As followers of the official UnBeige Twitter account learned yesterday evening, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent died at his home in Paris after a long battle with brain cancer. The Algerian-born designer and prodigy of Christian Dior (whose house he took over at the age of 21 after Dior’s sudden death in 1957) is credited with creating prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) fashion and cementing Paris’s status as the world’s fashion capital. And so, as freshly placed black flags flapped solemnly along the Champs Elysées, we donned our favorite le smoking and scoured the global remembrances for a few things you might not have known about YSL, as he was known and immortalized in the logo designed in 1963 by French graphic artist Cassandre.
WWD notes that the designer was heavily influenced by Marcel Proust and, “At Chateau Gabriel, a 19th-century castle in Normandy that he owned jointly with [business partner Pierre] Bergé, all the guest rooms were named for Proustian characters.” In 1960, after showing a scandalous beatnik-themed collection, Saint Laurent was drafted. Recalls The Guardian, “He was meant to fight in the Algerian colonial war, but collapsed during induction and was sent to a military mental hospital briefly before total discharge.” (New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia points out that Saint Laurent’s first nervous breakdown was at age 13.) And an Associated Press story notes that, “When France basked in the glory of its 1998 World Cup soccer final, it was Mr. Saint Laurent who took center field pre-kick off with an on-field retrospective at the Stade de France.” Fashion before football, as we always say.
Many will remember Saint Laurent for his incredibly wide-ranging oeuvre, here a safari jacket, there a Ballets Russes-inspired peasant skirt. “Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Dior all did extraordinary things, but they worked within a particular style,” fellow designer Christian Lacroix told Agence France Presse. “Yves Saint Laurent is much more versatile, like a combination of all of them. I sometimes think he’s got the form of Chanel with the opulence of Dior and the wit of Schiaparelli.” And thanks to David Colman’s “Possessed” column in yesterday’s New York Times, we know how Lacroix will be getting to Saint Laurent’s funeral, which is set for Thursday: he will be taking the train.