The icon that is, Yves Saint Laurent
The world’s cognoscenti stood inside the Church of Saint-Roch in Paris, bowing diffidently and wielding graciously their hankies as they said farewell to the prince of fashion, Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent. He peeled away the ignorant wounds of an uneducated world that accepted segregation based on race and gender and subsequently redefined the perception of beauty.
From his earliest forays into design in 1957 at Christian Dior, where, at the age of 21, succeeded the legend himself, through his retirement in 2002, Saint Laurent shook the fashion world to it’s core.
In the 1950s society was saturated with pop sensibility and subversive adolescence and Saint Laurent injected these countercultural aspects into his designs for Dior. The monsieur wrenched high fashion away from the nouveau riche and delivered it to the hands of frail-looking youthful women. And as his longtime partner and business associate, Pierre Berge stated, “Gabrielle Chanel gave women freedom, but Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.”
The house of Yves Saint Laurent opened in 1962 and in the next several years fashion critics would refer to him, without irony as a god.
The ashes of Yves Saint Laurent were scattered in the Jardin Majorelle in Morocco.
The New York Times named his 1965 Mondrian-inspired shift dresses as the brightest and freshest he has ever done. The same newspaper declared that it was quite a look for his iconic 1967 le smoking trouser suit. Hiding out in Marrakech prompt a sudden shift in his work, as he showed safari jackets and a black see-through chiffon dress that stirred controversy. And a tour de force of bad taste when, in 1971, he showed a collection of palazzo pantsuits that reminisced the days of the Nazi Occupation. This was soon to be a staggering portfolio of designs that lesser mortals had spent years studying, imitating and knocking off. The limelight of Saint Laurent’s career was in 1966 when he launched his ready to wear Rive Gauche collection.
Saint Laurent was iron-willed, but also a notorious life-long alcoholic that led him to retreat from the fashion world altogether.
To say merci would not be enough; the word that can articulate our feelings for the eternal Crown prince of fashion is amour. Avenue Montaigne will eternally glow because of those three initials – YSL.
Au revoir, Yves Saint Laurent. █