Yves Saint Laurent YSL (also known as Saint Laurent Paris) is a luxury fashion house founded by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. The founder of the brand died in 2008 and the house produced its last haute couture line in 2002.
Founded in 1961 it has been considered one of the world’s most prominent fashion houses and known for its modern and iconic pieces, such as its tuxedo jackets for women. Today Saint Laurent Paris markets a broad range of women’s and men’s ready-to-wear products, leather goods, shoes, and jewellery. Yves Saint Laurent Beauté also has a notable presence in the luxury beauty market, although this is run independently through L’Oreal Paris that licenses the name.
The eponymous brand was founded by designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé in 1961, and the current logos were designed in 1963 by A. M. Cassandre. During the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularized fashion trends such as the beatnik look, safari jackets for men and women, tight pants and tall, thigh-high boots, including the creation of arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, Le Smoking suit. Some of his most memorable collections include the Pop Art, Ballet Russes, Picasso, and Chinese ones. He also started mainstreaming the idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He was the first, in 1966, to popularize ready-to-wear in an attempt to democratize fashion, with Rive Gauche and a boutique of the same name.
Among Saint Laurent’s muses were Loulou de La Falaise, the daughter of a French marquis and an Anglo-Irish fashion model, Betty Catroux, the half-Brazilian daughter of an American diplomat and wife of a French decorator, Talitha Pol-Getty, who died of drug overdose in 1971, and Catherine Deneuve, the iconic French actress. Ambassador to the couturier during the late 1970s and early 1980s was London socialite millionairess Diane Vandelli (née Princess Romanovsky), making the brand ever more popular among the European jet-set and elite.
The brand continued to expand in the 1980s and early 1990s with fragrances for both men and women, having launched its cosmetic line in 1978. However, by 1992 the company’s profits were declining and the company’s share price had fallen.
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In 1993, the Saint Laurent fashion house was sold to the pharmaceuticals company Sanofi. In the 1998–1999 seasons, Alber Elbaz, currently of Lanvin, designed three ready-to-wear collections.
Pierre Bergé appointed Hedi Slimane as collections and art director in 1997, and they relaunched YSL Rive Gauche Homme. Hedi Slimane decided to leave the house two years later, and became head of couture menswear at Ermenegildo Zegna.
Evening dress by Tom Ford for YSL Rive Gauche, 2004
In 1999, Gucci (owned by PPR) bought the YSL brand and asked Tom Ford to design the ready-to-wear collection while Saint Laurent would design the haute couture collection.
In 2002, dogged by years of poor health, drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, and criticisms of YSL designs, Saint Laurent closed the couture house of YSL. Reflecting on his career and impact on the fashion industry, Saint Laurent was heavily quoted around the world for stating, “Chanel freed women, and I empowered them.” Saint Laurent also stated, “I created the contemporary woman’s wardrobe.”
YSL boutique, Beverly Hills, California, 2006
The prêt-à-porter line was produced under the direction of Stefano Pilati after Tom Ford left in 2004. His style was decidedly more French than the overtly sexy image that Tom Ford propagated.
In 2009, following the death of Yves Saint Laurent in 2008 and a tumultuous first few years for Stefano Pilati, a few YSL stores closed in key U.S. markets of San Francisco and New York City. The New York location, on Madison Avenue had been the brand’s first in the United States, having opened in 1969. In January 2010, the Chicago boutique on Oak Street closed as well.
In 2012, Kering (previously known as PPR) announced that Hedi Slimane replaced Stefano Pilati as the creative director. Slimane had previously worked with Dior Homme until 2007.
In 2015, Hedi Slimane, Creative Director of the fashion house, announced that he would be reviving Yves Saint Laurent’s couture line.
Despite the fact that Hedi Slimane had previously worked with the house, there was much controversy following his appointment, particularly after it was announced the ready-to-wear line would be rebranded as Saint Laurent. However, the Yves Saint Laurent name and iconic YSL logo have been retained for accessories such as handbags and shoes, and cosmetics (which are licensed to L’Oréal). It was also announced that the design studio would move to Los Angeles, California, Slimane’s adopted home, while the couture atelier would remain in France.
Hedi Slimane stated that he drew inspiration from when the ready-to-wear line was first launched as Saint Laurent Rive Gauche However, the decision made headlines around the world. It became more controversial after it was reported that famed, Parisian boutique Colette was selling shirts with the line “Ain’t Laurent without Yves.” Saint Laurent requested the store to stop selling the shirts, which it did in its online store. In October 2013 it was reported that Colette received a letter accusing it of selling counterfeit products that seriously damaged the brand. Following the accusation it was announced that Saint Laurent had canceled Colette’s order for its Spring 2014 Collection, despite the fact that the boutique had been stocking the brand since 1998.
Yves Saint Laurent men’s wear in Florence, Italy, 2011.
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Designed by Slimane, the Paris flagship boutique opened in May 2013. The previous deep red and gold color scheme was replaced by a monochrome interior, with varying materials, including marble and nickel plated bars. This concept was used in the renovated Beverly Hills boutique, and its new London boutique on Sloane Street, as well as new stores in the United States.
In 2013, a men’s store—a first for the brand—opened in San Francisco, a full-line store opened in New York City, in its SoHo neighborhood, and a full-line store opened in Chicago at the Waldorf Astoria on Rush Street, where private showings had been given since the Chicago store closed in 2010.
Under Slimane Saint Laurent plans to continue to expand its presence in the United States, opening new stores in the resort location of Bal Harbour, Florida as well as a planned store for Washington, D.C.
International locations includes a strong presence in Europe, with boutiques ranging in location from Barcelona, Munich, Berlin, Warsaw, and Kiev, to Bologna, Rome, Moscow, and Cannes. Locations in the Middle East and Africa include Casablanca, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, and Jeddah. In Asia Saint Laurent boutiques can be found in Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Macau, and Hong Kong. The brand has a heavy presence in Japan with boutiques in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka as well as outlet locations across the country. In China standalone boutiques are located in Wuhan, Shanghai, Beijing.
Saint Laurent merchandise can also be found in upscale department stores around the world.
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