Yves Saint Laurent - Biography
Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent (born August 1, 1936 in Oran, Algeria - died June 1, 2008), is a French fashion designer, considered among the greatest of the 20th century. In 1985, in her book, "Couture: The Great Fashion Designers", Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote, "The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the cuture's rise from its Sixties ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable".
Born in 1936, Yves Saint Laurent grew up in Oran, Algeria. At 17, he left for Paris where he showed his drawings to Michel de Brunhoff, director of Vogue, who published several of them immediately. Following a stint at fashion school, Saint Laurent was introduced to Christian Dior by de Brunhoff and he went on to work for Dior until his death in 1957.
After taking over as art director for Dior, Saint Laurent launched his first collection for the company, the Ligne Trap�ze, that year. It was a resounding success the world over and won him a Neiman Marcus Oscar. In 1960, Saint Laurent created his revolutionary "Beat Look" collection which used couture techniques to refine streetstyle. However, his dramatic designs were too much for the house of Dior and a year later they lifted bars on his national service.
When he returned from service in 1962, Saint Laurent set up his own fashion house with Pierre Berg� and continued to rock the establishment. In 1966, he introduced le smoking, his legendary smoking suit, which prompted the consequent androgynous revolution. He is now credited with a range of other innovations including the reefer jacket (1962), the sheer blouse (1966), and the jumpsuit (1968), as well as ready-to-wear culture as a whole.
In October 1998, Yves Saint Laurent showed his last ready-to-wear collection for the Rive Gauche label he had founded more than 30 years before. But, according to a sorrowful spokeswoman, the 61-year old designer was simply too overwrought to take his final bow. US designer Alber Elbaz was hand-picked to succeed him, but found that his career there was swiftly terminated after the Italian fashion Gucci bought full control of the business at the end of 1999 and handed the reins to powerhouse designer Tom Ford. Yves Saint Laurent retained control of the haute couture business and continues to show in Paris each season. These days, the reach of the Saint Laurent empire he founded and sold on is vast: the company produces menswear, furs, jewellery, perfumes and a range of accessories, all of which are distributed worldwide.
During his career, Saint Laurent was arguably the industry's greatest designer. Over the years, he received countless accolades: in 1985, he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by President Fran�ois Mitterand; in 1995, he was promoted to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honour, finally becoming a Commandeur six years later. His status as a national icon was also cemented when, at the final of the 1998 World Cup, near Paris, 300 models presented a retrospective of YSL creations, to celebrate the designer's forty years in fashion, in front of 80,000 football fans and more than 170 international sports channels. In January 2002, the 65-year-old designer announced his retirement. Paying tribute to his mentors, including Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli and Chanel, he revealed that his decision was based on a disgust with an industry that had become ruled more by commercial gain than art. "I have nothing in common with this new world of fashion, which has been reduced to mere window-dressing," he said. "Elegance and beauty have been banished." The news came just 16 days before he presented his final haute couture collection. In a fitting end to his 40-year career, the show constituted a thorough retrospective of his work: over an hour and a half long, it featured over 250 outfits, 40 of them new designs, and 100 models. A tearful Yves Saint Laurent took his final bow as his long-time muse, Catherine Deneuve, sang Ma Plus Belle Histoire d'Amour.
Like Chanel, Saint Laurent has created an unique style which for decades has been synonymous of the the most refined and modern elegance. He was the first, in the 60s to understand that haute couture could take its inspiration from the street, not limiting itself to be a closed world without any relation with everyday life. His first collection for Christian Dior in 1958, after his mentor�s death, was a big sensation. In the elegant rooms of Avenue Montaigne, he introduced a gritty and irreverent new look, very unpolitically correct for the formality of the period. It was already possible to sense the originality of the new designer, who, during all his career, has been a constant innovator, a modernizer of the female image. Decades before Giorgio Armani he had the intuition to glamourize for women some items taken from the male wardrobe, such as the blazer, the tuxedo, the pant suit, the leather jacket. His devouring passion for art has enabled him to create clothes inspired by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, David Hockney, Mondrian, etc. in a time when coupling art with fashion was not yet an abused idea as it is today. Again, much in advance on others, he was the first to enrich his collections with ethnic and folk elements coming from Africa, Spain, Morocco, Russia and China. His enduring love for the theatre and for literature, Marcel Proust being his tutelary deity, have also been transposed into his clothes.
Yves Saint Laurent died on June 1, 2008 from the effects of brain cancer, at his residence in Paris.
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