“I want to give haute couture a kind of wink, a sense of humour”, said Yves Saint Laurent in 1978, “to introduce the whole sense of freedom one sees in the street into high fashion; to give couture the same provocative and arrogant look as punk – but of course with luxury and dignity and style.” This designer’s long-held desire to play and experiment with clothes is celebrated in Yves Saint Laurent: The Impossible Collection, a hefty new title from luxury publishing house Assouline.
Bound in a handmade silk clamshell case and weighing in at 9.5kg, the title takes readers on a journey through 100 of the designer’s most iconic looks, spanning his 40-year career. It begins with his catwalk debut in 1962 – a black peacoat and white trousers with flat shoes – and ends with his final collection in 2002, resplendent with soft Grecian silhouettes and muted pinks.
Among the most influential pieces are the 1965 wedding dress in hand-knit wool, with white satin ribbons, that was inspired by Russian nesting dolls but looked like a sarcophagus (a commercial disaster that not a single client ordered); the Mondrian and Matisse dresses from the 1960s and ’80s; and the feathered puffball he dressed Audrey Hepburn in.
The book is punctuated with writings from fashion journalist and Saint Laurent expert Laurence Benaïm. “Saint Laurent’s body of work is an endless fantasy, a star-filled sky illuminated by a full moon or a midnight sun,” he writes with characteristic overstatement. “Each design reflects its time period, and yet all his creations are modern and timeless. What do a 1962 peacoat and a 1970s crepe dress have in common? A promise consistently kept.”