Joyeux Anniversaire, Yves Saint Laurent

I have known fear and the terrors of solitude. I have known those fair-weather friends we call tranquilizers and drugs. I have known the prison of depression and the confinement of the hospital. But one day, I was able to come through all of that, dazzled yet sober. -YSL, 2002

Yves Saint Laurent was born 75 years ago today. When the father of of prêt-à-porter died in 2008, he left behind a legacy of beautiful clothing. His joyful designs are all the more intriguing when you learn of the deep depression he lived with for most of his life.

Last month, we compiled a list of films about fashion, inspired by the discovery of the 2009 documentary L'amour Fou On Demand, via Comcast. The film is a retrospective of designer Yves Saint Laurent, narrated by his lover and business partner Pierre Bergé. In the film, we get to know Saint Laurent as a man who associated happiness with the acquisition of material treasures and as a man who heavily abused alcohol and drugs in the '70s and '80s, eventually gaining sobriety, but never true happiness. Saint Laurent battled depression throughout his life, but year after year he produced inspired art full of whimsy and joy.

Yves Saint Laurent began his career in fashion for the house of Dior in 1954, becoming head of the house in 1957 after Christian Dior died unexpectedly. Saint Laurent created the "trapeze dress" for Dior in 1958, and the signature "beatnik" look was born. After a brief, turbulent stint in the military marked by hospitalization for what is described as "a nervous condition," Saint Laurent started his own design house in 1962. Throughout his career, Saint Laurent would redefine fashion again and again, through a series of innovative, forward-thinking decisions: He was among the first designers to use models of color, he utilized ethnic themes in his clothing designs and he epitomized sexy androgyny with his famous "Le Smoking" tuxedo jacket. Saint Laurent was also one of the first designers to embrace

prêt-à-porter

, or ready-to-wear fashion, bringing accessibility to high-end clothing that did not previously exist.

Sometimes called the "King of Fashion," and certainly among the greatest couturiers in fashion history, we wish you a joyeux anniversaire, monsieur -- wherever you are.


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