Chanel gave women the look. Forty years later, Yves Saint Laurent gave them the style. “He believed only in style. Style was behind the emergence of Saint Laurent’s own major contribution” (Pierre Bergé) to fashion. If I were to elaborate a little and resume fashion to three designers without whom fashion would not be what it is today, I would say Coco Chanel for the look, Cristóbal Balenciaga for the haute couture and Saint Laurent for the style. Yves himself acknowledged the other two as the only designers who have left their marks on their times and profession. He too was a man of his times: he invented the modern woman’s wardrobe.
The book Yves Saint Laurent, by Farid Chenoune, is a beautiful retrospective of the designer’s life’s work, a full and richly illustrated chronology, from his childhood and teenagehood in Algeria, to his Dior years and the birth of his fashion house and his YSL collections; interviews with him, collections reviews, his revolutions (the essential YSL pieces he invented and the birth of the ‘Rive Gauche’ style), his muses, iconic photos taken by renowned photographers of the designer, like the one below, lensed by Maurice Hogenboom in 1964 (I love that one).
In 1983, Diana Vreeland said: “Yves Saint Laurent had a 50-50 deal with the street. Half of the time he is inspired by the street, and half of the time the street gets its style from Yves Saint Laurent.” He liberated fashion. The ready-to-wear, the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche was his conviction, he placed his faith in the street and gave women in the whole world the passport to the Saint Laurent style. And by working an item to perfection collection after collection and convincing fashion and women that they don’t have to change their wardrobe season after season, he gave them style. “For me, the avant-garde is classicism.” The book presents the heritage he left to the world very well.
I think the most moving aspect of the publication are the designer’s personal recollections of his time spent in Oran, the place of his birth, and his reflections on his life. “I am very alone. I exercise my imagination in lands I do not know. I hate to travel. For example, if I read a book about the Indies with photos, or one of Egypt, where I haven’t been, my imagination takes me away. Those are my most wonderful journeys.” It’s nothing short of overwhelming to read about the driving forces behind his continuous innovation.
I hope this week treats you well!
photos: by me, from the book Yves Saint Laurent, by Farid Chenoune: 1-Helmut Newton (Fall-Winter 1975 haute-couture collection)/ 2-Guy Marineau (the retrospective show of January 22, 2002) / 3-Maurice Hogenboom in 1964 / 4-Pierre Boulat (left: first Yves Saint Laurent show, January 29, 1962), right: Yves Saint Laurent in the wings of his haute couture show, 1962) / 5-David Seidner (advertising visual for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche) / 6: left-Helmut Newton for the American Vogue, March 1981 (Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection); right-Arthur Elgort (Fall-Winter 1988 Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection) / 8-Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent and Loulou de la Falaise, at the opening of the first Saint Laurent Rive Gauche shop, New Bond Street, London, September 10, 1969