The Brand: Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent, the original ‘disrupter’ of women’s fashion, is responsible for putting women in pantsuits and essentially innovating 20thcentury style.  Yves Saint Laurent Saint Laurent launched his first haute couture collection is 1961 and was revered for his fearless approach to blurring the lines between men’s and women’s fashion.  He wasn’t afraid to celebrate women’s sexuality and his designs seemed to empower its female wearer.   That theme has kept Saint Laurent relevant even after Yves’s departure from the helm. His creative successors include Alber Elbaz, Tom Ford, Stefano Pilati, Hedi Slimane, and currently Anthony Vaccarello. 

As many of luxury’s biggest players struggle with growth, Saint Laurent, continues to buck the odds: It grew more than 25 percent during 2016, breaking the billion-dollar mark  in annual turnover for the second year in a row. Today, the business makes roughly three time the amount it made six years ago, and as of 2016 figures, has swelled to be the second largest player in the luxury portfolio of Kering Group, the conglomerate that owns a majority stake in it alongside other brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and Boucheron.

This month YSL continues to grab headlines with the launch of their new headquarters on Rue de Bellechasse in Paris’s Left Bank.  After 3 years of renovation, people will get their first sight of the new showroom Jan. 20th-26thfor men’s sales campaign.   Saint Laurent was originally slated to share the building with a Marriott hotel, but eventually secured the exclusive us of the premise.  In the eighteenth century it housed the Penthemont Abbey (name with which it is still known today), then the barracks of the Napoleonic Imperial Guard and, later, in 1915, the ministry of the Pensions.

Helmut Newton photo of Le Smoking

Saint Laurent’s Fashion Highlights:

  • The women’s tuxedo “Le Smoking” the sharply tailed, all black tuxedo, remains the signature style that defines Saint Laurent’s impact on fashion.
  • “Beat” line was the first couture collection inspired by the street and foreshadowed the youth counterculture of the 1960s as well as punk. 
  • YSL turned masculine staples such as Caban coats and safari jackets into seductive women’s wear pieces.
  • YSL was the first to bare breasts in a fashion show, under a layer of chiffon, in 1968
  • Revived the shoulder pad in his “Forties” collection of 1971, which became the blueprint for a silhouette that would dominate the 1980s

Saint Laurent has continued to upend the nature of the entire fashion industry while keeping a close tie to its founding spirit.   A feat that very few brands and fashion houses have been able to accomplish.

The Brand: Our blog series on iconic and relevant brands for modern women.