The story of Yves Saint-Laurent’s rise as a young French designer almost reads like a fairy tale. He submitted sketches to the International Wool Secretariat and won, beating out a young Karl Lagerfeld. The sketches bore a close similarity with those of leading fashion house Christian Dior, but Saint-Laurent could not have seen them at the time. The young designer was then sent to Dior, who hired him on the spot. The rest is a whirlwind history of over 40 years, during which haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion were reinvented.
By 1957, aged only 21, Saint-Laurent had risen to the head designer of the House of Dior.
By 1960, he and his partner, Pierre Bergé, started their own fashion house, the eponymous Yves Saint Laurent YSL. Over the next two decades, YSL created trend-setting looks like the safari jacket, trench coats and pantsuits. The Le Smoking tuxedo suit for women was the first of its kind, created in 1966 and pioneering an empowering androgynous style for women.
Yves Saint-Laurent was also the first to popularise prêt-à-porter, or ready-to-wear, which earned the company far more than the haute couture line.