Yves Saint Laurent influence on fashion

A person can express their personality and worldview through their clothing, accessories, make-up, and physical appearance. Style includes being dynamic and having the ability to reinvent oneself. In addition to representing aesthetic values, fashion trends have become effective communication tools for stylists to address social problems. Therefore, fashion walks a fine line between challenging the status quo and being accepted because it is a reflection of the cultural and societal context of an environment. (Geczy 120).

Identity in fashion is Every civilization's fashion scene depends on specific cultural, economic, and societal factors. Fashion is also an important item in the construction of identity in the contemporary society. Nonetheless, the style has always served as an indication of differentiation between various social classes throughout different ages in history. Fashion trends are complex mechanisms which mirror the changes in the political, social, and economic landscapes thus expressing modernity and symbolizing the spirit of the changing times (Mower 01).

The fashion industry is not only evolving but also influencing people's thought as well as their outlook towards the society. Hence the essence of fashion is creativity, expressivity, and beauty that are subjective. Therefore, it is no doubt that fashion has a tremendous impact on today's culture as well as on our everyday life. People constantly bombard with new fashion ideas from nature, videos, music, books, and movies. Some people tend to think that they can wear whatever they want without outside influence but in the real sense, they are indirectly under the influence of fashion trends in movies, music videos or television series. One of the most influential people in the fashion industry was Yves Saint Laurent who made a positive impact in the industry and his works stills continue to influence current designers.

Yves Saint Laurent debuted his fashion career by introducing the concepts of androgynous dressing in time were women rights were limited and controversial thus impacting the fashion industry with a unique style.

The androgynous dressing is the combination of feminine and masculine fashion creating a gender ambiguous way (Potvin). His take on androgynous started a revolution in the industry. Yves Saint popularized garments such as jackets, tuxedos and other traditional male silhouettes which were redesigned with a feminine twist. Yves' signature flair involved using the outlines by tampering them to fit a woman's body. One of the most controversial creations was the le smoking suit in 1966 which caused a lot of stir then because of its nature (Foreman). The garment upset a lot of people with some hotels going to the extent of banning the attire, deeming Le Smoking suit as inappropriate attire for women. Smoking suits were worn by powerful and influential men in the 1960s. By Yves Saint Laurent twisting the attire with a feminine touch, he made it accessible to women thus giving them a chance to feel sexy in the attire and as well as empowered and vigorous. Therefore, developed a cultural consciousness at a time where second-wave feminists avoided discussing the topic of fashion directly hence radicalizing and transforming the way women dressed. Le smoking became such an icon that the brand ensured some manifestation of the design and continues up to the present day with YSL's current head designer.

Le smoking suit, 1966

Yves Saint Laurent also democratized fashion by employing various ethical models thus breaking the barrier of race in the modeling industry. He championed diversity in the fashion industry where white-washing and non-European, non-white was still an issue (Healy). He made significant strides in ethical inclusivity in the sector which is being felt today in contemporary culture. Yves recruited black models such as Imam Mohammed Abdul Majid, Rebecca Ayoko, and Katoucha Niane as his muses over the years. His influence still resonates today since supermodels like Naomi Campbell referenced Yves Saint as one of the pioneers of racial diversity and the fight against racism in the fashion industry.

YSL Imam in an advertisement for YSL, 1980

Additionally, Yves Saint Laurent made art and fashion collide thus the invention of a unique artistic element embracing the fashion industry. (Geczy 67) While integration of one another's creative inspiration is in now per course in the modern-day art worlds and fashion industry, Yves Saint was one of the pioneers to tap gallery for the runway. He also developed designs that were inspired by artistic works of visual art movement by creative such as Van Gogh and Warhol in the 1960s and 70s. The Mondrian collection designed by Yves was perhaps one of the most enduring collaborations with the contemporary art world (Geczy 72). The Mondrian collection was a combination of six shift dresses in tribute to Piet Mondrian. The colorful designs disrupted the modernist spirit of an entire generation which inspired many designers and artists to combine and develop more creative attires. In the modern day world, fashion and art go hand in hand, they complement each other, and the best designers are also great artists since fashion is all about creativity, innovativeness, and challenging conventional thinking.

Mondrian day dress, 1965

Also, Yves Saint Laurent contributed positively in the fashion industry by advocating the liberation of the body from the limits of the clothing. He rebelled in a unique way in an era where women's rights were shunned (Potvin 45). Laurent's models would frequently go braless under designs such as sheer organza blouses and couture gowns with a feathered trim. He also debuted risqué transparent fabrics in most of his collections (Healy). Therefore, in keeping with the trend of sexual playfulness and freedom of the 1960s, most of his designs revealed the model's breasts. He freed the nipple on the runway, and the decision was less about pleasing the audience and more about stressing equality between the sexes. In both old and contemporary societies, showing the nipple is termed as indecency and offensive for women whereas in men it is neither offensive nor indecent.

Penelope Tree in YSL, 1968

Yves made a positive impact in the fashion industry as he was one of the pioneers of designers starring in their campaigns. He broke new ground in fragrance advertising through the use of nude self-promotion (Healy). His influence resonates in the modern fashion industry as many artists and designers star in their campaigns.

Saint Laurent leads in his campaign for his fragrance Pour, 1971

In conclusion, Yves Saint Laurent used fashion as a creative means of championing women's rights and encouraging the freedom of expression through arts.


Foreman, Liza. The daily beast . 25 March 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/25/yves-saint-laurent-and-fashion-s-most-scandalous-moments. 3 May 2017.

Geczy, Adam, and Karamina. Fashion and Art: Critical crossovers. Sydney: Art Monthly Australia Ltd, 2011.

Healy, Claire Marie. Dazed. 3 April 2016. http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/25429/1/how-yves-saint-laurent-changed-fashion. 4 May 2017.

Mower, Sarah. INDEPENDENT. 19 February 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/yves-saint-laurents-1971-collection-shocked-the-world-but-changed-the-direction-of-fashion-a6882051.html. 3 5 2017.

Potvin, John. Exhibition review: Yves Saint Laurent style. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2010.

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