News60 years of fashion by Yves Saint Laurent

60 years of fashion by Yves Saint Laurent

A milestone in fashion history was set on January 29, 1962: Yves Saint Laurent presented the first collection under his name. To mark the anniversary, six Parisian museums are now honoring him with exhibitions.

Paris – Two hours before the start of the parade, the streets around Rue Spontini are congested. Long lines form in front of house number 30.

Celebrities like writer Françoise Sagan and dancer Zizi Jeanmaire make their way to the front row. Many expect great things from this January 29, 1962. At 10.30am, Yves Saint Laurent, the prodigy of the Paris fashion world, would present the first designs from his couture house.

“Nude look” and safari style

However, the reviews for his debut are mixed. Great things come later: Yves Saint Laurent will invent the tuxedo for women, make the safari style popular, pave the way for the “nude look” with transparent fabrics, and translate the works of great artists such as Mondrian or Picasso into clothing. He will shape the way women dress.

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint Laurent, his full name, was born on August 1, 1936 in Oran, Algeria. Even as a child he examined the clothes of his mother and aunts, he loved books and the theater and drew. It’s also an escape from reality. His classmates tease and beat him. They sense what Yves Saint Laurent recognized early on: he is homosexual.

In 1953 he took part in a renowned design competition, took third place, moved to Paris and in 1955 became an assistant to the most famous couturier of the time: Christian Dior. He recognizes and encourages talent. And so, at just 21 years old, Yves Saint Laurent was named his successor after Dior’s death in 1957.

The high flight ends abruptly when he is drafted into military service in 1960. The designer collapses under the harshness of life in the barracks, is sent to a mental hospital and is sedated with medication. And he loses his job at Dior.

At this point, there was already a man at his side who would give structure to the fragile nature of Saint Laurent and his creative genius for decades to come: Pierre Bergé, life and business partner in one. It is thanks to him that the designer is able to open his own couture house at all – Bergé acquires the start-up capital through an investor.

Wild party and violent crashes

But the status of haute couture is already crumbling. Pop art, Beatles mania, swinging London: in the 1960s, young people thirst for something new. Also in fashion. She considers the elitist art of tailoring to be decadent. Saint Laurent adapted and opened the first “Rive Gauche” boutique in Paris in 1966. Under this name he had launched a line for high-quality ready-to-wear clothing, the prêt-à-porter. He later penetrated the mass market by granting licenses. Even the textile giant C&A had products with the famous “YSL” logo in the 1980s.

Saint Laurent keeps breaking social taboos, advertising one of its perfumes naked, for example, and has been working with black models since before anyone was even thinking about diversity.

His lifestyle is just as legendary as his fashion. He uses drugs and alcohol and throws wild parties. “We were like terrible and spoiled children who only thought about themselves and their fun,” Betty Catroux recalled in an interview for “Die Welt” in 2020 about the licentiousness of that time. The model is one of the designer’s muses alongside Loulou de la Falaise and actress Catherine Deneuve.

The consequences of such excesses: anxiety, breakdowns. But his fans remain loyal to him, even when his collections are no longer brilliant. “One of the keys to Saint Laurent’s commercial success was creating clothes that women loved to wear,” writes Alice Rawsthorn in her 1996 biography of Yves Saint Laurent. “He didn’t dress his clients like objects of pleasure.”

Six museums honor YSL

On January 22, 2002, Yves Saint Laurent retired from the fashion world with a retrospective parade at the Center Pompidou in Paris. Other designers such as Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane will design under his name in the future. Since 2016, the creative director of the label has been Anthony Vaccarello.

Pariser Fashion Week


Creations of the spring summer 2022 collection of the French fashion house Saint Laurent at the Paris Fashion Week.

“Basically, I remained a child, so I could always surprise myself and others,” Yves Saint Laurent finds in an interview with the US magazine “Talk” in 2000, a formula for his success. On June 1, 2008 he died at the age of 71.

The exhibition project “Yves Saint Laurent aux musées” now shows how important his work was. From January 29th to May 15th, six Parisian museums, including the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée du Louvre, will be dedicated to the work of the great couturier. dpa

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