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Paris art Studies Spring 2010

 

Yves Saint Laurent, 1936 - 2008

 

1936 - Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint Laurent was born 1 August 1936 in Algeria. His father, Charles, was a descendant of Baron Mathieu de Mauvières (who assisted at Napoleon’s marriage to Josephine). He was president of an insurance company and owner of a cinema chain in Algeria. His mother, Lucienne-Andrée (née Wilbaux), was an engineer’s daughter. She encouraged the young Yves’ artistic tastes. Yves was the oldest child. Two sisters, Michèle and Brigitte will be born later.

1944-52 – Attends Collège du Sacré Coeur in Oran. “Devours” his mother magazines particularly the Journal des Modes and Vogue. He invents his own imaginary couture house.

1950 – Immensely impressed by the sets and costumes of Christian Bérard’s stage production in Oran of Moliere’s Ecole des Femmes.

1952 – Enters Lycée Lamorière, is bullied by schoolmates who suspect his homosexuality.

1953 – Wins third prize in fashion drawing competition. Travels to Paris with his mother to receive prize, introduced to Vogue editor in chief Michel de Brunhoff.

1954 – After receiving his baccalaureate, at 18, Yves moves to Paris where he studied at the Chambre syndicale de la Haute Couture for 3 months. Wins first and third prize again in wool industry drawing competition.

1955 – At de Brunhoff’s insistence he meets “New Look” couturier Christian Dior who will immediately employ him as assistant designer. His first dress was photographed by Richard Avedon on model Dovima posing between two elephants.

1956 – Meets dancers Roland Petit and his wife Zizi Jeanmaire for whom he will design many costumes in the future.

1957 – Dior dies suddenly of heart attack, Saint Laurent is 21 years old. He becomes head of Dior in Paris (owned by textile magnate Marcel Boussac), while Marc Bohan takes over the New York and London branches.

1958 – Launches the famous “trapeze” line eliminating the Dior pinched waist. Meets 28 year old business man Pierre Bergé, a left wing activist and former lover of painter Bernard Buffet. He will become his companion and business manager.

1959 - Designs costumes for Cyrano de Bergerac for the Zizi Jeanmaire and Roland Petit ballets.

1960 - Saint Laurent is drafted into French army to fight in Algerian war. After 20 days he is released suffering from nervous breakdown. Sent to Val de Grace hospital in Paris he is treated with electric shock therapy and heavy doses of sedatives. Saint Laurent will suffer from manic depression for the rest of his life and will be frequently hospitalized and take heavy medication. Marc Bohan replaces him at Dior.

1961 – Pierre Bergé convinces the American Atlanta millionaire J. Mark Robinson to invest in the creation of a new couture house, “Yves Saint Laurent” or “YSL” of which Yves and himself will eventually succeed in buying the shares. The logo was createdby the famous 1930’s graphic designer Cassandre.

1962First Saint Laurent collection shown at 30bis rue Spontini on 30 January. First pea jakcet (caban) with pants, first tunic, first navy wool smock (vareuse). Declared best suit-maker since Chanel. First evening trench coat in fall-winter collections.

1963 – First trip to Japan. Designs costumes for Claudia Cardinale for Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther.

1964 – First peasant skirt in spring-summer collections and first tunic coats and lace dresses in winter collections. Launching of first perfume, “Y”.

1965 “Mondrian” collection. The French pop singer Sylvie Vartan appears on television in one of his first pant suits causing a scandal. Ballet and movie production costume designs. Meets Rudolf Nureyev. YSL bought by American cosmetic company Charles of the Ritz.

1966 – “Pop Art” collection and first tuxedo, “smoking”, design for women. The “smoking” becomes a classic of all future collections and YSL’s iconic design. Launching of Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, the first couture house ready to wear collection, designed by Yves, manufactured by industrialist and sold in franchised boutiques. Dresses Catherine Deneuve for Bunuel’s Belle du Jour.

