[D]iana Vreeland described Yves Saint Laurent as “the master of the streets of the world”. The man himself said of his own luxury designs, “I want to give haute couture a kind of wink, a sense of humour—to introduce the whole sense of freedom one sees in the street into high fashion; to give couture the same provocative and arrogant look as punk—but of course with luxury and dignity and style.” Throughout the course of his prolific career YSL changed the way in which women dress forever and has influenced countless designers who followed in his fashionable footsteps. To celebrate the work of one of fashion’s most influential designers, we’ve compiled a list of his finest moments.
YSL’s Mondrian-inspired dresses AW 1965
The Mondrian Collection was designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965, paying homage to the work of a number of modern artists. Saint Laurent was known for his passion for fine art, owning an extensive collection which influenced his work and six cocktail dresses in this collection were inspired by the paintings of Mondrian. Saint Laurent said of the painter: “Mondrian is purity and one can go no further in purity in painting. This is a purity that joins with that of the Bauhaus. The masterpiece of the twentieth century is a Mondrian.”
YSL’s ‘Le Smoking’ 1966
In 1966 Yves Saint Laurent created Le Smoking, the now iconic tuxedo suit, often worn with nothing beneath, or dressed up with a white shirt, tie and cummerbund. As an alternative glamorous outfit choice to the LBD, Le Smoking was a bold but elegant option for the liberated woman. This masculine, black-tie inspired look has become a timeless style statement and been worn by the most fashionable women ever since its introduction.
YSL’s 1967 pinstripe pantsuit
A year after the pioneering Le Smoking, YSL created a pinstripe trouser suit with a long line jacket in the first women’s trouser suit collection. Again the groundbreaking designer gave women the opportunity to defy convention and wear traditionally masculine silhouettes.
YSL’s Safari Jacket SS 1968
In 1968, Franco Rubartelli photographed model, actress, artist and rumoured girlfriend Veruschka von Lehndorff wearing a YSL front-laced Safari tunic that had been specifically commissioned by Vogue Paris for the 1968 July/August issue. Over 40 years later, in the April 2009 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, photographer Peter Lindbergh shot Gisele Bündchen in a number of the iconic looks from the 20th century, recreating Veruschka’s renowned portrait.
YSL’s 1971 Pour Homme Advert
In 1971 YSL released the first men’s fragrance ‘Pour Homme’, starring in the advertising campaign himself. Saint Laurent posed nude for photographer Jeanloup Sieff, marking the first time in fashion history that a perfume maker had posed for his own advertising campaign.
Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s business partner, said in 1997, “It was just provocation on the part of Yves Saint Laurent. The picture didn’t specifically target the gay population, even though it resonated strongly among them. In any case the photo was hardly published at the time. Just barely in the French press. It was only much later on that it became an almost mythical icon.”
Andy Warhol’s YSl Portraits 1972
During his career, Andy Warhol forged close friendships with many fashion designers including Yves Saint Laurent, who he took a panelled portrait of in 1972 from a series of Polaroids, later to be sold at a Christie’s auction. Opening bids started at $1,500, with images of a young Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Princess Caroline of Monaco being bought for more than $15,000 each.
ysl’s 1976 Haute Russia collection
The New York Times referred to YSL’s ‘Opéras et Ballets Russes’ 1976 collection as “revolutionary” declaring that the collection “will change the course of fashion around the world.” Saint Laurent himself said, “I don’t know if this is my best collection. But it is my most beautiful collection.”
The Met’s 1983 YSL retrospective
The 1983 retrospective of YSL’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, organised by Diana Vreeland, was the first time a living artist’s work had been exhibited at the museum. Over a million people attended and after it closed at the Met, the exhibition then went around the world for another seven years. The inspired show encouraged more museums and galleries to put on current fashion exhibitions rather than the previous historical costume displays.
Yves’ last RTW collection in 1988
In October 1998, Yves Saint Laurent presented his last ready-to-wear collection for the Rive Gauche label he had launched over three decades earlier. Reportedly, the 61-year old designer was too overcome to take his final bow. Soon after YSL stepped down from RTW, Alber Elbaz began designing the women’s collection, being trained to replace Yves as the house’s head designer when Saint Laurent retired. However, Elbaz left after three seasons.
YSL’s Final Couture Show 2002
On January 7th 2002, following years of bad health, Yves Saint Laurent retired from fashion. Paying tribute to his own idols such as Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli and Chanel, the designer admitted he was leaving due to his disgust with an industry that focused on commercial gain rather than artistic integrity. “I have nothing in common with this new world of fashion, which has been reduced to mere window-dressing”, he stated. The announcement came days before he presented his last ever haute couture collection.
The stunning 90 minute show, held at the Pompidou Centre in Paris was a true retrospective of his work. Over 250 outfits were showcased, 40 of which were new whilst the rest looked back at his incredible career. A tearful Saint Laurent took his final bow as his muse of many years, Catherine Deneuve, sang ‘Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour’.
After his departure YSL closed its couture doors. However, this week it was announced that YSL couture will be making a comeback under the creative direction of Hedi Slimane. Will he be able to compete with the legendary designer’s legacy? Happy birthday to one of the greatest fashion influencers of the 20th century!