“I have always believed that fashion was not only to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence.” Yves Saint Laurent
Though I have not been a fashion buff myself but I have always taken keen interest in all forms of creativity starting from calligraphy, graffiti, fashion, paintings, music, and the list goes on. Creativity transcends social classes, for it just a new idea, a new energy and a new way of looking at things. One such man from the stream of creatives was Yves Saint Laurent, who reworked the rules of fashion by putting women into elegant pantsuits that came to define how modern women dressed. He created instant classics from the first YSL tuxedo, his trim pantsuits to see-through blouses, safari jackets, and glamorous gowns. His designs were so quickly plagiarized that he once said ‘ My only regret is that I did not invent the jeans’.
Saint Laurent was born Aug. 1, 1936, in Oran, Algeria, where his father was a shipping executive. He first emerged as a promising designer at the age of 17, winning first prize in a contest sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat for a cocktail dress design.
A year later, in 1954, he enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale school of haute couture, but his student life lasted only three months. He was introduced to Christian Dior, and Dior was so impressed with Saint Laurent’s talent that he hired him on the spot.
When Dior died suddenly in 1957, Saint Laurent was named head of the House of Dior at the age of 21. The next year, his first solo collection for Dior – the “trapeze” line – launched Saint Laurent’s stardom. The trapeze dress – with its narrow shoulders and wide, swinging skirt – was a hit, and a breath of fresh air after years of constructed clothing, tight waists and girdles.
He was the one who took over France’s most celebrated couture house at the age of 21 ,and did it astonishingly well. Bouts of depression marked his career. Pierre Bergé, the designer’s long-time business partner and former romantic partner, was quoted as saying that Saint Laurent was born with a nervous breakdown.
When the designer announced his retirement in 2002 at age 65 and the closure of the Paris-based haute couture house he had founded 40 years earlier, it was mourned in the fashion world as the end of an era. His ready-to-wear label, Rive Gauche, sold to Gucci in 1999, still has boutiques around the world.
Saint Laurent reinvented his own classics—the safari jacket, le smoking, leopard prints—countless times, reversing public opinion that clothes needed to change drastically twice a year, and instead establishing himself as a designer both adaptable to change and highly capable of engendering it.
He died on June 1, 2008 from the effects 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.
YSL’s ashes were scattered in Marrakech Morocco in a botanical garden that he often visited to find influence and refuge. His partner Bergé said during the funeral service: “But I also know that I will never forget what I owe you, and that one day I will join you under the Moroccan palms.”
Please take out some time to watch this video as a tribute to the man who revolutionized the fashion world. May his soul rest in peace!