Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, known as Yves Saint Laurent
(August 1 1936 – June 1 2008) was an Algerian -born French fashion designer who was considered one of the greatest figures in French fashion in the 20th century. In 1985, Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote, "The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the couture's rise from its sixties ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable".
Yves Mathieu Saint-Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria, which at the time was the capital of a French Department. According to Alice Rawsthorn, his family was among the most prominent in Oran.
Yves was severely bullied while at school;
"Whenever they picked on me, I'd say to myself, 'One day I'll be famous'.
That was my way of getting back at them."
Yves Saint Laurent or YSL is a luxury fashion house founded by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. Today, its chief designer is Stefano Pilati. Yves Saint Laurent, founder of the brand, died in 2008.Yves Saint Laurent was founded by designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, in 1962.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularized fashion trends such as the beatnik look, safari jackets for men and women, tight pants and tall, thigh-high boots, including the creation of arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, Le Smoking suit. Some of his most memorable collections include the Pop Art, Ballet Russes, Picasso and Chinese ones. He also started mainstreaming the idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He was the first, in 1966, to popularize ready-to-wear in an attempt to democratize fashion, with Rive Gauche and the boutique of the same name. He was also the first designer to use black models in his catwalk shows.Among St. Laurent's muses were Loulou de La Falaise, the daughter of a French marquis and an Anglo-Irish fashion model, Betty Catroux, the half-Brazilian daughter of an American diplomat and wife of a French decorator, Talitha Pol-Getty, who died of drug overdose in 1971, and Catherine Deneuve, the iconic French actress. Ambassador to the couturier during the late 1970s and early 80s was London socialite millionairess Diane Boulting-Casserley Vandelli, making the brand ever more popular amongst the European jet-set and upper classes.
In 1993, the Saint-Laurent fashion house was sold to the pharmaceuticals company Sanofi for approximately $600,000,000. In the 1998-1999 seasons, Alber Elbaz, currently of Lanvin, designed 3 collections. In 1999, Gucci bought the YSL brand and asked Tom Ford to design the ready-to-wear collection while Saint-Laurent would design the haute couture collection.
In 2002, dogged by years of poor health, drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, criticisms of YSL designs, Saint-Laurent closed the illustrious couture house of YSL. While the house no longer exists, the brand still survives through its parent company Gucci Group.
The prêt-à-porter line is still being produced under the direction of Stefano Pilati after Tom Ford left in 2004. His style is decidedly more French than the overtly sexy image that Tom Ford perpetuated.
Yves St. Laurent clothing has for decades been known for its refined and modern elegance.
The Young designer
In 1950, Yves submitted three sketches to a contest for young fashion designers. He won third prize and was invited to attend the awards ceremony in Paris in December of that year.
Later that same year, Yves entered the International Wool Secretariat competition again and won, beating out his friend Fernando Sanchez and a young German student named Karl Lagerfeld.Shortly after his win, he brought a number of sketches to de Brunhoff who recognized in them close similarities to sketches he had been shown that morning by Christian Dior, a leading haute couturier. Knowing that Dior had created the sketches that morning and that the young man could not have seen them, de Brunhoff sent him to Dior, who hired him on the spot.
Although Dior recognized his talent immediately, Yves spent his first year at the House of Dior on mundane tasks, such as decorating the studio and designing accessories. Eventually, however, he was allowed to submit sketches for the couture collection; with every passing season, more of his sketches were accepted by Dior. In August 1957, Dior met with Yves's mother to tell her that he had chosen Yves to succeed him as designer. His mother later said that she had been confused by the remark, as Dior was only 52 years old at the time. Both she and her son were surprised when in October of that year Dior died at a health spa in northern Italy of a massive heart attack.
Yves found himself at the age of 21 the head designer of the House of Dior. His Spring 1958 collection almost certainly saved the House from financial ruin; the straight line of his creations, a softer version of Dior's New Look, catapulted him to international stardom with what would later be known as the 'trapeze dress', which included dresses with a narrow shoulder and flared gently at the bottom. It was at this time that he shortened his surname to "Saint Laurent", as the international press found his hyphenated triple name difficult to spell.
His Fall 1958 collection was not greeted with the same level of approval as his first collection had been, and later collections for the House of Dior featuring hobble skirts and beatnik fashions were savaged by the press. In 1960 Saint Laurent found himself conscripted to serve in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence. Alice Rawsthorn writes that there was speculation at the time that Marcel Boussac, the owner of the House of Dior and a powerful press baron, had put pressure on the government not to conscript Saint Laurent in 1958 and 1959, but reversed course and asked that the designer be conscripted after the disastrous 1960 season so that he could be replaced.
Saint Laurent lasted twenty days in the military before the stress of hazing by fellow soldiers led him to be sent to a military hospital, where he received the news that he had been fired by Dior.
This merely added fuel to the fire, and he ended up in a sadistic French mental hospital, where he was given large doses of sedatives and other psychoactive drugs and subjected to electroshock therapy.After his release from the hospital in November 1960, Saint Laurent sued Dior for breach of contract and won. After a period of convalescence Saint Laurent and his lover, industrialist Pierre Bergé, started their own fashion house with funding from Atlanta millionaire J. Mack Robinson.The couple split romantically in 1976 but remained business partners. During the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularized fashion trends such as the beatnik look, safari jackets for men and women, tight pants and tall, thigh-high boots, including the creation of arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, the Le Smoking suit.
In 1983, Saint Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition. In 2001, he was awarded the rank of Commander of the Légion d'Honneur by French president Jacques Chirac. He retired in 2002 and became increasingly reclusive, living at his homes in Normandy and Morocco with his pet French Bulldog Moujik.He died on June 1, 2008 of brain cancer at his residence in Paris. According to The New York Times, a few days before he died, Saint Laurent and Bergé were joined in a same-sex civil union known as a "civil pact of solidarity" in France. He was also survived by his mother and sisters; his father had died in 1988.