The YSL Collection
September 23, 2022
By Brian Solis, Doma Head of Fashion
I started my luxury fashion career in the early 2000's at the Yves Saint Laurent flagship boutique on 57th Street, in the heart of the NYC block of mega brands. I first started on the shop floor without a client book and having only worked with big box retail stores. Here, I was this young guy from NW Florida who had never worked in luxury fashion. I was passionate nonetheless, spending time with my bestie, Chris Easter, sticking my nose in the glossy covers of magazines between bookshelves at my local Barnes & Nobles in Pensacola, Florida and watching Fashion File and Style.com on the weekends with my sister. I learned a lot from just those two outlets, and the meantime propelled my fashion journey.
Working at YSL helped me gain the confidence in handling luxury goods. I learned how to present these items to clients, having an awareness of my surroundings and picking up on cues from my fellow colleagues. Still, to this day, I'm close with many of my colleagues with whom I worked on the shop floor. Let's face it, I spent more time at work than I did at home. I was here for the fashion hustle, and I wanted to make it happen! After several years working on the shop floor, I was promoted to manage the women's and men's ready-to-wear collections for North and South America. It was a big change for me, and I gained a lot of expertise from the position. I recognized my love for fashion when working with RTW, where I transitioned from managing a singular client to a larger scale within department stores and specialty boutiques.
The greatest thing about working for YSL was the rich archive Monsieur Saint Laurent left behind both physically and in imagery. He had this great connection with dressing women and empowering how they carried themselves. He knew how to balance art with fashion in his designs. He was one of the first influencers in the fashion world with his designs and personal look. His tall lanky frame, coiffed hair, usually in a tailored suit and signature black framed glasses. He made such bold statements that to this day resonate with fashion we wear today. For example, Monsieur Saint Laurent paid tribute to Mondrian by designing the iconic shift dress that evoked the painter’s abstract canvases. It made an impact in the fashion world in 1965 and continues to be referenced in modern collections.
The House of YSL was great about referencing Mssr Saint Laurent’s collection. During our RTW collection briefs at the Paris showroom with the global team, the printed decks, created by the Paris merchandising team, reminded me of my days flipping through the glossy magazine pages with Chris at Barnes & Noble. However these decks transcended those glossy pages! They demonstrated the thought process behind the collection and what had inspired the design team. During setup for the Cruise 2008-09 collection set up in NYC, we were all working so diligently to finalize preparation for the market and showroom. I remember so vividly looking at a classic navy pinstripe suit with shoulder pads from the collection and then receiving the news that Mssr Saint Laurent had passed. He left a legacy of so many powerful women wearing his suits with the signature padded shoulders. The effortless chic Bianca Jagger, wearing her white suit to Nan Kempner, coat checking her trousers in a NYC restaurant because she was denied entry for wearing a suit. The YSL blazer she wore back to her suit was long enough to wear as a mini dress! I wish I was there to see the face of the hostess.
Grand Palais before the Spring-Summer 2008 show
Grand Palais before the Spring-Summer 2008 show
Paris and UK YSL press team with US wholesale team
Let’s not forget the power suit of all suits…the tuxedo for women, also known as ‘Le Smoking.’ Another iconic image for the House of YSL, model, Vikebe, wearing ‘Le Smoking’ in the streets of the Marais is photographed by well known photographer Helmut Newton in 1975 for Vogue Paris. There is nothing sexier than seeing a woman enter the room in a classic YSL tuxedo.
On the note of sexy and powerful, no one did better than model, Veruschka, wearing the ‘La Saharienne,’ better known as the lace-up safari jacket paired with a multiple ring belt and rifle on her back, one hand casually hanging off oh-so-effortlessly and the other gripping with power. Verushchka’s face was striking; her eyes pierced into the camera lens, topped off with a floppy hat. Let’s not forget her perfectly curled and coiffed hair- all the details in this photo were on point! This photo is forever ingrained in my mind. The safari jacket can still be found in present creative director, Anthony Vaccarello’s, collections for the house. The multi-pockets, the lace-up front, and heavy cotton drill fabric, mostly used in Cruise or Spring/Summer collections. 1968 never looked chicer and sexier until Veruschka arrived!
Additionally, one cannot dismiss Mssr Saint Laurent’s skilled craft with his Haute Couture atelier. In 1976 he paid homage to Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which exported a fantasy of Russia to a European audience. The way he translated Russian culture and the costume designer Lev Bakst’s, was an explosive fashion bomb! Metallics were mixed with vibrant colors, and the silhouettes from the nipped waist and voluminous skirts featured embroidery and appliqué patterns mixed with textured fabrics…think “byzantine luxury,” as it was dubbed by the French press. We still see his influence with boho styles but this was luxury, can we please bring this back?! I can go on and on about this collection.
MUSE! Yes yes, I know you hear this from DoMa all the time, but Mssr Saint Laurent had his Muses. His two main Muses, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, were always by his side. They invigorated and stimulated his collections. Do you ever wonder where current day Saint Laurent creates their names for bags and shoes…le duh, Mssr Saint Laurent’s Muses of course! One artist and dancer, Zizi Jean Marie, wore many of his big plume creations he had designed specifically for her stage performances. The voluminous feathery confections almost became her signature from the House. You can still find her name used on feather trimmed shoes named after this Muse.
The 6 years I worked for the House of Saint Laurent will always be with me. It marked the start of my career, and the immersive experience I received in NYC and Paris will forever be with me. I’ll forever value the many people that I met during my time there… from the ladies in the model cabin to the sellers in the showroom who taught me French and those who shared mass amount of cigarettes and espresso with me in the Parisian courtyard. Mssr Saint Laurent’s style will forever remain in the fashion world, but what I took away was more than just that. It was being part of a fashion community that I had the honor to be part of.
“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” - Yves Saint Laurent
Looks inspired by Saint Laurent
The Shift Dress
Muse Over the Mondrian
The Mondrian, more commonly known as the shift dress, is a modular style, filled with artistic inspiration and a classic sense of femininity. A nod towards YSL's renowned color block dress, the style has surpassed the timeliness of trend culture, making its way to modern day, year after year.
This Might Suit You
Suiting is something fashion houses will swear by season-after-season. A distinct approach to proportion play, YSL found that shoulder pads provided a powerful shape that shows the label's sophisticated appeal.
When YSL first incorporated lace in his designs, everyone fell in love with how the textile trend pushed the boundaries of how a garment could be cut to frame and accentuate the wearer's body. The feature maintains a mysterious essence, while revealing just enough to offer extra interest.
Popularized by German model, Veruschka, La Saharienne “safari” jacket was created in 1969 and maximized the wear of utilitarian-inspired designs. From lace-up details to versatile khaki hues, YSL championed the practical style, elevating the aesthetic for a modern woman's everyday wear.
BALLET RUSSES 1976
Ready to Russe
The Ballet Russe was a 1976 silhouette that represented the regal outlook of the fashion world at the time. Decorative, ornamental and elaborate, from fur trims to ball skirts, were a symbol of social status and sensational style.