Saint Laurent was never interested in bag design, it was only when the brand was sold to Gucci in 1999 under the creative direction of Tom Ford that the first YSL bags were released.
It is impossible to talk about the history of the Yves Saint Laurent brand without discussing the fascinating and tragic person of the designer who started the fashion brand and bears his name. Yves Saint Laurent was born in 1936 in Algeria, when he was a child, he was passionate about beauty and fashion, designing costumes for the women of his family.
When he was 17, he moved to Paris to study fashion. His talent was quickly recognized by the big names in the Paris fashion industry, and Christian Dior supported him.
He worked under Dior for a few years, at the age of 21, just weeks before Dior’s death, he was appointed as the fashion house’s chief designer. His first collection for Dior was a huge success, but subsequent collections did not, and in 1960 he was commissioned to fight for France during the Algerian War. He lost his position at Dior shortly after enlisting.
In 1961, Saint Laurent and partner (in life and business) Pierre Berge launched their eponymous brand. As the head of her own fashion house, Laurent has made a name for himself by designing stunning garments inspired by art and gender with completely transformative fashion.
Some of his most iconic creations include motifs inspired by Mondrian art, “Safari-chic”, revealing sheer sheer, and perhaps iconic dresses. Le Smoking – a splendid, sleek women’s outfit that pushes the boundaries of gender when it comes to more conservative evening outfits.
However, Saint Laurent never cared about bag design. Instead, it was only when the brand was sold to Gucci in 1999 (now owned by Kering) and under the creative direction of Tom Ford that the first YSL bags were released. During the Tom Ford era, the Yves Saint Laurent bags were dark but in a bohemian style, like the Mombasa hobo.
When Tom Ford left Gucci in 2004, Stefano Pilati took over as creative director – a position he held until 2012. Stefano Pilati’s time is still remembered for YSL bags like the Muse and the Tribute.
Next comes the Hedi Slimane era, which begins slowly and delicately with the Duffle bag. While under Slimane, Kering chose to remove the word “Yves” from the brand name, Slimane bags are starting to honor the YSL logo, especially in accessories. The three-letter logo is usually displayed in the center of a Saint Laurent bag, usually in a sparkling gold color contrasting with black leather.
Most recently, in 2016, Hedi Slimane moved to work for Celine and Anthony Vaccarello took his place. His early bag releases were seen as a simple continuation of Slimane’s creations, but over time he started to change things up, resulting in a lot more unique bags that you’ve seen in list of the most iconic YSL bags.