November 2008

Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography

Harper Collins Ltd.

  • 1350 Avenue of the Americas
  • New York , NY

(212) 261-6500

Alice Rawsthorns book, abc Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography xyz not only details the designers career and accomplishments, but it provides a peek into the life of the sensitive genius. It begins with his childhood in Oran, Algeria, where he read his mothers copies of Vogue and Paris Match for news about Paris plays, operas, and ballets the costumes and set designs fascinated him. Soon he was reading the magazines fashion pages, and sketching his own designs for cocktail dresses and gowns. The rest is history: he won an annual contest for young fashion designers, met the editor-in-chief of abc Paris Vogue xyz who introduced him to Christian Dior, and took over as designer there when Dior passed away suddenly in 1957, when Yves was only 21 years old.

With the help of his lover and savvy business partner, Pierre Berg, Saint Laurent soon started his own line and revolutionized fashion. He was the first designer to translate street wear for the couture runway -- the “Beat” collection referenced the beatniks of Paris Left Bank. He was also the first couture designer to create a prt-a-porter (ready-to-wear) line, Rive Gauche, which had its own identity and wasnt just a cheaper version of the couture designs. He is also known for:

  • “Les smokings” (tuxedo jackets) & tailored trouser suits for women
  • Arts influence on his work, such as his woolen shift dresses with Mondrian colored blocks and “pop art” dresses inspired by his friend, Andy Warhol
  • Ethnic inspiration from the cultures of Africa, Morocco, China, Spain, and Russia

The Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the only U.S. venue for the exhibition, will certainly stir more interest in Yves Saint Laurent, and Rawsthorns biography is an excellent introduction to the designer. Although he passed away this year, his legacy can still be seen in the work of designers such as Marc Jacobs, who often cites Saint Laurent as a major influence, some of which can be seen in Jacobs Spring 2009 collection.

Reviewer: Kirstie Harless, FIDM Library Staff Member, S.F.