Yves Saint Laurent is more than just chic bags, lipsticks and sunglasses

Yves Saint Laurent, or YSL for short, is a world-famous brand with much more to offer than just beautiful bags, sunglasses, T-shirts, lipsticks, make-up and perfume. The Frenchman Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) was already considered one of the most talented young designers in the 50s. Initially known as the right hand of fashion designer Christian Dior, after Dior’s death (1957) Yves succeeded in making his own name known as one of the most prestigious fashion brands in the world.

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Biography of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, son of an owner of a cinema chain and an insurance company and big brother of his younger sisters, Michèle and Brigitte, grew up in Algeria, where he attended a grammar school. He was the favourite child of his fashion-loving mother Lucienne-Andrée. He discovered Yves’ enthusiasm and passion for the fashion world, especially for expressive costumes, at the theatre performance “Critique de l’École des femmes” by Molières.

Bad mobbing actions shaped the designer

During his school days Yves Saint Laurent was often exposed to the bullying of his classmates. But his early passion for fashion led Yves to make his first sketches and designs for costumes at the age of eleven. Thus he created his own personal refuge from the wickedness of his classmates.

Fashion competitions as a career springboard

Every year a fashion competition of the International Wool Secretariat took place, which attracted Yves Saint Laurent’s attention through an advertisement in the Paris Match. Without further ado, the then seventeen-year-old submitted three of his designs and won third place in the competition with an evening dress. As a result, Saint Laurent left Algeria for the award ceremony in Paris and, thanks to contacts made there, began training as a fashion and stage designer in 1954. This training took place at the Paris Fashion School Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

When friends become enemies: Enemy with Karl Lagerfeld

However, Yves did not complete his training and instead submitted three more designs to the International Wool Secretariat’s fashion design competition. This time he achieved the first place with the design of a cocktail dress. At this point we have a fun fact for you: not only Yves was successful and respected in the competition, but also the designer Karl Lagerfeld, who won the first place in the coat category. Over the years, the friendship between the two designers developed into a serious enmity.

Kate Moss shoots for YSL

In the following video you get a first glimpse of the new, glamorous Teddy Bag, presented by Kate Moss in a unique way.

Saint Laurent climbs the career mountain

The young designer’s renewed participation in the fashion competition of the International Wool Secretariat in New York proved that dropping out of his training was not the worst idea. Because the successful participation opened Saint Laurent further doors.

Thanks to Vogue: Yves’ career at Dior

Saint Laurent’s designs were published in the international fashion magazine Vogue. The world-renowned magazine has a strong global influence on the fashion world, and the cocktail dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent attracted great attention. The then French director of Vogue established a contact between Yves and the young designer Christian Dior, who Saint Laurent worked for until Dior’s death in 1957 and became known as his right hand. At the age of 21, Saint Laurent was promoted to Art Director by Marcel Boussac, the owner of Dior.

The designer meets his great love

At a dinner together with the fashion journalist Marie-Louise Bousquet (Harper’s Bazaar) in March 1958, the young art director met Pierre Bergé. At first, the young entrepreneurs were only business partners. Over time, a firm friendship developed. It didn’t take long and the two of them learned to love each other quickly. Thus business partners became beloved life companions, who also supported each other daily with their business.

A nervous breakdown that changes everything

Yves was drafted into Algeria in 1960 for military service. The Algerian war had been raging there since 1955. However, Saint Laurent suffered a nervous breakdown before he moved in and was transferred to a psychiatric institution. There he was treated with drugs and electric shocks, which led to a lifelong drug addiction. As a result, he lost his job at the fashion house Dior. During this time Bergé did not abandon him and did everything necessary to get Saint Laurent out of psychiatry. The two of them sued the fashion house Dior and received more than 100,000 US $ compensation for breach of contract.

