Yves Saint-Laurent: Yesterday, Today and Forever


“Fashions fade, style is eternal” – Yves Saint-Laurent


Luxury Brands Everywhere, but Which one to Choose?

There seems to be no shortage of luxury fashion designers nowadays. From France to Italy, the States and Japan, it seems like the luxury fashion industry is not lacking for new creative designers who all wish to share their sense of style with deep-pocketed style-savvy shoppers. Asides from a commitment to creativity, the common denominator across all these varied brands is typically the high-quality of the materials used in their creations and the skilled craftsmanship, both of which are almost always expressed in their typically higher price points. Luxurious price points that are in fact, well worth it. But, personal tastes aside, how can one tell which luxury brand is the most luxurious, the most sought after, and the best investment you can make for your wardrobe? There’s a little bit of an explanation involved, but for now, we’ll skip ahead to the final answer: YSL.

Have You Ever Heard of YSL?

If you’re not familiar with those initials, there’s an incredibly high likelihood that you may have been living somewhere extremely remote for the past six decades. YSL is the initials that belong to the one and only Yves Saint-Laurent, unarguably the foremost fashion designer of the twentieth century. Don’t let his name fool you, he’s not an actual saint, but to the fashion industry and to all us who value our appearance, there has never been a higher deity. With the introduction of his personal brand of fashion apparel in 1961, back when mini-skirts first hit the mainstream, Yves Saint-Laurent the man, built a fashion empire that has withstood the test of time to this day and remains a beloved staple in the closets of fashionistas everywhere.

Born in a Time and Place a World Away

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent.

While Saint-Laurent is the brainchild of Yves Saint-Laurent, it’s important to appreciate that it’s the man that came first, and his origins and upbringing proved vital to his creativity and vision. Born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, a regal name deserving of such a prophetic individual, he was born in Oran, French Algeria in 1936. It almost goes without saying that the world was a very different place back then. Algeria, a predominantly Arabic-speaking Muslim country that lay across the Mediterranean sea from such picturesque French coastal towns as Marseille and Toulon, served as the jewel of French Third Republic and hosted a large French colonial-settler population, popularly known as les pied-noir. These pied-noir maintained strong connections back to metropolitan France, but the oriental allure of Algiers sparked their dreams and imaginations for a whole new way of living.

Born to Design & Dior’s Apprentice

Yves Saint-Laurent met French fashion mogul Christian Dior in the late 1950’s.

Yves himself did not spend long in Algeria himself and returned to France during his childhood years. It seems that without a doubt the man was born with fashion in his blood as he was reputed to have designed dresses for his sisters even in his teen years. Realizing his skills and talents, Yves followed his passion by enrolling in the school of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, or Trade Association of High Fashion, the single most influential governing body of the French fashion industry. There he met the editor of French Vogue, Michel De Brunhoff, who in turn introduced him to another aspiring young designer, Christian Dior, who would later become almost as a big of a name as Yves and would serve as Yves’ inspiration.

Back to North Africa

YSL soon started working for Dior and is almost solely credited with reviving Dior’s entire summer line in 1958. But even the most successful people will tell you that you’re never going to win all the time, and YSL’s future contributions, including his mini-skirt designs for the House of Dior, wasn’t welcomed immediately by the public at large. Despite the naysayers, Saint-Laurent picked up a few prestigious gigs, designing original pieces for world’s movers and shakers, but as the Algerian War of Independence raged, France was forced to conscript its young men, and Yves was sent back to the land of his birth to fight an insurgent movement.

Yves was many things, but a soldier he was not, and after a short period of only 20 days, he managed to return back to France and resume his promising fashion career. It was at this time in 1961 that he and his partner, Pierre Berge, opened the Yves Saint Laurent YSL fashion house and it was there and then that the most iconic fashion labels in history was born

YSL busy at work in his atelier.

YSL’s Early Days  

In the early days, Yves designed sublime pieces that today would be easily recognized as belonging to the beatnik motif. His Le Smoking, a full tuxedo suit for women, was received with wild approval, as was his 1965 Mondrian collection. Perhaps the most revolutionary ideas that Yves had at the time came to him in 1966 and was described as pret-a-porter, French for ready-to-wear. No longer solely interested in made-to-measure clothing that exclusively served the wealthy aristocracy, Saint-Laurent believed that his designs could be worn by the public-at-large because everybody has a right to look good. Thus began the era of democratization of French high fashion, but this was not always well received by the press, who were for the large part, also a part of the aristocracy and did not appreciate the lower classes getting in on what they thought was strictly their domain.

‘Le Smoking’, YSL’s full tuxedo-suit defied fashion conventions for women and caused a major uproar in the fashion world.

