Continuing our journey to discover the most important French designers of all time , today we will talk about the designer Yves Saint Laurent, who despite passing away in 2008, still remains today one of the most popular French designers in the world, thanks to collections that have remained in the history of fashion. and a maison that bears his name, still in vogue today in the world fashion system and an icon of luxury and French style.

Yves Saint Laurent: biography of the French designer, born in Algeria

Yves Saint Laurent , born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent , was born in Oran, Algeria, on 1 August 1936 and died in Paris on 1 June 2008.

Considered as one of the most creative and imaginative minds of twentieth century fashion , Yves Saint Laurent discovered a passion for designing clothes from an early age. It all started in the Algerian villa that saw the designer’s childhood and adolescence: it was there, in fact, that he began designing clothes for the dolls he used to play with together with his two sisters, Michelle and Brigitte.

At the age of 18 he then moved to Paris, where he began attending the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture , an important fashion school, where his art was immediately recognized as unique and of depth, so much so that the director of Vogue France decides to present it immediately to Christian Dior . An undoubtedly decisive and inspiring meeting, as Yves Saint Laurent himself recounts for all the years to come and also when, in 1957, after the death of Dior, the designer becomes the artistic director of the French maison. 

The 1960s: the war of independence and the creation of its brand

In 1960, the events of the Algerian War of Independence forced him to enlist against his will and in the midst of his success. Episodes of hazing and continuous stress become an explosive mix to the point that an emergency hospitalization is considered essential. These are tough months for Yves Saint Laurent who, in the meantime, also learns that he has been fired from the House of Dior, which further plunges him into an oppressive depression . Months that probably mark the beginning of his addictions to alcohol and drugs but which in any case offer him the possibility, following the summons against the Maison Dior for contractual negligence, and the subsequent victory, to be able to open his own atelier supported byhis faithful companion Pierre Berge

In 1962 he launched the first collection that bears his name, characterized by pragmatism and stylized lines in the name of simplicity. What amazes during its presentation is the quality and workmanship of the clothes and materials, to which the designer pays great attention.

One of the focal points of Yves Saint Laurent’s collections are trousers for women. In fact, for the time it represented a clean break with respect to the past and to the female figure of the time. We are in the middle of the 60s, during which numerous battles are waged in favor of the equal rights of women, and the trousers represent for the time the emblem of equality with the male sex. In fact , the YSL collections give the female sex freedom, dignity and greater security, so much so that, thanks also to her suits, they became the icon of the feminist movement of the time.

Obsessed with work and tendentially introverted, this designer and creative has put in place an impressive series of creations, which have left everyone breathless, as in 1965 when he created raincoats in fabric from old vinyls, inspired by Mondrian, or when in 1966 he created clothes inspired by pop art.


The 70s-80s marked the success of the French designer

The 70s represent for Yves Saint Laurent the height of creative power and world prestige: s spins, collections, covers, successes, critical acclaim all over the world, not only in Europe.

The collection for autumn-winter 1971-72 features taffetta dresses that refer to the works of Marcel Proust.

Russian ballets are the cue for the 1976 collection, which the New York Times defines as

“Revolutionary, destined to change the course of fashion.”

Yves Saint Laurent is inspired by his creations in the world of art, especially the contemporary one: for example, in 1979 he designed his collection inspired by creations by Picasso and Matisse, then by Van Gogh and Andy Warhol. Furthermore, he has never denied and forgotten the Arab culture, always letting himself be deeply influenced by this fascinating style.


YSL stylist: not only clothes, but also perfumes, makeup and fashion accessories

But YSL is not only synonymous with successful, luxury clothes, but also over time the opening to the entire world of cosmetics and fashion accessories. In fact, over the years it opens new lines of:

  • YSL profumi;
  • Belts;
  • YSL bags, which became famous then famous all over the world;
  • YSL makeup;

But probably all of this was not enough for his restless soul devastated by an inner wear, which daily led him to more and more vices and excesses.

Despite everything, Yves Saint Laurent, perhaps as only Chanel has managed to do, has brought to the world a new idea of ​​fashion, imperishable, unconventional and very powerful.

Yves Saint Laurent: iconic garments and style 

Personality, eccentricity, style, refinement, art. These are the keywords for Yves Saint Laurent , the French designer who lived in art and who brought the same art into fashion , distorting it from his certainties.

Among its iconic garments, it is impossible not to mention the women’s tuxedo trousers , designed in 1966 and continuously reproduced ever since; the Mondrian dress , inherited from his love for art, became one of the symbols of world fashion between 1965 and 1970, as did his transparent organza shirts , the first to be worn, in 1968, without a bra. 1968 is also the year of the Safari women’s jacket, protagonist, for the first time, of the spring / summer collection inspired by Africa.

The intuition of transferring some items of the male wardrobe to the female one was one of the most successful creative choices in the history of fashion.

In its collections we have over the years, in a female version, the launch of:

  • blazer;
  • Saharan;
  • smoking;
  • trench;
  • leather jacket;
  • trousers;

The Legion of Honor and death in 2008

Awarded in July 2007 the important French honor of “Grand officier of the Legion of Honor” of the French Republic, unfortunately the designer YSL leaves us a year later, on June 1st 2008 after a long illness.

However, he will remain one of the most loved and revolutionary designers ever in the history of fashion and will never be forgotten.

Meanwhile the YSL brand continues to exist, and its creative director today is Anthony Vaccarello, one of the most successful designers in the world, who carries on the tradition and style pioneered by Yves Saint Laurent.