YSL: His Legacy Lives On
Yves Saint Laurent and Salma Hayek
For more than 40 years, French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent brought opulence and originality to gowns as well as ready-to-wear. Known for creating empowering yet feminine looks for women, he popularized pantsuits, trench coats, safari jackets and unisex perfume. His designs consistently appeared on the most glamorous red carpets, worn by stars like Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale and Catherine Deneuve, to name a few. See how Yves Saint Laurent's influence on fashion continues to this day.
Tessa Beaumont and Yves Saint Laurent
Saint Laurent began his career as Christian Dior's "right arm" and soon ascended to head designer after the couturier's death in 1958. The 21-year-old wunderkind loved ballet and is shown here crafting a Dior costume on dancer Tessa Beaumont.
Yves Saint Laurent, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falais
At the 1969 opening of his London boutique, Saint Laurent posed with two of his lifelong muses, model Betty Catroux and designer Loulou de la Falaise. Catroux, whom Saint Laurent called his "twin sister," wore a safari jacket from his directional Spring 1968 collection. "He likes the femininity aspect, the classic look," Catroux once said of the designer. "He also likes the shady side of things."
Yves Saint Laurent and Catherine Deneuve
Saint Laurent had a decades long friendship with French actress Catherine Deneuve whom he considered a muse. "Saint Laurent designs for women with a double life," Deneuve once said. "His clothes for daywear help women to enter a world full of strangers. They enable her to go wherever she wants without arousing unwelcome attention, thanks to their somehow masculine quality. However, for the evening, when she may choose her company, he makes her seductive." Appropriately, Saint Laurent designed the costumes for Deneuve's classic film Belle de Jour in which she plays a wealthy housewife who is secretly a prostitute.
Bianca Jagger and Katie Holmes
One of the iconic looks created by Saint Laurent was the pantsuit, seen here on Bianca Jagger in 1972, at the height of her popularity as a style icon. The masculine-yet-sexy look was replicated worldwide. "I'm happy to be copied. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing my job well," he said. Katie Holmes later flaunted a nearly identical YSL suit to similar effect.
In 1971, Saint Laurent premiered his 1940s-inspired collection, pioneering the trend of using vintage fashion to influence current styles. Gwyneth Paltrow sported one of these designs to an award ceremony in Manhattan this year. (No doubt Saint Laurent would have appreciated her addition of edgy sandals-in 1968, the designer declared, "Down with the Ritz, long live the street!")
Heavily influenced by modern art, Saint Laurent designed collections inspired by Mondrian, Picasso and Matisse. Stylesetter Chloe Sevigny wore a vintage two-piece YSL design from L.A.'s Decades to the 2007 Golden Globes. "She was the first one to wear a print at a black-tie event," Decades owner Cameron Silver told us. "That's really become a trend."
In Saint Laurent's hands, an otherwise basic black dress was always special. The designer used a sheer overlay on this vintage gown to create a look that's as sexy as it is mysterious.
It has taken major design talent to fill Saint Laurent's shoes-Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz took over as YSL's ready-to-wear designer in 1998, followed by Tom Ford in 2000. Salma Hayek wore one of current designer Stefano Pilati's gowns to the Partouche Charity Poker game at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The new mom is not only a long-time Saint Laurent fan, she is now engaged to Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of luxury goods firm PPR, who owns the legendary fashion house.