French fashion designer Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was born on August 1, 1936 in Algeria when it was still a French colony. Saint Laurent’s lineage was as long as his full name; in fact, one of his forbearers presided over the marriage of Napoléon and Joséphine. He got his start in the couture world working for Christian Dior in the 1950s, ultimately running the design house after Dior’s untimely death. In 1962, he went out on his own, backed by business and life partner Pierre Bergé. He invented fashions for the women who were beginning to enter the workforce en masse. Some of his iconic creations or reinterpretations were the pea-coat, the safari dress, the trench-coat, the tuxedo, pantsuits and jumpsuits. He created a look that was as powerful as it was feminine.
Saint Laurent made another bold move when he launched his ready-to-wear line in 1966 – Saint Laurent rive gauche (reeve goash), which refers to the left bank of the Seine, the side that’s always been associated with bohemian life. He also had an extensive interest in the performing arts and created costumes for the theatre, the ballet, and the cinema, where he worked closely with Catherine Deneuve. Saint Laurent was one of the first designers to use dark-skinned models as well as members of the jet-set on his catwalks. The designer frequently found his inspiration in art, with collections inspired by Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse, Cocteau, Braque, and Van Gogh. His passion for travel also revealed itself in designs inspired by Japan, India, China, Spain, Russia and Africa – although apart from an annual trip to Morocco, the rest of his travels were imaginary.
In 2002, Saint Laurent announced his retirement. The following year, there was a wonderful retrospective show with 300 models. Deneuve and Laetitia Casta sang Barbara’s song, “Ma plus belle histoire d’amour c’est vous.” After his retirement, he dedicated his time to La Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, located on the premises of his former haute couture boutique. The Foundation holds regular exhibits honoring the designer or his inspirations. Saint Laurent died on June 1, 2008.
- First Look At Gaspard Ulliel As Yves Saint Laurent (ohlalamag.com)
- Two Yves Saint Laurent Biopics are in the Works (complex.com)
- HIS PODOPHILIA: RIVE GAUCHE by YVES SAINT LAURENT (1970) (theblacknarcissus.com)