Yves Saint Laurent was a phenomenon, one of the world’s most influential fashion designers who by making the male wardrobe accessible to women also became part of the mid-20th-century female liberation movement. It was Le Smoking tuxedo jacket that set the tone; after that, he did the same with other hitherto male clothes like safari jackets, pea jackets, and flying suits.
His output was extraordinary, as was his lifestyle of drinking and drug taking. He died aged 71 from brain cancer in June 2008, was cremated and his ashes scattered in his Majorelle garden in Marrakesh, Morocco. As President Sarkozy said: "Yves Saint Laurent was convinced that beauty was a necessary luxury for all men and all women."
The Studio of Yves Saint Laurent
If you want to find out more about the fashion genius, his ideas of necessary luxury and his designs, visit his Paris studio on a tour with Cultival, a company that specializes in guided tours of places which are not usually accessible to the public. The studio is in the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, the Foundation that YSL set up with his lover and partner to preserve his heritage. The couple opened the YSL haute couture house in 1962 and moved to 5 A venue Marceau in the 16th arrondissement in 1974. The Foundation has an extraordinary collection of 5,000 haute couture garments as well as over 50,000 drawings, sketches and sketchbooks, and 15,000 accessories.
While the details have not been revealed, you're likely to see the Reception Salons, Yves Saint Laurent’s studio, and the library. There will also be original sketches and read YSL’s annotations to the workshops as well as haute couture prototypes. It will be a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of the designer who astounded and shocked the world.
Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent
5 avenue Marceau
The Life of Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent was born on August 1, 1935, in Oran Algeria. At 18 he moved to Paris, studying at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture and gaining enough attention for his designs for an introduction to Christian Dior. Yves Saint Laurent's significant climb to fame within the house began when he won first prize for a cocktail dress he designed in 1954. When Dior died at the unexpected early age of 52, YSL took over, launched a spring collection and his career seemed made. However, it was cut short for a spell: in 1960 he was conscripted into the French army fighting in Algeria, suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental hospital.
The subsequent release from Dior was a blessing. His lifelong partner, Pierre Bergé, provided the finance; YSL the inspiration and in 1962, the pair launched the YSL label. In 1966 he opened his Rive Gauche boutique, the first to offer ready to wear; in the 1970s menswear was introduced.
Yves Saint Laurent was way ahead of his time. He was the first designer to use ethnic models on the runway; in 1971 his radical ‘40s collection shocked the critics; he posed nude for his first YSL men’s fragrance, Pour Homme, which created an enormous frenzy of interest and condemnation, and in 1977 launched his Opium perfume. By the early 1980s, his fame was such that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York put on their first solo exhibition on a fashion designer. The Saint Laurent fashion house was sold in 1993 and he finally retired in 2002.
Today his designs are as iconic as ever; while the name lives on with new designers at the helm.
Yves Saint Laurent stores in Paris:
- 38 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris 8
- 9 Rue de Grenelle, Paris 7
- 6 Place Saint-Sulpice, Paris 6