[Ed: SwF has sent us a Valentine. I’m not sure that anything has ever been written on the subject before and he has done so with .. well, with his usual flair. Please enjoy From Yves Saint-Laurent, with Love by Square with Flair™]
The 2008 death of Paris fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent has left an aching void in the fashion world. While there have many great 20th century designers, few can match the combination of originality, consistency, charm, elegance, refinement, and longevity of this brilliant artist, so revered by the French and by the world of fashion.
Saint-Laurent is well known for the leitmotifs than ran through his collections for more than four decades. The trouser suit, the smoking jacket/suit for women, the trench coat, the pea jacket, the safari look, and ethnic/folkloric looks were interpreted in numerous variations. Saint-Laurent’s colour sense and his proportions were peerless. While Dior often molded the body with padding and corsets, Saint-Laurent accentuated the body much more comfortably and less restrictively with cut and subtle nuances of volume, line, and even optical effects.
As well as Saint-Laurent’s uniquely original classics, he returned over and over to specific decorative motifs in his fashions.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, consider his favourite motif, the heart. A true child of his time, he remained faithful to the images of the heart, the dove, and the printed word “LOVE,” long after the hippies became extinct. The heart motif pervades his fragrance promotions, accessories, jewelry designs, his fashions, and the cut or torn paper designs he did annually for his Christmas cards.
He left interpretation of these hearts to the wearer and observer. In some instances, they are sensual and erotic. At other times they are passionate with connotations of religious ecstasy. In still other designs, they read as simple messages of brotherly or familial love that he hoped would bring harmony to all people.
Like Chanel, he was fascinated by and drawn to the mystery and power of religious and spiritual objects. He had antique reliquaries and crosses in his home in Paris. He was inspired by the authentic piety expressed in humble tin ex-voto heart boxes left in thanks by the devout in European churches for prayers answered. These old fashioned tokens of pious gratitude influenced designs for jewels and containers for makeup.
During his formative years, Saint-Laurent greatly admired the work of surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli; the heart motif also pervaded her work, such as on this box for her perfume, “Shocking,” and would likely have left a creative impression on him as well.
Here is a limited edition, authorized replica of the precious diamond and ruby heart necklace worn by the bride in the finale of Saint-Laurent’s couture collections. This piece was an important talisman to be included in his bi-annual collections.
This bride in tulle from the spring 1983 couture collection shows the precious jewel original, which was segmented so that it moved with the wearer, but also very subtly suggested a broken heart and the bittersweet aspects of life, relationships, love, and marriage.
A pair of Strass crystal heart earrings from the Rive Gauche accessory collection:
A jeweled heart powder compact with a typically Saint-Laurent combination of blue and green stones:
A sublime fragrance candle in a heart shaped glass vase, with his beautiful signature in gold.
A particularly saucy outfit he created was this classic 1980s wool smoking jacket, made audacious by the very voluptuous, red satin lapels, evocative of the most passionate heart. The genius of Saint-Laurent was to appropriate the smoking jacket, an icon of the male wardrobe, and feminize it with provocative red satin, evoking women of questionable character, lingerie, or the most sensual evening wear.
The most beautiful, dreamy, heart motif fashion he created was a charming evening ensemble from his spring 1986 Rive Gauche collection. It consisted of a black skirt with randomly sized patchwork hearts of brilliant pink and red silk, scattered down the front. It was topped with a simple, short sleeved black blouse. Accessories were simple, solid colour resin bangles.
Saint-Laurent, like Dior and Balenciaga, wasn’t afraid to present very simply designed creations. The beauty of these garments came from their presentation, superb fabrics, exquisite colour combinations, fine workmanship, and perfect proportions. This outfit would be easy to replicate inexpensively. The important thing is strict adherence to the specific details. Take a plain, solid black silk blouse, pair it with fluid black skirt that has been appliquéd with random, brilliant orange, pink, and red silk hearts of varying sizes down the front. Compliment the look with solid colour wide plastic bracelets from the thrift or dollar store, to co-ordinate with the colours of the heart appliqués. Just remember, Saint-Laurent thought of it first.
Wear your heart on your sleeve, or as Saint-Laurent proposed, on your lapels, your ears, or your skirt.
Joyeuse fête de la St–Valentin!
Photo of bride from Yves Saint Laurent RETROSPECTIVE, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1987. Yves Saint-Laurent “LOVE” posters copyright Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. All other photos and sketches, copyright by Thierry, 2010. Jewelry and objects, private collection.