Monday, June 2

Yves Saint Laurent 1936 - 2008

I was saddened to hear the news of Yves Saint Laurent’s death this morning. Earlier in the year I read The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris by Alicia Drake, a fascinating look at Yves’ vulnerabilities and genius.

A shy and lonely child, Saint Laurent became fascinated by clothes at a very early age. The son of a wealthy businessman, he moved to Paris from French Algeria and began his career working under Christian Dior. In 1957 when Dior died, Yves was given the task of resurrecting the failing fashion house. True to character, Yves took on the task with great drive and energy, bringing the house back from financial ruin.

French fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent poses in the atelier of the House of Christian Dior, Paris, France, 1958. (Photo Getty Images)

Saint Laurent left the fashion world briefly in 1960 when drafted into the military, but was given a medical discharge after one year due to a nervous condition. It was during this tumultuous time Yves was released from Dior, allowing him to strike out on his own. In 1962, he started his eponymous fashion house, designing both couture and pret-a-porter collections. Yves, along with Pierre Berge, his long time business partner and former romantic partner, opened a string of boutiques (Rive Gauche) that featured his ready-to-wear looks.

Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint-Laurent, 1966 (Getty Images)

Perhaps the most celebrated Saint Laurent look was "Le Smoking," a loose, sexy tuxedo for women—androgynous, alluring and often worn without a bra. For many Le smoking defined late 1960s and '70s women's fashion. “Coco Chanel freed women,” Berge told France-Info radio, “but Yves Saint Laurent empowered them.”

September 1969: French designer Yves Saint-Laurent poses with two fashion models, Betty Calroux (left) and Loulou de la Falaise, outside Rive Gauche, his new London boutique. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

In the 1980s and '90s, Saint Laurent continued to design important collections and remained popular with brand loyalists. In 1999, Gucci Group, purchased Saint Laurent's business for $1 billion. However, three years later, after reported disputes with the then-creative director of Gucci, Tom Ford, Saint Laurent retired with a memorable runway show that featured 300 of his best looks. Ford replaced Saint Laurent as creative director the same year and then left Gucci in 2004. Yves Saint Laurent is now headed by Stefano Pilati. Au revoir Yves.


cotedetexas said...

So sad - huge loss. During fashion week earlier this year, Bravo ran documentaries of top designers and YSL was one of them. What I came away from his documentary was what a sweet, quiet man he was. Very, very soft spoken and very well mannered. No diva behavior at all. He clearly adored his models and his staff idolized him. He was a gentle soul.

ALL THE BEST said...

Joni you are right, and he was very much adored his models and faithful clientèle! So brilliant, yet tortured and taunted at such a young age by classmates. Very sad day.

Mary-Laure said...

Great tribute, Ronda, thanks. Your selection of pics does the great coututier justice. He will be sorely missed...

Chloé Van Paris said...

I wrote a tribune too.
I was enjoying his work and his way of beeing such an elegant man is gone.

Anonymous said...

Au revoir Yves! A truly wonderful talent. He will be missed, but lucky for us he has left his mark on the world of fashion.

SimplyGrove said...

Wonderful tribute!!! He was so talented!