1961: The foundation of the Paris fashion company YSL

They used this money as seed capital and founded the fashion company Yves Saint Laurent Couture with the help of the American financier J. Mack Robinson (1923-2014). The separation of Saint Laurent and Bergé followed, but they remained happy as confidants and business partners and always stood by each other even in difficult times.

Out of the public! After alcohol and drug abuse

Nevertheless, the fashion designer’s state of health deteriorated from the mid-1970s onwards. Depression, anxiety, nervous breakdowns and side effects of medication determined Yves’ life, which led him to flee in alcohol and drug abuse.

In 2002, the designer finally withdrew from the fashion world and lived as isolated as possible in his numerous properties. In 2007, a malignant brain tumor (glioblastoma) was diagnosed. The formal marriage of the lifelong Saint Laurent and Bergé followed to confess their togetherness. On 01 June 2008, the fashion designer died at the age of 72. A Catholic funeral service was held in the parish church of St-Roch in Paris. 800 invited mourners attended the ceremony, among them President Nicolas Sarkozy, his wife and many well-known fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs and Valentino Garavani. The ashes of Yves Saint Laurent were scattered in the rose garden of his villa in Marrakech, which he had bought together with Bergé in 1980.

BTW 15 Facts about Saint Laurent

Within 12 minutes you will find 15 interesting facts about the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

YSL collections write history

Yves Saint Laurent’s first Ligne Trapèze collection in 1958 for Dior was an absolute success. Saint Laurent earned worldwide recognition and fame for the trapeze line he created. These liberated women from the often unnatural wasp waist, as it had almost been demanded before. Thereupon Yves freed further garments from stiffening at the waist, chest and shoulder, as well as from padding. At the same time, however, he retained the abundance and splendour of costumes typical of Dior. Over the course of six seasons, the designer rapidly modernised and rejuvenated Dior’s collections, but met with antipathy from the owner of Dior, Boussac, as well as from older customers. His employment at Dior ended with Saint Laurent’s nervous breakdown in 1960.

“Zhivago look”: a scandalous appearance of the designer

However, the dismissal was no reason for him to refrain from designing collections. The young fashion designer made use of transparent fabrics, the nude look, for the first time. In addition, the designer used permanent black fabrics and often the fabric jersey. This was initially considered scandalous, but then became the trend. From 1965, geometric, colourful and patterned costumes followed, to the delight of international fashion magazines. A year later, the designer made another scandalous appearance as the “Schiwago look” was created. This drew from transparent tops; black chiffon blouses with bow collar, without wearing underwear. But Saint Laurent remained true to his style and managed to set another trend. Because the Schiwago look was successful in the western world.

Birth hour of tuxedo for women

In the following years, the designer created more daring looks such as women’s pants suits, thigh high boots, tight pants, the beatnik look and tweed suits. In 1965, Saint Laurent created a splendid prêt-à-porter collection, Rive Gauche, for the following year. This was the official birth of the Haute Couture Smokings for ladies (Le Smoking), which were now available in different variations. This was not so much modern clothing as a symbol of the emancipation of women in the 1960s.

Haute Couture with ready-made sizes, Saint Laurent thanks

In 1966, Saint Laurent opened its first store for the cheaper Rive Gauche prêt-à-porter fashion line in order to attract new groups of buyers. Thus, ready-made sizes were introduced for the first time. For the 1970 season followed the Rive Gauche fashion for men.

YSL fragrances go down in history

Saint Laurent’s business partner and partner Bergé signed the first contracts for a YSL perfume as early as 1963. One year later, the YSL Beauté cosmetics collection was opened and the Y women’s fragrance was available immediately. In 1971 the women’s fragrance Rive Gauche appeared, as well as a perfume for the gentlemen of creation, YSL pour Homme. Saint Laurent personally promoted this product naked in an artistic pose. This was followed by an expansion of the products available in the YSL range, so from the mid-1970s sunglasses, writing instruments, home articles, women’s stockings and cigarettes were also available.

