This week at Sheppard Style HQ we are celebrating the birthday of Yves Saint Laurent: one of Gemma’s all-time favourite designers, and one of the most influential fashion figures of our time.
Saint Laurent was born in French Algeria in the 1930’s. As a child, he was shy and introverted- for him, fashion was an addictive form of escapism, and one which would soon lead him to a career-defining position under the tutorage of Christian Dior, who took on the aspiring designer as an assistant whilst he was still a teenager. After the untimely death of Dior in 1957, Saint Laurent found himself at the helm of the iconic design house- he was only 21. His success was notable, and his debut couture collection was widely credited by both press and consumers.
In 1961, after an uncertain period at Dior, Saint Laurent founded his eponymous and now iconic line- YSL. He became the first couturier to design a ready-to-wear line – Rive Gauche- alongside his couture creations, and is thus credited with spearheading the widespread democratisation of high-end fashion which followed. The 60’s and 70’s were triumphant times for both Saint Laurent and his label, which enjoyed enduringly positive critical reception, until Saint Laurent’s ill-health impacted in the 80’s.
Most notably, the culturally-shocking and sexually-liberating Le Smoking tuxedos of 1966 were a hallmark of chic androgyny- a style which echoes around the industry in a new guise each season. Soon after came gauzy, see-through blouses which epitomised the sexual liberation of the late 60’s, and the industry-defining Ballet Russes collection of 1976, which is widely considered as the show which sparked the creation of several iconic pieces.
2002 marked the designer’s final couture show for his namesake brand. His swansong was one which echoed around the industry, and his dynamic influence is perennially evident in today’s collections.