Fashion Biography

Yves Saint Laurent, Fashion Designer


"The King of Fashion" Fashion Designer Yves Saint Laurent was born 1936 in Oran, Algeria. After winning first prize in the International Wool Secretariat contest for his asymetrical cocktail dress in 1954, Saint Laurent went immediately to work for Christian Dior. Saint Laurent became Haute Couture designer when Dior died in 1957. He introduced the trapeze dress in his first collection for Dior in 1958. He was replaced by Mark Bohen in 1960, when he fulfilled his military obligations.

Afterwards, he opened his own couture house, financed by Pierre Berge, in 1962.
Yves Saint Laurent
The Rive Gauche boutiques for women were established in 1966, and men"s wear was added in 1974. His CEO is still Pierre Berge, volatile critic of the Chambre Syndicale. His muse has been Catherine Deneuve for many years.

Saint Laurent frequently uses ethnic themes in his garments, as well as bright colors contrasted with black. His day clothes have a slightly masculine flavor, and his luxurious evening wear is tinged with fantasy. He is famous for "Le Smoking" tuxedo jacket, see through blouses (1968), peasant blouses, bolero jackets, pantsuits, and smocks.

Although a shy person, Saint Laurent believes he is the last true couturier. He maintains the highest standards of classic cut and tailoring, and he receives a standing ovation after every collection is presented.

1996 marks two surprising developments concerning the presentation of his new collections. In Summer of 1996, Saint Laurent was the first courturier to show his Haute Couture show live on the Internet. The other move was the decision to stop making big fashion shows for his Pret a Porter collection after 30 years of doing so. He now shows his new models only to a few selected journalists on appoitment basis.

Pierre Berge was sentenced to a 1 million Francs (about $197000) fine for insider trading in 1996. In 1992, he sold Yves Saint Laurent shares right before alarming economic figueres about the company were published.

Yves Saint Laurent is a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret a Porter.

Selected Products

Rive Gauche (diffusion)
YSL Variation (diffusion)

Selected Honors and Awards
Retrospective Exhibits

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1983), the first living designer so honored
Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Musee des Arts de la Mode, Louvre, Paris
Victoria and Albert, London (1995)

Neiman Marcus Award (1958)
Council of Fashion Designers of America (1981)

Economic Data
Since 1989, Yves Saint Laurent Groupe has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange. The Yves Saint Laurent SCA owned by the designer himself and by his partner Pierre Berge was sold in January 1993 to the French government controlled Elf Sanofi group (which belongs to the petrol and chemical giant Elf Acquitaine) for $650 million. Since in 1992, the net profits slumped by 44.2% the deal caught much attention in the French national assembly.

In 1995, total sales remained stable at around $837 million. In 1993, sales were at $665 million, compared to $568 million in 1992. 80% of those sales are said to be made through cosmetics and fragrances. Clothing sales worth of $107 million were achieved in 1995. In 1992/1993 those sales were at $96 million, compared to around $100 million in 1991.

The number of stores is said to be around 200 throughout the world.

Production/ Licences
Since the diffusion line "Variation" (which is 30% to 50% cheaper than "Rive Gauche") has not had the expected success, another line will be introduced for the collection for Winter 1997, which will be even less expensive than "Variation". This line will be targeted at younger customers than the parent lines. Over 200 licenses are given by Yves Saint Laurent.

August 1, 1936 YSL Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent is born in Oran, Algeria.
1953 At 17, Saint Laurent arrives in Paris, armed with a remarkable portfolio of sketches. His entry into the fashion world is quick and painless: he enrolls into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture school; wins first prize with a cocktail dress in the Woolmark competition; and is hired to work alongside Christian Dior on the strength of recommendations by Michel de Brunhoff, editor of French Vogue.
1957 Monsieur Dior dies, leaving the young Saint Laurent to direct the house. Saint Laurent completes a total of six collections for the house of Dior, beginning with the highly successful Trapeze collection.
1958 Yves Saint Laurent meets Pierre Berge who becomes his alter ego and business manager of the future YSL empire.
1961 Together with Berge, Yves Saint Laurent opens his own house.
January 29, 1962 Saint Laurent presents his first collection in a mansion formerly belonging to the painter Forain on Rue Spontini.
1964 YSL launches its first perfume for women, called "Y".
July, 1965 Yves Saint Laurent unveils the Mondrian haute couture fall winter "65/"66 collection.

Yves Saint Laurent

1966 This is a busy year for Saint Laurent. In couture, he makes waves with his tuxedo suit. He spearheads the move into ready to wear, opening the YSL Rive Gauche boutique on Rue de Tournon in Paris" sixth arrondissement. He simultaneously branches out into other artistic areas, drawing comic strips ("Naughty Lulu") and creating costumes and decor for theatre (which he had already begun dabbling in in 1959), ballets, and films. Saint Laurent dresses Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel"s "Belle de Jour", the beginning of a long lasting onscreen collaboration between actress and couturier. For his work, he receives the Harper"s Bazaar "Oscar" award.
1968 Saint Laurent borrows from men"s tailoring and safari stylings for his stunning "Saharienne".
1971 Saint Laurent"s radical " "40s" collection shocks fashion critics. The house launches its Rive Gauche perfume and Jean Loup Sieff photographs Yves in the nude for the advertising campaign of YSL"s first men"s cologne "Pour Hommes".
1974 YSL moves couture headquarters from Rue Spontini to Avenue Marceau, the heart of Paris" fashion establishment.
1977 YSL launches the very popular "Opium" perfume.
1982 YSL celebrates its 20th anniversary at the Lido cabaret in Paris. Saint Laurent receives the "International Award of the Council of Fashion Designers of America".
1983 The Larousse dictionary makes its first mention of the couturier. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Diana Vreeland, editor of American Vogue, organises the first ever retrospective of a living designer with his most important original creations: "Yves Saint Laurent 25 years of Design" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
1985 Saint Laurent is awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d"Honneur by French president, Francois Mitterand. He also receives a fashion "Oscar" for Best Couturier. In that same year, a retrospective of his work from 1958 to 1985 opens in Beijing.
1986 Musee des Arts de la Mode in Paris organizes an exhibit entitled "Yves Saint Laurent, 28 Years of Creation". This same exhibit is also on view in Moscow at the New Tretiakov Gallery.
1990 The Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo organizes a retrospective entitled "Yves Saint Laurent 1958 1990", including theatre sketches and original creations.
February 3, 1992 YSL celebrates its 30th anniversary at Opera Bastille.
1993 YSL brings out "Champagne", a perfume which was later renamed "Ivresse".

1996 In collaboration with Fashion Live, YSL Couture goes online with the Internet"s first ever live cybercast fashion show.
1998 In celebration of forty years of creation, a YSL photo retrospective is organized in New York.

July 12, 1998 YSL puts on a 300 model fashion extravaganza at the final match of the World Cup football tournament in the Stade de France.
June 2, 1999 The Council of Fashion Designers of America presents Yves Saint Laurent with the "Lifetime Achievement.

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