Learn about the life, success and style of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
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Yves Saint Laurent Fashion Designer Profile
Gradated with changing forever what women wore, Yves Saint Laurent is one of the gracious, biggest in French fashion and of the 20th Century.
He made the trousers suit a daytime staple and a tuxedo an elegant option. He also popularized safari jackets, and thigh high boots and his transparent blouses made mere nudity acceptable in high society.
The eldest child of a wealthy French industrialist, Saint Laurent was born and grew up in the den of French colony of Algeria and showed a talent for design making clothes for his younger sister’s dolls.
At 17 he entered a Paris fashion school and his sketch for a cocktail dress won first prize in an annual contest. Introduced to Christian Dior, the gangly Saint Laurent was hired on the spot by the creator of the new look and became his chief assistant. On Dior’s death in 1957, Saint Laurent became Chief Designer and swiftly outshone his mentor.
After his first collection introduced the widely copied trapeze silhouette with narrow shoulders and flab skirt, the shy 21-year-old was pushed out on to the Dior building balcony and crowds in the avenue below hailed him like royalty.
Saint Laurent directed Dior for 3 years until drafted for military service during the Algerian War.
Pierre Berge a French industrialist and lifelong partner of Saint Laurent’s eventually arranged financial backing and helps Saint Laurent present his first collection under his own name in 1962.
The YSL empire grew steadily and Saint Laurent showed an instinctive ability to sense what the mood on the street was and turned it into high fashion. Despite personal demons, his business empire thrived and the 1989 floatation is a runaway success.
He was the first to use Black models on the runway creating great opportunities for Naomi Campbell, Iman and Katoucha, his muse in the late 80s who was found drowned in the same in Paris early in 2008.
In 1992, YSL was absorbed by cosmetics and drugs companies Sanofi with Saint Laurent to retaining creative control. Then in 1999, it was bought by the Gucci group, itself controlled by French Luxury Giant PPR. Saint Laurent continues designing the haute couture collection while American Fashion Designer Tom Ford was asked to design their ready-to-wear collection.
The couture creations of the reclusive Saint Laurent One Global Finance Status, and he was widely considered to be one of the elite club of designers including Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel, who made Paris the Fashion Capital of the World.
He ruled the French fashion scene until his retirement in 2002 leaving Tom Ford now as Creative Director of YSL. However in 2000, Italian fashion designer Stefano Pilati joined the fashion house as Women’s Design Director.
By 2004, he was promoted to Creative Director taking the reigns from Ford. Pilati respected the French fashion houses tradition of elegant silhouettes and added a touch of modernity with sequenced stars and geometrical forms.
In June 2008, Saint Laurent passed away at his residence in Paris. His funeral was attended by celebrities he clothed and designers he inspired including actress Catherine Deneuve a former muse of the designer.
Hailed as the King of Haute Couture Yves Saint Laurent was among the most influential designers during the most important era of Parisian fashion; he changed the way women dressed most enduringly by making it glamorous and feminine to wear pants.