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Photos: How Yves Saint Laurent’s Revolutionary Designs Evolved

Photographer Roxanne Lowit offers a personal look at the life and work of the famously private couturier.

In 1978, up-and-coming photographer Roxanne Lowit met French couturier Yves Saint Laurent at the top of the Eiffel Tower. As an assignment for Interview magazine, Andy Warhol had asked her to photograph the designer, who’d become famous for pioneering ready-to-wear and “le smoking” tuxedo suit for women.

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Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Lowit and Laurent soon developed a close relationship. Before Laurent’s death in 2002, Lowit had taken hundreds of photographs of the designer in his element: at work in his atelier, wearing his famous white lab coat; with muses and admirers (Paloma Picasso, Kate Moss, Catherine Deneuve, Grace Jones, Lucie de la Falaise among them); and majestically outfitting models for the catwalk, in ruffles, feathers, leopard print, satin, and Opium perfume.

Yves Saint Laurent: Roxanne Lowit, a sleek volume out now from Thames and Hudson, compiles these photographs for the first time. Arranged chronologically, the images tell the story of how Laurent’s designs evolved, and illustrate how haute couture both influences and is influenced by mainstream fashion trends. In many cases, Laurent helped originate styles that would come to define a given decade’s popular aesthetic. There were the shift dresses of the ’60s, which he plastered with Mondrian-inspired prints. In the ’70s, he helped popularize paisley and peasant-inspired clothing. Then came the satin, ruffles, big bows, and power suits of the ’80s. By 1995, we see model Jerry Hall, who Laurent cast as his “Opium girl,” in a plaid button-down and loose-fitting trousers–a couture reaction to the grunge era.

Ready-to-wear Fall 1984©Roxanne Lowit

“Yves was very influential in changing the world of fashion by making creative designs accessible to a wider and younger audience,” writes Paloma Picasso in the book. “I can remember my own fascination at discovering the safari jacket and the tuxedo on Betty Catroux in the pages of Vogue: sexy in a totally new way, totally modern without being modernistic.”

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Yves Saint Laurent: Roxanne Lowit is available here for $36.

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About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.

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