Black Opium: The official promotional video of the trend perfume

In this video you’ll see how high fashion companies, in this case YSL, market their products. An authentic everyday situation is magically transformed into an appealing advertising video.

Here is a list of some YSL fragrances

  • Opium (Women, 1977)
  • Kouros (Men, 1981)
  • Paris (Women, 1983)
  • Jazz (Men, 1988)
  • Champagne (Ladies, 1993, renamed Yvresse)
  • Opium pour Homme (Men, 1995)
  • Baby Doll (Ladies, 1999)
  • M7 (Men, 2002)
  • Rive Gauche pour Homme (Men, 2002)
  • L’Homme (men, numerous variations, from 2006)
  • Elle (Ladies, 2007)
  • Parisienne (Ladies, 2009)
  • Manifesto (Women, 2012)
  • Le vestiaire of perfume (series of particularly expensive fragrances, from 2015)
  • Black Opium (Ladies, 2015)
  • Y (Men, 2017)
  • Mon Paris Couture (Ladies, 2017)

Female emancipation fashion

Saint Laurent created other looks in the course of his career, which were particularly intended to fulfil the purpose of women’s emancipation. He created the safari look (1968), a modern “nostalgia look” (late 1960) and the unusual “noble farmer’s wife look” (mid 1970). At the end of the 70s, Saint Laurent left the Rive Gauche fashion line to other designers and his muse Loulou de la Falaise to focus on haute couture. The first designs of the Bolero and Liftboy jackets followed in the 80s.

Announced Fashion Must Haves from YSL

The high fashion fashion company represents the market with a wide variety of products. Bags, T-shirts, shoes, sunglasses and co. Yves Saint Laurent has everything a fashion lover’s heart could wish for. You even have the opportunity to get hold of the expensive designer pieces in the Sale. Like every fashion label, Yves Saint Laurent also has some pieces in its assortment that are known as absolute permanent trends in addition to attractive and unusual products.

Youtuberin Maria Draganova takes you on a little shopping tour and gives you first insights how it is to shop in luxurious boutiques.

5 facts about Yves Saint Laurent

first bookings of dark-skinned models

Yves Saint Laurent was one of the first fashion designers to book dark-skinned models. When international fashion magazine Vogue refused to print British model Naomi Campbell on the cover of the magazine, Saint Laurent threatened to cancel advertisements in 1988.

 designs at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yves Saint Laurent was the first designer whose works were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1983).

A pharmaceutical company makes fashion ?

In 1993, Yves Saint Laurent and Bergé sold their company YSL to the pharmaceutical group Sanofi for US$ 600 million because their sales figures had fallen sharply. Nevertheless, the two entrepreneurs retained control of the fashion industry.

YSL Fashion at the Paris Private Museum

Yves Saint Laurent’s self-designed garments and accessories are still kept today in a private museum in Paris. There are around 15,000 accessiores, 5,000 dresses and lots of drawings by the fashion designer. To prevent these valuables from being damaged in the long run, the museum has a permanent humidity of 50% and a room temperature of 18°C.

sold out shoe trend for 8.000 Euro

Yves Saint Laurent’s company YSL created a huge hype last year: overknee boots with conical heels and glittering rhinestone trim. Celebrities like top model Kendall Jenner or superstar Rihanna didn’t burn for long and bought you boots without thinking long. Although the Eyecatcher had a proud price of approx. 8.000 €, there was fast a waiting list.


  • 1985 – Oscar de la mode, the highest award of the fashion world
  • Yves Saint Laurent was accepted into the Legion of Honour in 1985 by Francois Mitterrand,
  • 1995 he was appointed officer of the Legion of Honour.
  • 2001 by President Jacques Chirac to the Commander of the Legion of Honour
  • 2007 by President Nicolas Sarkozy to Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour

Film tip of the editorial staff

Would you like to watch the story of the unique designer again in feature length? Then I recommend the film for the following trailer.

YSL story filmed

The Film to the previous trailer is available e.g. on Amazon.


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