The ad is a reminder that even though she's busy doing movies now...Read more
Jardin Majorelle: Yves Saint Laurent's peaceful oasis in MarrakechThe News Hub, September 1st
The garden is also the shrine of Yves Saint Laurent's ashes, which were spread there after his death in 2008 together with the installation of a special memorial; the name of the street was renamed after him, too, and it is now called Rue Yves Saint...Read more
Exhibition to Examine how Yves Saint Laurent and Jacques Doucet Lived for ArtBLOUIN ARTINFO, August 30th
Living for Art will bring together the Belle Epoque couturier Jacques Doucet and one of the 20th century titans of French couture, Yves Saint Laurent, in the most unique manner — through their art collection. After collecting classical 18th-century...Read more
County Durham's Yves Saint Laurent exhibition 'the best I have ever seen ...ChronicleLive, August 28th
The latest critic to fall in love with the county was Sunday Times arts critic Waldemar Januszczak who last weekend proclaimed the Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition in the Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, as the “best fashion exhibition I...Read more
Bianca Jagger, Yves Saint-Laurent and Audrey Hepburn in Andy Warhol polaroidsDaily Mail, August 21st
Alongside them are candid pictures of Bianca Jagger and Yves Saint-Laurent frolicking on the beach in France and a tender portrait of Audrey Hepburn reclining on the sofa with a cigarette. One particularly poignant snap shows John-Michel Basquiat, ...Read more
Hedi Addresses His CriticsVogue.co.uk, August 13th
"I would never forget Pierre asking me to take pictures in the backstage of the final Yves Saint Laurent couture show, I have this moving archive of that historical show, Yves overwhelmed, Loulou de la Falaise next to him, looking for the last time at...Read more