Yves Saint Laurent, the Designer
After discovering the legendary Coco Chanel, and following our intuition of winedipiter, we came across another famous designer Leo of the XXº Century, Yves Saint Laurent, considered as the spiritual successor of Coco Chanel by 1968. As a matter of fact and rewording Pierre Bergé, his most faithful protector and supporter, “Coco Chanel gave women liberty, Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.”
His débuts in the world of Haute Couture
Yves Saint Laurent was introduced by Michel de Brunhoff, then director of Paris Vogue, to Christian Dior, who immediately took him on, as his assistant. When Dior died in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent became the artistic director of the House of Dior. His first collection, the «Trapèze», presented in January 1958, was a huge success. In 1960, the designer Yves Saint Laurent was called up to do his military service. After he was hospitalized at the Val de Grâce for a nervous breakdown, the House of Dior dismissed him.
“I have some news – Bergé told Saint Laurent in his room at the mental hospital – Dior hired Marc Bohan this morning to replace you.” Saint Laurent, too weak to move, looked up at Bergé: “there is only one thing we can do then – he replied – and that’s for you and me to open a couture house” announcing the birth of Yves Saint Laurent, the brand.
Saint Laurent surrounded himself with a group of devotees and acolytes – the model Betty Catroux, the stylist Loulou de la Falaise, the socialite Paloma Picasso – and gave women what Bergé has come to think of, as power: “Yves made men’s clothes – the tuxedo, trench coat, safari jacket, pants – for women, which gave them security and self-assurance.”
While Bergé worked in his office, negotiating, orchestrating, fixing, and dealing with every business matter, every minute detail, Saint Laurent, the designer, was free to create.
The brand expanded with new licensees.
However, in the 1990’s, Bergé, afraid of losing control over the brand, hired, for the first time, consultants to come up with a strategy for the business. Following their suggestions, Bergé began to buy back licenses, hired Hedi Slimane to do the men’s wear, Alber Elbaz to do the women’s wear – due to Saint Laurent’s many nervous breakdown episodes – and set the company for sale. In March 1999, François Pinault, through his personal holding company, Artemis, purchased Saint Laurent as a cornerstone for the newly formed Gucci Group. “Pierre is incredibly clever,” Tom Ford said. “He has the ability to go to the essence of something, and figure out what is right for Yves and what is right for the company. That’s the way he thinks.”
Bergé made certain that this legacy would continue into the new century when he sold Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear division as part of a $1 billion deal between Gucci Group and Sanofi Beauté. As he always did, he protected Saint Laurent the designer, the brand and the legacy… and of course, himself, by keeping the haute couture division, until… “the day Yves stops we will close the couture” Bergé said… and they – Saint Laurent & Bergé – did on the 31st of October 2002.
“We will have had a unique and complete exemplary story and we will have created an immense name, exploited by others: Tom Ford and Gucci will continue” currently, Hedi Slimane…
Yves Saint Laurent, The Legacy, The Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent
The Foundation was created to prolong the history of the House of Yves Saint Laurent, whose Haute Couture operations ceased on 31 October 2002. On 10th March 2004, the Foundation opened to the public with an exhibition entitled Yves Saint Laurent, Dialogue avec l’Art.
The Foundation has set itself three primary goals:
- To conserve the 5,000 Haute Couture garments and 15,000 Haute Couture accessories as well as more than 50,000 drawings and assorted objects that bear witness to 40 years of Yves Saint Laurent’s creativity.
- To organize exhibitions: fashion, paintings, photographs, drawings.
- To support cultural and educational projects.
The French authorities officially recognized the foundation on 5th of December 2002. It has 200 m2 of exhibition space.