Five years ago mourners gathered in Paris at the Church of Saint-Roch to bid farewell to French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent—just one block from where he began his career more than 50 years earlier. Fab nostalgia website Do You Remember takes a look at a design icon.

It was a grand affair, with Hubert de Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Catherine Deneuve among the 800 invited guests, and thousands crowding the rue Saint-Honoré to watch the service as well as the designer’s runway shows broadcast on a giant screen outside the church.

As a young man, Saint Laurent served a brief stint in the French army (he was hospitalized and discharged after being hazed), but it helped to inspire much of his early work. In the 60s and 70s, he turned traditional military wear into chic, everyday ensembles, interspersing ultra-femme pieces such as thigh-high boots with tight pants for a gender-neutral look.

Saint Laurent not only introduced “Le Smoking,” a square-shouldered tuxedo for women, but also made menswear an acceptable trend. Saint Laurent “empowered women,” as he was once famously quoted, with wide-leg trousers that became a hit with Hollywood’s leading ladies and have endured throughout the decades.

Possibly his most enduring legacy was being among the first of the couturiers to introduce a prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) line, which was sold in the designer’s Rive Gauche boutiques across Paris and soon spread. One of the YSL’s most famous creations was the intensely vibrant Mondrian dress, inspired by the abstract works of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. It became so popular that American retailers knocked off the design for stores such as Lord & Taylor, making it one of the most copied dresses in the world.

Despite immense professional success, the designer’s personal life was plagued by alcohol and drug abuse. His business partner and lover for more than 50 years, Pierre Bergé, confessed to Saint Laurent taking amphetamines and Valium, sniffing cocaine and drinking whiskey to deal with his success and depression.

Yves was no saint, but he produced cutting-edge fashions that made him an industry legend up until the day he retired in 2002.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.