Yves Saint Laurent Biography

Yves Saint Laurent, an Algerian-French fashion designer, is widely recognized as one of the greatest icons in the fashion industry. From his early success as the savior of Christian Dior to his groundbreaking designs and use of non-European cultural references, Yves revolutionized the world of fashion. Despite facing personal and professional challenges, he emerged as one of the most influential designers in Paris, dominating the industry for decades. His innovative creations and business acumen made him fabulously wealthy, but fame and commercial pressures took a toll on him. Despite his struggles, Yves Saint Laurent’s legacy as a renowned designer and his timeless innovations continue to shape the way women dress today.

Quick Facts

  • Born: August
  • Died At Age: 71
  • Family:
    • Father: Charles Mathieu-Saint-Laurent
    • Mother: Lucienne Andrée Mathieu-Saint-Laurent
    • Siblings: Brigitte Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, Michelle Mathieu-Saint-Laurent
  • Born Country: Algeria
  • Died on: June 1, 2008
  • Place of Death: Paris, France
  • Notable Alumni: Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture
  • Cause of Death: Brain Cancer
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, House of Yves Saint Laurent, Yves Saint Laurent perfumes and colognes, Vouguepedia
  • Education: Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture
  • Awards: 2007 – Grand officier de la Légion d’honneur

Childhood & Early Life

Yves Saint Laurent was born on August 1, 1936, in Oran, Algeria, to Charles Saint Laurent and Lucienne Mathieu. He was the eldest child in the family and had two younger sisters, Michèle and Brigitte. From a young age, he was a nervous child and often fell ill. He developed a passion for creating intricate paper dolls and started designing dresses for his mother and sisters during his early teenage years. After completing his secondary education in Algeria, he moved to Paris to pursue a career in designing theatrical costumes and women’s fashion. He attended fashion school at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and won first prize in an international design contest.


In Paris, Yves Saint Laurent showed his drawings to Michel de Brunhoff, the director of French Vogue magazine, who immediately published several of them. He then had the opportunity to meet Christian Dior, a renowned fashion designer, who offered him a job at his firm. In 1957, Yves became the head designer of the House of Christian Dior S.A. and launched his first collection for the company, the Ligne Trapéze. In 1960, he introduced the beatnik look of turtlenecks and black leather jackets edged with fur. However, he lost his job at Dior when he was conscripted to serve in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence. With the help of his lover, Pierre Burge, Yves set up his own fashion house, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), in 1962. He continued to innovate and introduced iconic designs such as “Le Smoking” in 1966, the sheer blouse in 1966, and the jumpsuit in 1968. Yves Saint Laurent designed both haute couture and pret-a-porter collections, refining his elegant designs for sophisticated women. He showed his last ready-to-wear collection for the Rive Gauche label in October 1998 and took his final bow in the fashion industry in 2002.

Major Works

Yves Saint Laurent’s spring 1958 collection, known as the “trapeze dress,” saved Christian Dior S.A from financial ruin and brought him international fame. In the 1960s and 1970s, his fashion house popularized trends such as the beatnik look, safari jackets, tight trousers, thigh-high boots, and the iconic tuxedo suit for women, “Le Smoking.” He revolutionized fashion by feminizing the basic shapes of the male wardrobe.

Awards & Achievements

In 1983, Yves Saint Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored with a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was also conferred with the rank of the Commander of the Légion d’Honneur by French president Jacques Chirac in 2001 and awarded the rank of the Grand Officier de la Légion d’honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

Personal Life & Legacy

Yves Saint Laurent was in a romantic relationship with industrialist Pierre Bergé, with whom he also started their own fashion house. Although they split romantically in 1976, they remained business partners. Yves Saint Laurent passed away on June 1, 2008, due to brain cancer. He received a Catholic funeral in Paris and his ashes were scattered in Marrakech, Morocco, in the Majorelle Garden.

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