Collection: Yves Saint Laurent

Born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent in 1936, Yves Saint Laurent left his French Algerian home at 17 to work as an assistant for Christian Dior. At 21, he became chief fashion designer at the House of Dior. His Spring 1958 collection saved the company from financial ruin; it featured the “trapeze dress," a dress with a narrow shoulder that flared at the bottom. Because the international media found his long hyphenated name difficult to spell, it was at this time that he shortened his surname to Saint Laurent.

In 1962, he started his own label, YSL, with companion and business partner, Pierre Bergé. The House of Yves Saint Laurent became one of the greatest names in French fashion in the 20th century. In the 1960's and 70's, the new fashion house popularized the "Le Smoking" tuxedo jacket and feminized other bastions of the male wardrobe: safari jackets, pea coats and flying suits. YSL was the first French haute couturier to announce a pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) line, which was very popular with the public and critics alike.

Saint Laurent was also the first designer to use black models in his runway shows, and one of the first to use Asian and Pacific Islander models. He drew inspiration from art, theatre, history, literature and nature to design whole lines of dress with such varied themes as beatnik, African, Russian, peasant, among many others. He died in 2008.

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