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June 11, 2008 3:34 AM

Eye, Fashion

Saint Laurent, Discovered Again

/*photo styles */ .photo-left { width:200px; float:left; margin:4px; } .photo-right { width:200px; float:right; margin:4px; } .caption { font-size:10px;padding:2px; color:#999999; } Who knew Anna Sui did her own Mondrian colorblock shift back in 1984? I certainly didn't -- until I...

Who knew Anna Sui did her own Mondrian colorblock shift back in 1984? I certainly didn't -- until I went down to the WWD library last week to pull film for a story on Yves Saint Laurent's impact on fashion. I found scores of other surprises, too.

Yves Saint Laurent dress, 1965
photo courtesy of the Fairchild Archives
I pulled up a photo from his spring 1979 collection of a model wearing a harlequin-patterned gown and realized it matched a spring 2008 Viktor & Rolf look to a T. Hats from his fall 2001 collection rang of the spiraling, Frank Gehry-like toppers at the most recent Louis Vuitton show in March, and so on. It's amazing just how far-reaching his influence was, beyond the safari or le smoking looks that have become synonymous with his name.

As someone who's still fairly new to the industry -- let's just say, I'm a child of the Eighties -- my memory bank of YSL moments doesn't go very far and much of what I do know is filtered through the work of other designers. So it was quite an eye-opener to get down and dirty with the company archives. What didn't the guy do? Transparency, beaded tribalwear, even conical busts. (And I always thought Madonna and Jean Paul Gaultier had paved that road.)

As for my favorite discovery that day, while looking at a complicated fringed patchwork coat from Saint Laurent's 2002 couture finale, I noticed the model behind it, walking away from the camera. The phrase "Or Never" was prominently displayed on her backside. Intrigued, I searched for a frontal view. What a nice surprise considering the events going on. The girl was wearing a cartoonishly cute coatdress, covered in hearts, stars and puffy clouds emblazoned with the words, "Love Me Forever."
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