10 years without Yves Saint Laurent
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10 years without Yves Saint Laurent

This month marks a decade since the death of Yves Saint Laurent, the designer who represented the fashion of the 20th century and who built an empire by proposing a new definition of luxury: prêt-à-porter.
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Baptized by the press as "the little prince of fashion".

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, born in Algeria, he spent his childhood drawing clothes for his mother and sisters. At age of 17, he decided to change the Mediterranean and enrolled in the Paris Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with the name of Yves Saint Laurent. His career began with a drawing contest in 1953. His sketches gave him the first place over a young man named Karl Lagerfeld, unleashing a rivalry that would intensify years later. His drawings came to the offices of Michel de Brunhoff, the editor of the French edition of Vogue, who, seeing his talent, organized a meeting with Christian Dior. "Monsieur Dior fascinated me," Saint Laurent said later. "I could not speak in front of him, he taught me so much." It was the Trapèze collection, his less ostentatious version of the "New Look", which brought him international fame. However, customers missed the founder's designs and their collections never had the expected success. In 1960 he was called to enlist to the French army during the war of independence of Algeria, which forced him to leave the atelier. Some people say that the owner of Dior, businessman Marcel Boussac, was behind the recruitment so that he could be replaced. If this were true, that Machiavellian strategy was the best thing that could happen to Yves. Due to the teasing of his companions and stress, he lasted only 20 days in the army and returned to Paris, where he was treated in the military hospital of Val-de-Grâce with large doses of sedatives and electric shock therapy, actions that later would trigger problems of depression and excessive drug use. After his recovery, he wanted to redesign and in 1961, he and his partner Pierre Bergé founded their own brand with the support of American businessman J. Mack Robinson. Bergé made sure that the business worked correctly, while Yves played by his own rules and revolutionized fashion.

"My job as a couturier is to create clothes that reflect the time we live in. I am convinced that women want to wear pants."

In 1965 he presented the Mondrian collection. It wasone of the most important collections in his career. Dresses with cuts inspired by the silhouette of the 20s, printed with the unmistakable mosaics of the Dutch artist. That silhouette was recorded in the cinema in the wardrobe of Belle de Jour by Luis Buñuel. In 1966, tired of the little black dress popularized by Chanel and Givenchy, he created Le Smoking, an adaptation of the classic men's tuxedo. The proposal was a sensation. Bianca Jagger asked for a white version for her wedding with the Rolling Stones vocalist.

 

In 1967 he presented his last creative revolution of the decade: a line of clothing more accessible to his clients with the essence of haute couture. With the opening of the YSL Rive Gauche store, it became the precursor of prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear clothing). His success made him a personality of the great Parisian. Magazines and newspapers captured him partying with Warhol, Halston and his two best friends: Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux. Whether it was in Paris, at the designer's house in Morocco or at Studio 54 in New York, the three of them were inseparable.

 

The tuxedos evolved into silk skirts, fur jackets and caftan dresses inspired by Marrakech. In 1971, he caused controversy by posing naked before the lens of Jeanloup Sieff to promote his first masculine perfume. The new style of life ended his engagement with Pierre Bergé in 1976. Even so, he was the person who supported him during the most difficult moments of his life until his death. "He had a depression," says Pierre in the documentary L'Amour Fou. "There were periods when he did everything with absolute happiness and then everything was dark”.

In 1999 the brand was acquired by the Gucci Group and Tom Ford was appointed to be in charge of the ready-to-wear line, and Yves continued with the Haute Couture collections. Finally, in 2002 he announced his retirement. "I am proud to have created the wardrobe of contemporary women and to have been part of the transformation of my time, fashion is not to make a woman beautiful, but to encourage her and to give her confidence."

At 8:36 p.m. on January 22, 2002, the Pompidou Center opened its doors to begin the final parade: a summary of Yves 40-year career. All his friends and muses were there. Catherine Deneuve and Laetitia Casta sang Ma Plus Belle Histoire d'Amour, and Yves, with tears in his eyes, was cheered by his guests.

His aesthetic vision has been reinterpreted by the designers who succeeded him: Stefano Pilati, Hedi Slimane and Anthony Vaccarello. His life inspired the creation of two museums, one in Paris and the other in Morocco. Two biographical films sought to portray his genius and vulnerability in 2014.

A millionaire auction of his extensive art collection was the motivation for a documentary. And there was a demonstration by store Colette after the name change, made by Hedi Slimane to the brand, erasing the Yves. The protest was made with t-shirts – there Is not Laurent without Yves.

Its history was full of numerous public successes and private sufferings. And 10 years after his death, the words "I am an inventor, very different from all those who have preceded me", from one of his favorite poets, Arthur Rimbaud, could be the epitaph suitable for the greatest revolutionary that fashion has seen.

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