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BEHIND THE ICON: Yves Saint Laurent



The Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style offered an invitation behind the scenes of the famous courtier’s brilliancy, and we happily accepted.

Yves Saint Laurent was thrust into the world of high-fashion at the early age of 19Despite being tormented as a child for his homosexuality and plagued by depression in his later years, he rose above his personal trials to find strength in a world weaved together by elegance, shock, and seduction.

Like thumbing through the pages of a diary, the vast collection covers much more than vibrant swatches pinned to pencil sketches and hundreds of impeccably dressed mannequins. From handmade childhood dolls and unpublished documents, to photos, video clips, and stories of personal struggle, we left with more than eye candy.


“I have always believed that fashion was not to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence.” 
– Yves Saint Laurent


Fueled by his emotional muses, he took tremendous risks in terms of design, but held strong to his convictions. Fashion empowered him and he believed it could do the same for women.

One example of this was his creation of the women’s Tuxedo suit, Le Smoking.

The design was initially criticized and deemed downright defiant by some. Today, a pantsuit still makes a statement, but 50-years-ago the idea of a tuxedo as formalwear for women was shocking. It was seductive. It was a revolution. And it blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity, giving women a feeling of confidence and equality that went beyond the clothes they were wearing.

It took courage for Saint Laurent to break through conventionality and remain true to his belief that women could be comfortable, elegant, and powerful. Le Smoking went on to become one of his most influential designs, and its impact can still be seen on the pages of magazines, catwalks, and street style today.


Chanel freed women, and I empowered them.” 
– Yves Saint Laurent

When it comes to branding and design, we know that when an organization understands why they exist and communicates it in a fresh and honest way, they can cut through the clutter and connect with audiences on an emotion level.

Saint Laurent achieved this balance of risk-taking and personal authenticity over and over again – and one could argue it’s what made him an icon.


“Without elegance of the heart, there is no elegance.” 
– Yves Saint Laurent

When a belief transcends craft, anything is possible. In a world swayed by criticism, he stood by an unwavering point of view: beauty is found in empowerment and empowerment defines style.

While the years have passed and fashion faded, Saint Laurents’ style will remain eternal.

The Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style will be open through January 8, 2017.