On 22 January 2002, Yves Saint Laurent showcased his final couture collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. An audience of 2,000 were invited, while several thousand onlookers watched on in awe from giant screens placed outside the venue. This was the grand finale of a soaring 40-year career for Saint Laurent, the man who had stood at the helm of the fashion industry since 1962. This October, a retrospective new tome pays homage to a part of the master couturier’s career that is rarely documented; his iconic accessory collections.
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A true pioneer of innovation, Saint Laurent shook up and changed the course of fashion design throughout his lengthy career. His haute couture ensembles gained worldwide press and a cult following, which grew significantly each season. In 1962, just one year after the French designer founded his eponymous fashion label, he debuted his Spring/Summer collection. Models walked the catwalk wearing elegant cuts, amplified by a minimalist monochrome colour palette and luxurious accessories – one of which was the soon-to-be iconic jet bead necklace made by Scemama. Paired with a polka dot headscarf, waist-clenching dress and oversized hat, the necklace featured a round pendant constructed with black and crystal diamante, and embellished with red and black glass drops. The classic Parisian party girl ensemble had been revived.
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Two decades later, in January 1982, his Spring/Summer Haute Couture collection was debuted at the Salon Imperial of the Hotel Inter-Continental, Paris. Model Amalia Vairelli walked the catwalk adorning a pleated turban, accessorised with a sequined palm leaf. Revolutionary of its time, the headpiece was said to be inspired by a book he’d read on the subject of India. Famously known for his hatred of travel, Saint Laurent opted for books, artworks and exhibitions to give him the design inspiration he needed. On this occasion, a strong palette of primary colours referenced Indian design, the luxe silks and ornamented fabrics coming to life as the models fiercely walked the catwalk.
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Saint Laurent worked hard to establish the YSL woman through an empowering lens during his career. Perhaps symbolic of his love of classic Parisian glamour, we can see this theme evolve from his early sketches, taking form on his models through significant accessories and crown-like headdresses, which could be seen in Autumn/Winter 1981’s gold headdress created by Claude Lalanne and later through dramatic accessories in Autumn/Winter 1999’s corn crown. Though widely recognised for his elegant take on haute couture, statement jewellery became a reoccuring feature throughout his collections, giving the models a heightened status of power.
The book brings together sketches, photographs, advertising campaigns and previously unpublished materials in an unprecedented exploration of this underexposed side of one of the fashion world’s most illustrious figures.