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Fashion 101: Yves Saint Laurent

Monday, June 13, 2011

It has been a while since my blog has mentioned anything about France now that I live in New York City. So for this lesson of Fashion 101 I wanted to feature a true legend to the fashion world, and France's own, Yves Saint Laurent.

As I just visited the Alexander McQueen Exhibition: Savage Beauty at The Met (don't worry that post is coming...and YES it was amazing), I was reminded of an equally great exhibit I had the honor of visiting last summer in Paris. That's right, I had so many posts and photos going up in the summer of 2010 that somewhere amongst the chaos of my cross-Atlantic move, I had a tiny little gold mine of snapshots that got lost in the recesses of my external drive! So here's to another great Fashion 101!

Yves Saint Laurent at the Petit Palais 
along the Seine River...my heart just melts as I think of it. 

**Please note: not all of these photos are the best, I was shooting from the hip...literally... as I was trying to discreetly capture the ambience of the exhibition for you guys without getting caught.**

At 17, Yves Saint Laurent started his career as an assistant to Christian Dior in 1953. Dior gradually accepted more and more of his sketch submissions and named him his successor to the House of Dior. In the Fall of 1957 Dior died unexpectedly of a heart attack and suddenly at 21 Yves Saint Laurent was to direct his first runway line. 

Here are the stats that any true fashionista should know about YSL:

1. Fused Art and Culture with Fashion

In his premier line for the Christian Dior label, he set the world on fire by creating Dior's signature "New Look" with trapeze dresses. 

His life was all about art and culture and it was constantly cognisant in his collections. Including his famous YSL color block dress inspired by the well known Mondrian painting, and was just one of many art reinterpretations over the course of his fashion career. His influence was often found outside of Europe as well, and he is credited as the first designer to send ethnic models down his runway, including longtime muse, supermodel Iman.

2. Founded Ready to Wear

As many designers in the mid sixties meddled with a few pret-a-porter pieces, Yves Saint Laurent was the first to launch a full ready to wear collection in the Fall of 1966. In addition that Fall, he opened the first of his ready to wear stores which he called his Rive Gauche stores, in Paris. Catherine Deneuve was his first customer. 

Fashion fades, style is eternal ~Yves Saint Laurent

3. Uncovered the lost art of Couture

The sixties and seventies were a time where the golden age of decadent couture had long been forgotten, ahem... polyester suits. But as a couturier himself, Yves Saint Laurent's creations brought back haute couture into the spotlight it deserved. 

Haute couture consists of secrets whispered from generation to generation...If in ready to wear, a garment is manufactured according to standard sizes, the haute couture garmet adapts to any imperfection in order to eliminate it. ~Yves Saint Laurent

4. The women's tuxedo suit

YSL's partner and longtime companion Pierre Berge once said, "We often say Chanel has liberated the woman, which is true, but we can also say that YSL gave them the power." No truer words could be spoken. Yves Saint Laurent's designs were specific to empower the woman and pull out her beauty at the same time. In his Fall 1965 collection, YSL introduced Le Smoking, his women's tuxedo pantsuit that changed to female corporate look forever. YSL is also credited with other trends such as safari jackets, thigh high boots, and his coined beatnik look.

Yves Saint Laurent was a vital piece of the ever evolving landscape of fashion, and experiencing this exhibit was truly breath taking. In the Centre Pompidou on January 22, 2002 YSL showed his last collection before retiring, showcasing 30 new looks and a collection of 300 models emphasizing the highlights over his career. He died of brain cancer on June 1, 2008 in his Paris residence.

I want to thank all the women who have worn my clothes, the famous and the unknown, who have been so faithful to me and given me so much joy. ~Yves Saint Laurent
 {merci yoox.com}

 Thank you Wikipedia and the Petit Palais for your wisdom.

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