Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, which premiered at Cannes in 2014, looks at the life of the French fashion designer from 1967 to 1976. This was a career peak for the influential couturier and preceded his breakup with longtime partner Pierre Bergé (who also helped run the business). The film sees a limited release this weekend. In celebration of the Palme d’Or-nominated film, we’ve gathered a few facts about the fashion legend.
Teenage YSL’s very first designs were dresses for his mother and sister. He also created detailed paper dolls.
The designer posed nude for the first YSL eau de toilette for men, Pour Homme, in 1971. Partner Pierre Bergé on the advertising campaign:
It was just provocation on the part of Yves Saint Laurent. The picture didn’t specifically target the gay population, even though it resonated strongly among them. In any case the photo was hardly published at the time. Just barely in the French press. It was only much later on that it became an almost mythical icon.
There was a long rivalry between YSL and Karl Lagerfeld that many say started after Saint Laurent outshone Lagerfeld, who was his classmate at a Paris trade school for couturiers, in an international fashion competition. YSL also had an affair with Lagerfeld’s muse and boyfriend, the Parisian society dandy and fashion darling Jacques de Bascher.
Early in his career, YSL worked for designer Christian Dior, who became his mentor. “Dior fascinated me,” he once recalled. ”I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.” Following Dior’s death in 1957, YSL advanced from the position of the first ever and only Head Assistant to Artistic Director. But in 1960, the Algerian-born designer was called back to his home country to fight in the war for its independence. When he returned to France early due to a nervous breakdown from stress, he discovered he’d been ousted from the company. He successfully sued the fashion house and used the money to open his own.
While undergoing psychiatric treatment due to his troubles in the military, YSL was subjected to electroshock therapy and given psychoactive drugs. He later blamed this for his addiction to cocaine and alcohol.