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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Vogue ON: Valentino Garavani And Yves Saint LaurentVogue.co.uk, September 24th
VOGUE's popular Vogue ON series has released the latest tomes in its repertoire, Vogue On: Valentino Garavani and Vogue ON: Yves Saint Laurent. Like their predecessors in the series, the short books will delve into the history of the two designers...Read more
Artcurial Offers Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Islamic ArtBLOUIN ARTINFO, September 18th
French auction house Artcurial has announced that it will be auctioning the Islamic art collection of Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent on October 31, 2015 in the salons of the Palace Es Saadi in Marrakech. Titled “A Moroccan Passion,” the sale is...Read more
Pierre Bergé talks Hedi Slimane and Yves Saint LaurentVogue Australia (blog), September 13th
Even before Pierre Bergé started our conversation, I could hear his dog barking. No, not another “Moujik", the name that his partner Yves Saint Laurent gave to all their dogs. This one is Echo, white and fluffy and the constant companion of the 84-year...Read more
The Men Who Inspired This Season's Look: Yves Saint Laurent (The Man, Not The ...GQ Magazine, September 12th
Yves Saint Laurent spent his life working in the fashion business, but the man made no secret of the fact that he hated “fashion.” He believed only in style. And his ability to divine the difference between the two is what made him a genius. “Fashions...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent defeats claim that handbag design rights were invalid ...Out-Law.com, September 10th
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) dismissed appeals brought by H&M against rulings by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) which had previously confirmed that YSL's registered Community design rights were valid. H&M had ...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent Has Been Accused of Copying: Is the Role of Creative ...Huffington Post UK, September 10th
Saint Laurent, under the creative direction of Hedi Slimane has just been accused of copying the fast fashion retailer forever21, highlighting a burgeoning problem in the business of fashion that creative directors are far more removed from the...Read more
Yves Saint Laurent accused of 'ripping off' a $23 Forever 21 dress designDaily Mail, September 4th
Designers ripping off other designers is simply a tool of the fashion trade, but usually it is budget retailers creating work inspired by the runway giants - and not the other way around. But this was discovered to be just the case when a savvy fashion...Read more
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