Yves Saint Laurent has time after time been credited as one of the most influential names in fashion of the 20th century. The monumental designer single handedly changed the rhythm of the fashion industry as he challenged the status quo with brilliant tact and undeniable style.

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent, commonly known as Yves Saint Laurent, due to the press finding referencing his full name too cumbersome, was the first couturier to launch prêt-á-porter (ready to wear) and is famously known for his non-european cultural references and use of black models. After being fired without notice from The House of Dior in 1960 and successfully suing, young Yves Saint Laurent opened his very own fashion house, YSL. YSL popularized the beatnik style, safari jackets for men and women, and began the mainstream idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. YSL is most commonly known for his introduction of Le Smoking in 1966, which is the classic tux for women. Le Smoking was so groundbreaking.


YSL became known for his use of non-white models, revolutionizing the careers of many black models. He worked with now industry icons Naomi Campbell, Chanel Iman, Sonia Cole, and his notable muse Katoucha Niane among many others. Mounia, a French Carribean beauty from Martinique was the first black model to walk in one of his Haute Couture shows and was considered to be his favorite by many. Saint Laurent stated that it was “extraordinary to work with black models.”

Saint Laurent’s utilization of black models on his runway and in his campaigns was so moving that it influenced Vogue to put Campbell on the cover. The reign of models of color in his shows and campaigns remained prominent throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Saint Laurent was also known to be a “Jet Setter”, going to popular clubs, Regine in Paris and Studio 54 in New York.


Although Yves Saint Laurent tragically passed in 2008 due to brain cancer, the legacy of his fashion house remains and lives forever. Saint Laurent introduced many modern concepts and didn’t stop pushing the envelop in fashion, continuing to create without boundaries, even if the press wrote it off as “too controversial” or “boring”. Throughout his career, he has accomplished what many designers had not, going against the trend and earning the title as one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th Century.

Check out some of the most iconic moments of the Yves Saint Laurent Legacy in the gallery below!

by Suliya Gisele


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