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Yves Saint Laurent history

Yves-Henri- Donat-Mathieu Saint Laurent was a revolutionary fashion designer, he changed everything in the fashion history. His approach was a celebration of gender fluidity and that shook every stage: he was the first one to present the suit for womens wear in the sixties.

Early years

Yves Saint Laurent was born in 1936 in Oran, Algeria. He grew up in a villa with his parents and two sisters. Dispite of his family was well off he had a difficult childhood. He suffered bullying at school by mates for appearing to be homosexual. And because of that the designer was a nervous and sick child.

Saint Laurent during his teens was designing dresses for his mother and sisters. When he was 17 his mother took him to Paris to meet the editor of French Vogue, Michael de Brunhoff. A year later the designer moved to Paris and met de Brunhoff to Christian Dior, the most important fashion designer at the time.

Yves Saint Laurent was first Dior’s assistant and took over as creative director when the founder unexpectedly died in 1957. His haute couture and ready-to-wear collections at Dior were strong and he had wealth of opinions about how the modern woman should dress.

Yves Saint Laurent is young, but he is an immense talent. In my last collection, I consider him to be the father of thirty-four out of the 180 designs. I think the time has come to reveal it to the press. My prestige won’t suffer from it.

Christian Dior to Jacques Rouet, July 1957

“He taught me the essential. Then came other influences that, because he had taught me the essential, blended into this essential and found it to be a wonderful and prolific terrain, the necessary seeds that would allow me to assert myself, grow strong, blossom, and finally exude my own universe.”

Saint Laurent wrote in 1986

Yves Saint Laurent fashion history

Saint Laurent served the French military in 1960. He left because of a nervous breakdown and when he got well, the designer Marc Bohan replaced him in Dior. With the help of his friend Pierre Bergé, the young designer launched his first couture collection in 1961. The designer stood out above the others because he celebrated the female sexuality. The ready-to-wear collection came later in 1966.

The designer blured the lines between men’s and women’s fashion. He was the first one to do it. His creations were a mixed of male and female fashion elements. Le Smoking tux suit for women was the signature style that defines Saint Laurent’s impact on fashion. It was launched in the 1966 haute couture collection and it hit the runway in Paris. Bianca Jagger wore it in her wedding to Mick Jagger in 1971.

Bianca Jagger wearing Le Smoking by Yves Saint Laurent
Photo by: AP/Shutterstock

Yves Saint Laurent was an art lover, he could established a dialogue between fashion and painting. In the collections of 1970 and 1988 he honored Braque. In 1979 and 1988 the honor was to Picasso. And in 1966 YSL named one of his collections “Pop”.

Yves Saint Laurent made history in the fashion stage. Because of him it exists the robe, the sailor blouse, the tuxedo suit. And also the suit jacket, the jumpsuit and the safari jacket. But most importantly, we owe him the empowerment of the female wardrove.

“He acted socially, more than many others, for the equality of the sexes and for the recognition of a modern woman, who is not an object, but is part of her time and flaunts her certainties.”

Pierre Bergé

If you want to see more about his designs and history check this video out!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York honored YSL with his own solo exhibition in 1983. He was the first living person to recieved such an honor.

Lastest years

During the 1998-1999 seasons Yves handed the ready-to-wear line over to Alber Elbaz to focus exclusively on the couture line. Until he sold the ready-to-wear business to Gucci Group for $1 billion in 2000 and Tom Ford took command. He renew the brand but it displeasured its founder. The press and the costumers loved Ford’s sexy take on YSL’s heritage. On the other hand, Saint Laurent himself hated Ford’s work. “The poor man does what he can”, commented once the legendary designer about the texan creative director’s sensual designs for the ready-to-wear line.

Saint Laurent continued to design the haute couture collection until 2002. After years of drug abuse, depression, alcoholism and critics of his collections, he retired.

Yves died in 2008 from a brain cancer. His ashes were displaced to the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, Morocco. The residence and botanical garden owned Yves and Pierre Bergé since the 1980s and now is open to the public.

“Fashion fade, style is eternal”

Yves Saint Laurent

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