My first encounter with Yves Saint Laurent was in the early childhood: my mother used to wear her favourite ‘Opium’ every morning before leaving the house. I still remember the seamless synergy between the Japanese inro-inspired flacon designed by Pierre Dinand and the exotic spicy floral oriental concoction it contained. Opium is, in its iconic status and boldness of color and form, like the can of Tomato Campbell Soup of the perfume world… Since then, I paid extra attention to everything monsieur Saint Laurent did.
A few highlights of his life
Saint Laurent introduced his “Ligne Trapeze” after Dior’s death, when he became chief designer at Dior. He left Dior in 1961 and opened his own couture house in 1962.
In 1969, Saint Laurent pioneered designer men’s wear, with media stars like Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Andy Warhol in mind. Out went the pinstripes – in came fashion modern men wanted to wear.
Vogue magazine editor Diana Vreeland mounted a retrospective of Saint Laurent’s work in 1983 at the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York, the first time a living fashion designer had been so honored.
Saint Laurent’s career was not without controversy. In 1971 a collection modelled on the styles of World War II Paris was slammed by some American critics, and his launch in the mid 1970s of Opium brought accusations that he was condoning drug use.
In his later years the depression that had haunted him all his life became more oppressive, and at his farewell bash in 2002 Saint Laurent admitted to having recourse to “those false friends which are tranquillisers and narcotics.”
He died at the age of 71, but he will live forever in our hearts and wardrobes.