Tuesday, June 03, 2008


All of France is in mourning today for the man who, according to the news last night, "saved France"; from what, I'm not entirely sure. But a bit of hyperbole is in order: Yves Saint Laurent, one of the great fashion designers of the twentieth century, is dead at the age of 71.

Saint Laurent's fasions are distinctively Parisian. He invented what is called the "style Rive gauche", an elegant mixture of masculine and feminine fashion with an emphasized sensuality. Today, it is impossible to walk around Paris, or many other cities, without seeing a few women dressed in fashions that echo those of Yves Saint Laurent. The news programs were not exaggerating when they said, "Whether or not you know his name, he was responsible for the clothes you are wearing right now."
His talent was astounding. Consider the fact that Yves Saint Laurent became one of the leading designers in the world when he was only 21 years old, an age when most of us were excelling at nothing aside from alcohol intake and ill-conceived sexual encounters. He started working for Dior at age 17 and could legitimately said to have saved the house. He served in the French Army during the Algerian War (Saint Laurent was born and raised in Algeria) and underwent a nervous breakdown, commitment and electroshock.

In 1961, he created his own house with partner Pierre Bergé and became one of the most important designers of the 60s. His feminine tuxedo Le Smoking from 1966 (pictured) encouraged the androgynous look in fashion that is still influential today. You can also credit him with the safari look, feminine pantsuits, and the black transparent blouse. He is most remembered for women's fashions, but he did create clothes for men. I used to have a YSL dress shirt.
He will be missed; more importantly for the YSL house, Saint Laurent will be impossible to replace.

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