Yves Saint Laurent, also known as Saint Laurent, is a French luxury fashion house founded by Yves Saint Laurent in 1961, along with his partner Pierre Berge. Under Hedi Slimane, who was the former creative director, helped the company revive its haute couture collection in 2015.
Since its foundation in 1961, Yves Saint Laurent has been considered as one of the most prominent luxury fashion brands in the world for its fashion statements, such as its tuxedo jackets for women. Today it deals with a wide range of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear products such as shoes, jewelry, and other leather goods, etc. Although the brand has a notable presence in the fragrance area as well, that is owned by L’Oréal, who holds exclusive licenses for the name.
As already mentioned, Yves Saint Laurent was founded by designer Yves Saint Laurent in 1961, along with his partner Pierre Berge. Furthermore, the current logos were designed by A.M. Cassandre in 1963. During the 1960s and 1970s, the company worked towards popularizing fashion trends such as the beatnik look, tight pants and tall thigh-high boots, safari jackets for men and women including the most famous and classical tuxedo suit for women in 1966. It was arguably the most classical fashion statement of the time. It was called Le Smoking suit. Designer Saint Laurent’s most famous collections include the Ballet Russes, Pop Art, Chinese ones, and Picasso. It was he who had started wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
The brand continued expanding in the 1980s and 1990s by introducing fragrances for both men and women. However, by 1992, the profits of the company were falling, and the share price of the company had fallen as well. Then in 1993, the Saint Laurent Fashion house was sold to the Sanofi Pharmaceutical company. Next, Pierre Berge chose and appointed Hedi Slimane as the director of collections and art in 1997. In collaboration, both of them relaunched YSL Rive Gauche Homme. However, Slimane had opted to leave the house two years later and became the head of menswear couture at Dior Homme.
In 1999, Gucci purchased YSL and asked Tom Ford to help it with designing its ready-to-wear collection, whereas Saint Laurent would work on designing the haute couture collection. To the brand’s unfortunate fate and dogged by years of drug abuse, poor health, alcoholism, depression, and criticisms of YSL designs, Saint Laurent close the Couture house of YSL.
While Saint Laurent was out of the scene for a while, he had enough time to reflect on his career and was heavily quoted around the world for saying statements such as “Chanel freed women, and I empowered them.” Stefano Pilati produced the Pret-a-Porter line after Tom Ford had left in 2004. His style as compared to Tom Ford was more French than the overtly sexy image that Tom Ford propagated.
The year 2008 was a big loss for YSL, as Saint Laurent had passed away, and the first few years beginning from 2009 were quite tumultuous for Stefano Pilati. A few YSL stores in Key U.S markets, including San Francisco and New York City, had closed. The New York location on Madison Avenue was the very first location of the brand in the United States. It opened in 1969. Whereas in January 2010, the Chicago boutique located on Oak street closed as well.
The rise of Yves Saint Laurent
The year 2012 saw Kering announcing that Hedi Slimane becomes the creative director by replacing Stefano Pilati. Slimane had previously worked with Dior Homme until 2007, so he was carrying tremendous experience in the fashion industry. In 2015, Slimane announced that he intended to revive the couture line of Yves Saint Laurent. However, in 2016, Slimane left Saint Laurent and was replaced by Anthony Vaccarello.
Even though Slimane had already worked with the house, there was much controversy surrounding his appoint particularly with rebranding the ready-to-wear line as Saint Laurent. However, the name Yves Saint Laurent had been retained for accessories such as shoes, handbags, cosmetics, etc.
Slimane stated that his inspiration was derived from the ready-to-wear line, which was first launched as Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. However, the decision started making headlines around the world. It even became more controversial when Colette, a Persian boutique, was selling shirts with the line “Ain’t Laurent without Yves.” Yves Saint Laurent then requested the store to stop selling the shirts, which it did in its online store.
Then in October 2013, it is said that Colette received a letter from Yves Saint Laurent that it stops selling counterfeit products because it was severely damaging the image of the brand. Following the accusation, Saint Laurent had canceled Colette’s order for Spring 2014 collection, even though it had been stocking the brand since 1998.
In 2017, Anthony Vaccarello, who was the creative director at the time, chose Charlotte Ginsburg, the daughter of Serge Ginsburg and Jane Barkin, to become the face of the FW17 campaign.
In May 2013, the flagship boutique store in Paris was opened, which was designed by Slimane. A monochrome interior replaced the preexisting gold and red color scheme along with different materials such as nickel-plated bars. The same concept was then used for the boutique renovated in Beverly Hills, the new boutique in London on Sloane Street, and the new stores that were opened in the United States.
Then in 2013, a men’s store, which was the first from the brand, was opened in San Francisco, whereas a full-line store opened in New York City in addition to Chicago. Under Slimane’s leadership, Saint Laurent aims to expand its branches by opening new stores in resort locations such as Las Vegas, Bal Harbor, Nevada, and Washington D.C.
Interesting facts about Yves Saint Laurent
Saint Laurent started with designing dresses for paper dolls
Saint Laurent spent his childhood in a Mediterranean villa along with his older sisters. Saint was a shy timid schoolboy who was bullied by his peers. This led him to seek refuge in design. At a very young age, he would gather scraps of his mother’s clothes and use them to create couture ensembles for paper dolls and then stage fashion shows of these dolls for his friends and siblings. As time would tell, Saint would grow up and design dresses for his mother and siblings.
Saint Laurent became the creative director of Christian Dior at 21
In 1953, Michel de Brunhoff’s attention was provoked by Saint Laurent’s drawings. Michel was the editor-in-chief of French magazine Vogue at the time. Michel showed the drawings to Christian Dior, who hired him as an assistant in 1955. When Christian Dior died, unfortunately, in 1957, due to a heart attack, the 21-year old Saint Laurent was made the creative director of the prestigious Maison.
The first living designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
In 1983, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it would devote its Costume Institute’s exhibition to the works of Saint Laurent. The show titled “Yves Saint Laurent: 25 Years of Design” was organized by Diana Vreeland, who displayed around 243 most extraordinary creations of the designer.
The brand Yves Saint Laurent and designer Saint Laurent both achieved tremendous success and acclaim in a very short amount of time. Although there were numerous changes taking place after the death of Saint Laurent, the brand managed to survive. Today, the brand celebrates the vision and inspiration of Saint Laurent through its collections and continues to keep the legacy alive.