During his 40 years of fashion design, Yves Saint Laurent made his mark in the fashion world by reinventing the concept of womenswear. He captured the evolving role of women in the 60s by taking elements of menswear into women’s clothing, empowering them with clothing that was both comfortable and beautiful.
Saint Laurent was constantly looking to the streets for ideas and inspiration, and ultimately he wanted to create vast options of clothing for the modern woman. Up until the 60s, women had very clear lines of what to wear during night and day, and Saint Laurent set out to redefine womenswear. By incorporating the functionality and style of men’s safari jackets, pantsuits, peacoats and thigh-high boots into womenswear, Saint Laurent brought the iconic rise of a new fashion trend. The groundbreaking designs he created – including his signature “le smoking,” the tuxedo suit adapted for women – revolutionized the way women dressed, and men-tailored clothing became a basic within women’s wardrobes.
Through his rebellion of prevailing norms, Saint Laurent liberated women, allowing them to freely express themselves with the way they dressed. He combined the symbolic elements of power from men’s clothing into womenswear, translating his designs into clothing that was sophisticated and elegant, yet also wearable.
Saint Laurent once said “Fashion exists because of what came before.” He was constantly reinventing his own designs, such as the variations of his legendary “le smoking.” His work is timeless and continues to influence and inspire designs today. The Albino Spring 2011 collection featured casual suits and trenches, signature influences from Saint Laurent. Last month, contestants from Project Runway created and exhibited Saint Laurent-inspired designs for a fashion show in the Denver Art Museum, the site for the Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective exhibit which showcases a survey of his work and inspirations throughout his career. Janelle Monae and Blake Lively both made the tuxedo a fashion statement for women, further reinforcing Saint Laurent’s influence on the innovation and wearability of his designs.
Saint Laurent has grounded us in elements that are familiar, comfortable and easy. He was a creative genius and serves as an inspiration to this day, allowing us to use his designs as a starting point for our own fresh ideas. As we incorporate our own perspectives into our work, we can find ways to express ourselves anew.