20th-century fashion icons and their contributions to fashion: Yves Saint Laurent

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On this occasion, we will meet a legendary designer and founder of one of today’s most influential fashion houses. One who made a mark with his designs by implementing a new concept of femininity that is still valid today: Yves Saint Laurent.


Yves Saint-Laurent


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Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria (a French colony at the time) on August 1, 1936. Born into one of the wealthiest families in the city.


From a young age, he showed his inclination toward the world of art and design. And one of his favorite hobbies was reading Vogue magazine.


This hobby led him to start making dresses, his mother and sisters being his models.


Being 1950 and continuing with his designs, Yves sent 3 of them to Paris for a contest organized by the International Wool Secretariat. In which he got third place.


The then editor of Vogue magazine, Michel de Brunhoff, was surprised by the young man’s designs. He recommended that he start studies at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, which Yves attended. After graduating in his hometown Oran he moved to Paris.


In 1951, he participated again in the International Secretariat contest. On this occasion, he won first place, defeating a young Karl Lagerfeld at that time.


His designs drew attention for the air they had to those made by Christian Dior, who immediately decided to add him to the staff of his workshop when he saw them.


He formally began his path in the working world at 18 in the Dior fashion house. He dedicated himself to activities such as decorating the studio and designing some accessories.


Surprisingly, Christian Dior retired that same year, delegating the position of chief designer at Saint Laurent, and later passing away.


In 1957, at the age of 21, Yves was already the youngest French haute couture designer. He launched his spring collection in 1958, which was a total success and with which he rescued the Dior house from bankruptcy in doors.




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His career continued this ascent when in the year 1960, he was summoned to serve in the French military. Something he had eluded for a long time, with the help of Dior’s owner, Marcel Boussac, who is said to have been the same person who finally influenced him. Saint Laurent responded to the call because he wanted to do without it within the fashion house.


His stay in the military lines only lasted 20 days, thanks to the humiliation received by some of his fellow soldiers. Causing a stress attack that forced him to abandon the mission, being admitted to the military hospital.


After this and during his stay, he learned that the Dior house no longer reserved his job for him. This worsened his situation, requiring him to be admitted to the Val de Grâce psychiatric hospital.


Saint Laurent left the psychiatric hospital at the end of 1960. As already mentioned, his position in the Dior house was already occupied by the designer Marc Bohan, whose ladylike style was the one sought by the brand.


Yves, with the help of Pierre Bergé, who was his sentimental partner and great support for what was his company from now on, proceeds to sue the company that had discarded him for moral damages. With the money received from it and together with the financial support provided by the American businessman J. Mack Robinson, he created his own fashion house.


YSL house foundation


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His company logo was created by the French graphic designer Cassandre in 1961 and is still valid today.


In 1962, he launched his first collection called Ligne Trapéze (trapeze line), an instant success.


In 1966, he opened his first store that sold prêt-à-porter clothing, located at 21 Rue de Tournon, called: Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. He was the first designer to include women of color among the models of their shows.




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In January 2002, Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement from the world of fashion, feeling disappointed with what was happening in the world. In his opinion, profit was a priority over fashion and art itself for most people.


Francesca Bellettini has managed the fashion house as CEO since 2013.


And Stefano Pilati acts as designer since the fall of 2008, with its headquarters in Paris.



Contributions to fashion


Yves Saint Laurent was a visionary, as his avant-garde style gave way to a modern wardrobe.


His ingenious and sophisticated designs marked a before and after in the way women dress. Being able to see beyond and determine what the fashion world needed, creating the famous: Prêt-à-porter.


So, let’s get to know the 4 designs that marked a milestone in the design created by this master of fashion.


The Mondrian


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Launched in the winter of 1965 and in honor of the painter of the same name, it consists of a straight-cut wool dress.


In it, he adapted a work by the artist of the same name, called Tableau II.


Which is a composition in blue, red, yellow, and black, being the most imitated model in design history.


This way, it establishes a relationship between Pop Art and fashion.


The Female Tuxedo


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One of the most emblematic pieces created by the French designer was undoubtedly the women’s tuxedo.


Its elements of the bow tie and black satin cummerbund give women a strong attitude beyond fashion and a style that lasts in the time.






The Saharienne


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Based on and inspired by a military-style garment.


Saint Laurent takes a long jacket worn by British Army soldiers in India in the early 19th century, adapting it to the female silhouette.


It was of beige cotton.


It had a V-neckline and two large front pockets and drawstrings, making it a versatile and valuable garment today.


The Caftan


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Created in 1968 and with Moroccan influences, he launched a Caftan for the Western world. With the intention that it would become a must-have piece in wardrobes. Full of color, soft fabrics, and attractive embroidery, a garment with excellent mobility and loose shapes.


Yves Saint Laurent was synonymous with a revolution in the world of fashion. A creator of trends and unique pieces that changed the course of design. Opening the way to modernity, avant-garde, and a vision of the future.