Perseverance and Expansion

Despite the occasional flop, Yves Saint-Laurent’s genius could not be denied. His brand was well-established and was producing new ready-to-wear lines, despite the occasional complaints and whining by elitist fashionistas. Some of the world’s top designers got their start by working for Yves Saint-Laurent like Alber Elbaz, Hedi Slimane, Tom Ford, and Stefano Pilati. YSL had already expanded into fashion accessories, including fragrances, which only increased the visibility of the YSL brand and image. In 2008 Yves Saint-Laurent passed away at the age of 72 after years of struggling with alcoholism, drugs abuse and depression. As many celebrities will tell you, or as it can be easily observed about many of the world’s most beloved celebrities, creativity can take a toll on a person.

The Saint-Laurent Brand Today

Despite the Saint-Laurent brand being established more than half a century ago, there are few other luxury brands that could even begin to compete with them in either haute-couture or contemporary fashions. Today Saint-Laurent remains a powerhouse in the global fashion industry, employing only the most creative fashion geniuses and maintaining their commitment to originality despite the occasional flop. There are several YSL boutique shops located all around the world in the most cosmopolitan cities like London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. The Saint-Laurent brand can even be found in retail stores in your local mall.

YSL’s Models & Celebs

In the world of high fashion, the models are almost as important, and sometimes definitely more well known than the designer or the pieces that they are wearing. On account of YSL’s huge fame and success, the brand has been able to snag the biggest names and some of the world’s most beautiful people to sport the latest Saint-Laurent fashions while strutting down the runaway. Many erroneously believe that fashion models are little more than skinny clothes hangers with pretty faces, but in fact, they serve as muses of inspiration for designers. Many of YSL’s most famous models were close friends of the man himself, and they managed to help each other succeed fabulously.

One of his first models was a gorgeous leggy blonde named Betty Catroux, perhaps one of the first models in the industry that had that irresistibly sexy androgynous look. It was Betty that rocked the famous Le Smoking, the full tuxedo suit for women that was one of YSL’s earliest major success. Other names that you might recognize that worked for YSL include, but are not limited to, Catherine Deneuve, Bianca Jagger, Kate Moss, and Laetitia Casta.

English model Kate Moss became the new face of YSL in 2017.

High-End Fashions You Can Definitely Afford

Despite the YSL’s commitment to the democratization of stylish fashions, the beautiful designs, quality craftsmanship, and impeccable materials remain the reason why so many of their products remain relatively expensive. But not prohibitively so. A single YSL clutch purse or a pair of stylish olive green rubber boots as a gift for yourself or that special someone in your life, would not only make you look good and feel good but also would serve as a great long-term investment.

YSL’s pieces really never go out of style, and while some pieces might come off as non-conformist or extravagant to some, take confidence in the fact that no one who knows what they’re talking about would say that about anything in YSL. There are a few online eCommerce stores (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), that have managed secure great deals on authentic YSL apparel, savings which you are invited to take complete advantage. Just make sure that these e-retailers always include certificates of authenticity as well as holograms and properly spelled logos!

YSL at Paris’ 2018 Fashion Week

Just in case you think that YSL might not have the same pull as it may have in years gone past, the brand actually stole the show during Paris’ world-renowned Fashion week that took place during the last week of September 2018. Given the last spot, which is typically awarded to only the most prestigious labels as it’s the performance that audience members will remember best, YSL brought out some of its hottest new designs on a brand new roster of young sexy models.

During the same Fashion Week in Paris, a historical exhibit opened featuring extravagant pieces from one of YSL’s major collections, the amazingly opulent ‘Dreams of the Orient’ collection. No doubt inspired by his piednoir heritage, Yves Saint-Laurent was always fascinated by the opulence found in traditional Arab, Indian and far East Asian cultures like those in China and even Japan. This style is a definite breath of fresh air from the minimalist style that seems to have taken over everyone and everything nowadays. Here’s a beautiful ensemble inspired that Yves created in the 60’s, inspired from late Ming era China:

From the ‘Dreams of the Orient’ exhibit open now in Paris until Jan. 2019.

Saint-Laurent of Paris Forever

It’s sometimes hard to differentiate between Saint-Laurent the man and Saint-Laurent the brand, since they are, in many regards, the one and the same. Even when other famous designers came onboard to design for under the YSL logo, they could not have created anything without being influenced by YSL’s groundbreaking ideas and contributions. Even after his sad passing, his legacy left a massive impact, not only on the YSL brand but on global fashion culture for years to come. And that’s why quite simply put, Saint-Laurent is the brand for you and quite frankly, for anyone.