By Jaffar Al-beiti
Saint Laurent - The Beginnings
Yves Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria in 1936. His route into fashion was forged through experimental sketches (and his famed paper dolls collection) that led him to Vogue editor Michel de Brunhoff, and to Christian Dior, where he was hired as an assistant (and would later become creative director following Dior’s death in 1957).
Saint Laurent founded his eponymous fashion brand 1961 with business partner Pierre Berge after he had been dismissed at Dior (following an ill-fated conscription in the French Army). He quickly began creating a label that was in tune to the heady spirit of the early sixties. Attractiveness over elegance can effectively sum up the spirit of the new movement, for which Saint Laurent was instrumental in developing; creations that were younger, freer, experimental and more worldly.
The Mondrian Collection from 1965 was literally fashion as art as it paid homage to modernist painting in uniform lines. Le Smoking from 1965 – a female tuxedo – may just be the coolest item to come out of France, with its super svelte lines befitting waifish French models. Black on blonde is a colour contrast as obvious as coffee with cream, and yet its impact and legacy continues today.
Rive Gauche, opened in 1966, a ready-to-wear boutique in Paris that was Saint Laurent’s move to further popularize fashion, moving it away from the elevated exclusivity of couture, and moving him – as fashion designer – into the hearts of an adoring public. Democratization was the spirit of Paris and the age. Inspired by and inspiring the beatnik and hippy movements, YSL helped fashion be seen and talked about. Collaborator and jewellery designer Lou Lou de la Falaise was an important influence during this time, while movie stars like Catherine Deneuve helped to further promulgate the look.
Swift ascension and global influence followed - the Ballet Russes and Chinese Collections from the 1970s speaking to that worldly influence (even as it was an imagined one). An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art further cemented his name as international style icon, as well as affecting New York City with his brand of monochromatic sensuality.
Undoubtedly the most important French designer of the 20th Century, by the 1990s (as Saint Laurent’s own muse waned and the concept of democratic fashion became the concern of all luxury labels) his brand was in decline. A degree of turbulence has followed the brand since then [check Yves Saint Laurent’s own rivalry and friendship with Karl Lagerfeld for an understand of root of some of these issues, as well as a difference in approach of the two creative directors) with Gucci-made designer Tom Ford fleetingly experiencing a rather fraught time at the house (his relationship with the hands-on legend quickly soured), in which he nevertheless introduced a sexier focus on skin and a fuller silhouette. Heidi Slimane has also left his imprint during a number of residence’s at YSL. His cropped, slim look harks back to the intended statement of that first female tuxedo, with added earthy colours and an interplay of materials that honours and forwards the rive gauche vibe.
Since then YSL can be expected to up the ante at Paris Fashion Week. S/S 2020 featured a mile-long train of super-fine models in jet black parading through an ocean of high-powered lighting beneath the Eiffel Tower; Fall 2020s latex push has since been copied but never bettered, while Spring 2021 was a lockdown retro party. The ever-constant theme is one of female power: slim and sexy, always turning heads; haute couture for those who work for a living, because they choose to.
Why are Saint Laurent bags popular?
Saint Laurent bags are so much more than just a name. They provide a fusion of the concepts and influences that make the designer and brand an international icon, and that still make it a top-draw fashion concern. Expect black to feature prominently in many YSL bags; and there’s a strong argument to be made that if black leather is your go-to look, YSL is the best way to achieve it.
Formal Charm - YSL Lou Lou Bag and YSL Kate Bag
The YSL Loulou Bag is a case in point – luxury formality that also swings insouciantly with its own charm. Elsewhere the YSL Kate Bag offer slightly more formal takes on the same outlook – generally providing and complimenting a svelte and minimalist aesthetic, Kate bags (and all YSL accessories) are not items you wear as power statements or in order to prove your allegiance to a particular house. Rather they are practical enhancements to the YSL insistence on a strong, modern female form.
Looking to the Past
There are also knowing nods to runway collections of old, with suede and bleached denim looks offering that classic French take (more readily associated with fashion House Celine) that can lean easily into Bohemian summer or walk swiftly down a crowded avenue. This was always YSL’s intention – developing an individual style but never losing class, with an acknowledgement of quality and formality as a base.
Bag as art – YSL Envelope Bag
While flirtations with artistic forms are not prominent, expect clutch bags in white to provide simple symmetry. This is confirmed in a YSL Envelope Bag that has a YSL Brooch but (seemingly) no buckle (a further concession to the YSL look – their belts equally augment that laissez faire charm with an focus not on the buckle, but on a slightly relaxed fitting.
‘Safari jackets’ is a theme that Saint Laurent has returned to frequently down the years; it’s hard to imagine another unique take on animal print, beige or tan, but the colours and subdued theme actually segue to formality here; even concessions to the wild fall back into that YSL desire to balance and compliment.
Expect fine grade metal in an authentic Saint Laurent bag that gives it a weightier feel; smooth or grained leather emphasize quality and simplicity; elsewhere crocodile skin and denim or suede are used to create an urbane take on a key theme.
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