Dead, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent on the 1st of June 2008 at the age of 72, known as Yves Saint Laurent, was a French fashion designer, and is regarded as one of the greatest names in fashion history.
Born on the 1st of August 1936, in Oran, Algeria, to Charles and Lucienne Andrée Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, he grew up in a villa by the Mediterranean with his two younger sisters, Michèle and Brigitte.
Yves liked to create intricate paper dolls, and by his early teen years he was designing dresses for his mother and sisters.
At the age of 18, Saint Laurent moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, where his designs quickly gained notice.
Michel De Brunhoff, the editor of French Vogue, introduced Saint Laurent to designer Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled.
He won first place and was invited to attend the awards ceremony in Paris, in December of that year. While he and his mother were in Paris, they met Michel de Brunhoff, editor-in-chief of the French edition of Vogue magazine.
De Brunhoff, a considerate person known for encouraging new talent, was impressed by the sketches Saint Laurent brought with him and suggested he become a fashion designer.
Saint Laurent would eventually consider a course of study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the council which regulates the haute couture industry and provides training to its employees.
Saint Laurent followed his advice and, leaving Oran for Paris after graduation, began his studies there and eventually graduated as a star pupil.
Later that same year, he entered the International Wool Secretariat competition again and won, beating out his friend Fernando Sánchez and young German student Karl Lagerfeld.
Shortly after his win, he brought a number of sketches to de Brunhoff who recognized close similarities to sketches he had been shown that morning by Christian Dior.
Knowing that Dior had created the sketches that morning and that the young man could not have seen them, de Brunhoff sent him to Dior, who hired him on the spot.
Saint Laurent was in the military for 20 days before the stress of hazing by fellow soldiers led to him being admitted to a military hospital, where he received news that he had been fired by Dior.
This exacerbated his condition, and he was transferred to Val-de-Grâce military hospital, where he was given large doses of sedatives and psychoactive drugs, and subjected to electroshock therapy. Saint Laurent himself traced the history of both his mental problems and his drug addictions to this time in hospital.
Since the late 90s some of the biggest names in fashion, from Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz to Tom Ford, have spent periods at the label’s helm; ultimately even the all-conquering Ford was defeated – simply, it seemed, not Yves enough.
Saint Laurent himself died of brain cancer in 2008; four years later Hedi Slimane – first hired as a menswear designer back in 1996 – returned to the house and immediately shortened the label’s name to Saint Laurent.
Saint Laurent continued designing until 2002 – every show remorselessly measured against his past hits, and every final bow accompanied by the suspense of waiting to see whether he’d manage the short walk to the end of the runway.