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Yves Saint Laurent (Part 1)

I’ve had a love affair with Yves Saint Laurent fashions since the 1970’s.  I fell in love through the pages of Vogue and department store windows as he romanced me with his signature haute couture style.  Every collection made me fall in love over and over again.  More than any other fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent helped me appreciate the beauty, fantasy and elegance of good design.  He elevated clothing to an art-form.



Yves on balcony Place Vauban 1963
Yves Saint Laurent 1963

Yves Saint Laurent

August 1, 1936 – January 6, 2008

Born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent in Oran, Algeria Yves came into the world with much expectation. At 17, Yves moved to Paris to study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.  By the time Yves was 21 years old he had taken the helm at the famed Haute Couture house of Christian Dior when Mr. Dior died prematurely.  In 1962, Yves opened his own design house with his companion Pierre Berge.  Over the next 30+ years Yves delighted the world with some of the most fanciful, exquisite and often decadent fashions that the elite and wealthy couldn’t get enough of.

Yves was an innovator.  He is credited for modernizing the way women dressed.  He was the first fashion designer to have black women as models on the runway and the catwalk has never been the same.  Yves was the first designer to:

  • Produce a pret-a-porter line (RTW)
  • Make men’s suits fitted and sexy for women to wear
  • Create the tuxedo suit for women.  He called it “Le Smoking”
  • Use street and youth culture as design inspiration and he turned street style into chic stars of the runway.
  • Be given a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983) as a living fashion designer.

Here are a few of his iconic designs

YSL original Le Smoking 1975 Helmut Newton

YSL “Le Smoking” tuxedo suit 1966

YSL Mondrian 1965

YSL Piet Mondrian inspired dresses 1965

YSL at Rive Gauche opening

Yves Saint Laurent in a safari suit in front of his salon Rive Gauche in 1966

Costumes for stage YSL

Costume designs for the Paris Opera

Yves used history, literature, art and culture as inspiration for his designs.  Some of his most memorable collections were inspired by ethnic cultures from Africa, Russia and China. He was a master of color and details and transforming the ordinary to opulent.

In 1993, he sold his fashion dynasty for $600 million to the french company Sanofi. Yves Saint Laurent died of brain cancer in 2008.  I was living in Paris at the time and personally witnessed how all of Paris mourned.

Yves Saint Laurent is considered to be one of the greatest fashion designers of the 21st century.  This month I will review some of his legendary collections that made me a lifelong fan and allowed me to dream about the world through the eyes of fashion.

Come, take the journey with me as I walk down Yves Saint Laurent fashion memory lane.


The YSL Atelier now the YSL Foundation

5 avenue Marceau, Paris