It is actually ten years ago: on June 1, 2008, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent died. His creations are sheer esteem for the woman, admiration that has become fabricated, and the expression of deep insights into secret fantasies. An Overture.
He is a bit of an artist, Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent is quoted as having said of himself, but when he gives it some more thought, not only a bit. These little anecdote* is perhaps the most honest statement we can nd about the designer born in Oran, Algeria. Yves grew up amongst women, with two sisters, mother and grandmother; the lanky youth discovered en passant the sen- sual world of fashion magazines, fragrances, rustling materials and opulent colours at an early age. his father was an insurance clerk, both parents’ descendants of ancestors from Alsace- Lorraine who had ed to Algeria. One can only imagine how the boy grew up in a mixture of conventions and the anticipation of a dazzling world. he was gifted in art, adored christian Dior, loved to draw and remarkably, he was allowed to move to Paris at the age of 17 to train as a fashion and stage illustrator in the chambre Syndicale, the heart of the French couture scene.
This «move», as one would refer to it in today’s business world, took on consequences at a breath-taking speed. In the first year, the student submitted fashion illustrations to the only international competition at the time that the industry had on offer, the fashion prize for International wool secretariat**. He received respectable recognition; in the following year, Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent won the first and third prize, in second place another genius, who continues to fascinate the fashion world until the present day: the German Karl Otto Lagerfeld. A dream comes true for the young French man: he can work for Christian Dior; the fashion star in the prime of his life takes the young man under his swing as his assistant. Yves is 21 years old when the Grand Monsieur dies at the age of only 52 and he is appointed successor and consequently creative Director of the fashion house.
The strange foreigner from Oran gets started. With caution, he becomes a master of subtle sensations. Initially he follows the famous Dior line, proving his respect and loyalty to his mentor, by dutifully designing the new collections in his style. however, he quickly breaks new ground with his own ideas; the first designs reated are far from the Dior models to date and Dior refrains from further collaboration. No big deal for the handsome man, who has formed a partnership with Pierre Bergé, with whom he initially experiences an intimate private relationship and then for the rest of his life the perfect symbiosis between intellectual and professional life. In 1961, the duo founded Yves Saint Laurent, the fashion label, which still exists today. YSL could just as easily have become MSL, in early designs Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent liked to explicitly emphasise the initial letters of his noble surname. Yves Saint Laurent played with gender roles; his first dinner jacket for women in 1966 was legendary.
At the same time, he elevated women to the status of goddess creations in his artistic promenade and photo stagings, worked simultaneously on theatre productions and as such created the perfect mix between stage, drama, dream and real fashion. YSL was revolutionary, provocative, without being obscene, even scantily clad women always remained inconceivably elegant. The most stunning stars wore the label, women, who were so unapproachable and still vulnerable resembled the maestro himself. Bianca Jagger, the cool Catherine Deneuve, Marisa Berenson become his muses, in more recent times it was icons such as Carla Bruni and Kate Moss, who stood for rebellious elegance. Unforgettable the Rive Gauche line, which astounded the established scene from the middle of the 60s, because the revolutionary had the courage to launch ready to wear fashion next to Haute Couture. he wanted to give women selfconfidence and to support them, not only adorn them, as Saint-Laurent said himself. Mission accomplished.
Yves Saint Laurent was, by the way, one of the leading couturiers, who to a large extent trusted exquisite Swiss fabric for his collections. The Zurich silk company Abraham, and in particular the head designer Gustav Zumsteg, had a very close bond with Yves Saint-Laurent as both a friend and designer. Zumsteg, who also designed for Dior, met the newcomer on the occasion of Christian Dior’s funeral. The cooperation between Zumsteg and Saint Laurent became intense, the fabric designer and couturier inspired and admired each other. Zumsteg and Saint-Laurent shared their love of art; the fashion designer liked to stage his models in a splendid art ambiance and included references to famous artists in his fashion. The fabrics were designed by the enthusiastic art collector Zumsteg, who was also inspired by milestones in art.***
A cloud of tragedy hung over the life of the couturier Saint-Laurent, despite all the success and the love expressed by beautiful people for him and his works, he somehow appeared lost. In 2002 he staged his departure from the catwalk with a gigantic promenade in the centre Pompidou in Paris, 2000 guests paid their respects to the obviously exhausted man; the A-List of the top models presented the milestones of the trends he had created: Dinner jacket, jumpsuit, safari-look, Russian style, china look, the transparent blouse and lots more.
In the same year the Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent was founded, with the aim of preserving and promoting the life’s work of the master. Even today, ten years after his death, 60 years after his first collection in 1958, you change when you put on a YSL suit, dress or even just a pencil skirt. Somehow you stretch to your
full height, become more proud, get a sublime feeling. You can be certain that you are well dressed, an awareness that is really only inherent in very few creations these days. And maybe there is a very simple explanation, a quote from Monsieur Laurent himself: «The most beautiful pieces of clothing for a woman are the arms of the man she loves. For those, who do not have this pleasure, I am there.»
Love in the stitches. Those who own fashion designed by the exceptional talent from his active period can count themselves lucky; sometimes you can come across a well-kept piece in a luxury vintage shop. A piece of self confidence to wear. Try it out.
P.S.: A visit to the Yves Saint Laurent museums in Paris and Marrakech is a must. Pierre Bergé, who survived his great love by 9 1⁄2 years, managed to perfectly stage the life’s work of Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. Unfair that he did not get to experience the opening in Morocco himself, he died three weeks before. The tragedy never ceased.
*Source: All about Yves from Catherine Örmen, a beautiful, ela- borately designed book, edited by the foundation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent. Publisher www.laurenceking.com
** The International wool secretariat IWS was founded in 1937 and is based in London, to give the worldwide-distributed wool producers the chance to market and certify their products together. Today the association is called The Woolmark Company, belongs to the Australian Wool Innovation, supports local offices throughout the world and still tenders a coveted fashion and innovation prize, the International Woolmark Prize.
*** outstanding examples: The YSL foulards. The Swiss Tex- tile Collection STC is currently dedicating an exhibition in their Schaulager in Murg to the designs by an employee from the Abraham company, who worked for Gustav Zumsteg and designed over 1000 foulards. 250 wonderful exhibits, framed by the fashion of the master from the archived Haute Couture collection of the STC. Runs until the end of March 2018. www.swisstextilecollection.ch