1967 – First “saharienne” (safari jacket) and men’s suits for women. Befriends Talitha Getty wife of billionaire Paul and leading figure among the “beautiful” people of the first hippie year.

1968 – First jumpsuit design and first see-through blouse.

1969 – First transparent dresses. Launch of first men’s collection.

1970 – First “maxi” coats and printed silk pajamas and hippie inspired designs.

1971 – “1940’s” collection introduces padded shoulders but draws negative criticism for its allusion to the Occupation years. Poses nude for advertising campaign for this first men’s’ eau de toilette. Talitha Getty found dead of heroin overdose in Yves’ apartment in Rome.

1972 – Loulou de la Falaise joins YSL studio. Bergé and Saint Laurent buy the fashion house from Charles of

the Ritz.

1974 – New premises at 5, avenue Marceau.

1976 – Bergé moves out of apartment on 55 rue Babylone: “There was the alcohol, then cocaine, then the heavy tranquilizers, Yves never came back to life…” The two will never live together again. “Opera and Ballets Russes” collection followed by amazement of 281 models of “ethnic” collection for spring-summer 1977.

1977 – Chinese collection and launching of perfume “Opium” causing great scandal in the USA where sales attain $ 3 million in the next year.

1980 – Buys with Bergé famous Majorelle gardens in Marrakech, Morocco created by the French painter in the 1920’s.

1982 – Yves receives the International Fashion Award of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from Diana Vreeland.

1983 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opens the first show dedicated to a living fashion designer:

Yves Saint Laurent, 25 Years of Design. Buys with Bergé château Gabriel on Normandy coast where each room is named and decorated after a character from Proust.

1985 – Given the legion of honor by President François Mitterand (whom Bergé fervently supports).

1986 – Major retrospective show at Musée des arts de la mode in Paris, moves to Tretyakov gallery in Moscow and Hermitage in St Petersburg.

1988 – Pierre Bergé appointed head of Paris Opera houses by President Mitterand. Death of Yves’ father.

1989 – YSL shares introduced to stock market.

1990 – “Homage” collection honoring long time muses like Zizi Jeanmaire and Catherine Deneuve.

1993 – Purchase of YSL by Elf-Sanofi.

1995 – Yves promoted to rank of officer of the Legion of Honor.

1999 – The YSL house is bought by multi-millionaire François Pinault, principal owner of Gucci, who imposes his own management and marketing rules. Saint Laurent decides to stop designing the prêt-à-porter collections. Alber Elbaz is named artistic director of the women’s collections and Hedi Slimane the men’s. They will be soon replaced by the Texan Tom Ford protégé of Pinault.

2001 – Saint Laurent is named commandeur de la Légion d'honneur by president Jacques Chirac.

2002 – Saint Laurent at 66 officially retires from fashion design. It is the 40th anniversary of YSL. He is succeeded as head of the house by Tom Ford. A retrospective of 40 years of design is presented at Pompidou Center, Paris.

Creation of Pierre Bergé Foundation as a non-profit organization. 5000 garments, 15000 accessories and thousands of sketches by Saint Laurent are preserved by the foundation.

2004 – Tom Ford leaves YSL, is replaced by Stefano Pilati.

2007 - Saint Laurent is raised to the grade of grand officier de la Légion d’Honneur  by president Nicolas Sarkozy.

2008 – Death of Saint Laurent of brain tumour on 2 June at 71. Shortly before death he entered a civil union (pacs) with his life-long companion Pierre Bergé. His funeral was held at the church of St Roch in Paris in the presence of president Sarkozy and his wife and numerous luminaries of the worlds of fashion, culture, cinema and business. His ashes were dispersed in the Majorelle gardens in Marrakech.

2009 – Dispersal Of the Saint Laurent and Bergé collections of art and furniture by Christie’s in a glamorous auction sale held at the Grand Palais in Paris. The sale raises the great sum of 342,5 million euros apparently destined by Bergé for a new AIDS research foundation.

 

 

 

 

 
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