Yves Saint Laurent: The Complete Haute Couture Collections, 1962–2002 (Catwalk)

Image of Yves Saint Laurent: The Complete Haute Couture Collections, 1962–2002 (Catwalk)
Release Date: 
June 11, 2019
Yale University Press
Reviewed by: 

Forty years and over eighty collections/shows are what make Yves Saint Laurent: The Complete Haute Couture Collections the quintessential last word in the oeuvre of this designer. Of course it is not quite encyclopedic since only about ten images or so from each collection are shown, but the text is minimal, giving an overview and the theme/mood of each collection proceeded by a brief description of each outfit in each photo.  

Approximately one quarter of this magnificent monograph is in black and white; they are the first collections he showed at the start of his illustrious career; the epic volume and massive undertaking can unquestionably be assessed on multiple levels within the world of fashion and design.

The well versed fashionphile will marvel at the genius of the designer, the breadth and endless imagination he brought to life, as well a grievous reminder of how sadly fashion has devolved since his early beginnings. The astute reader will hopefully grasp that an haute couture show from St. Laurent was an incredible display of the designer’s creative prowess as well as his prolific ability to show over one hundred looks each season in haute couture.

“I have nothing in common with the new world of fashion, which has been reduced to mere window-dressing. Elegance and beauty have been banished.” —YSL, 2002

The reader can lament” the good old days” or realize that what we see today presented as fashion, even in the rarefied world of haute couture, doesn’t hold a candle to what this man offered for 40 years. Every show, every exit was its own perfectly executed story of sorts told via the attention paid to every detail from head to toe only enhancing each exit to render a memorable moment in fashion history.

“Yves always believed that clothes should be at the service of women—not the other way around,” said Pierre Bergé.

If you have a deep appreciation and understanding of fashion, there is so much that one can absorb and reflect upon. One of the biggest impressions taken away from this pictorial and visual tsunami is that St Laurent had his signatures, which he systematically and thoughtfully massaged through the years, and yet every show held such a plethora of looks and silhouettes, to say nothing of his unrivaled color sense. The richness of the design, embroideries, and fabrications were beyond the pale and actually should embarrass many or most of those who think they show haute couture at its best in today’s fashion sphere. One of the other lasting impressions is that St. Laurent truly designed timeless clothes even when thematically conceived and rendered. It is he who the fashion world owes a debt.

If you wish to revel in the genius of a prescient, prolific fashion prodigy, be reminded of just how glorious fashion once was and consider yourself a fashion aficionado, then this is a book for you.