Thursday, May 19, 2011

It all Started With a Sketch

We are all so familiar with the work of Yves Saint Laurent, that it has almost become part of fashion’s vernacular. Saint Laurent was one of the shining stars of Haute Couture in the twentieth century and it all began with a sketch.

In 1953, Saint Laurent submitted three sketches to a contest for young fashion designers, organized by the International Wool Secretariat. He won third place and was invited to attend the awards ceremony in Paris, in December of that year. While he and his mother were in Paris, they met Michel de Brunhoff, editor-in-chief of the Paris edition of Vogue magazine. de Brunhoff, was impressed by the sketches Saint Laurent brought with him and suggested he become a fashion designer.

Saint Laurent then pursued a course of study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Again, Saint Laurent entered the International Wool Secretariat competition and this time won, beating out his friend Fernando Sanchez and a young German student named Karl Lagerfeld.] Shortly after his win, he brought a number of sketches to de Brunhoff who recognized in them close similarities to sketches he had been shown that morning by Christian Dior. Knowing that Dior had created the sketches that morning and that the young man could not have seen them, de Brunhoff sent him to Dior, who hired him on the spot.

I love fashion sketches as they are the germination of a couturier’s ideas into fully fledged collections. Saint Laurent was a prolific sketcher with him turning out 100’s of sketches per collection.

From even the most preliminary sketches his are easily recognisable with the finished product. The line and feel of each garment is perfectly represented by his sketches.

How I would love to have some of these and frame them as art, as this is what they are art. In this age of computer generated graphics and designs, these are a welcome relief that breathe life and savoir faire into the designer’s craft.


  1. As you know, I'm an ardent fan of most things YSL. I like how put together this article is

    I'd consider printing reproductions of the sketches - the originals are doubtlessly pricey - which would still allow you to fulfill your desire, more or less. As for other illustrators, are you aware of my friend Danielle Meder?

    Incidentally, why am I not in your links list? You always keep up so well with my posts, after all



  2. Hello David:
    How we should love to own even one of these marvellous sketches which, as you say here, really are works of art.

    This is such a beautifully presented post. We have delighted in the way you have paired the sketches with the actual garments. You are absolutely right when you say that the drawings not only convey the overall shape and look of the finished article but also convey texture. A sample would never be needed, the sketch would say it all!

    YSL represents such classic design and tailoring that, for us at least, his work never dates, it becomes iconic.

  3. A true fashion icon and genius! I would also love to have some of his sketches framed...his clothes are marvellous, timeless and truly works of art

    The Black Label

  4. David,

    It would be a dream to have an earlier sketch or even see an exhibit of his renderings YSL Never to be forgotten.

    Art by Karena

    Come and enter my New Giveaway from Serena & Lily! You will love it!

  5. You found wonderful images, and did a lovely honorary post! He truly is a genius and an ultimate inspiration!


  6. I love this post and thank you for commenting on my blog post too Mr. David :)
    It reminds me of a book called ' The Beautiful Fall ', a great book to read about him.
    He is truly inspiring and too one of my favorite designer :)
    Fashion was changing because of him, he was the first designer who used black model and too started the Ready-To-Wear. The Le Smoking tuxedo was one of the prominent fashion moment, the first designer who featured the androgens and too the Safari.
    Well shared Mr. David! Keep up your good work :)


  7. The sketches are a piece of art by themselves.

  8. Fab post!
    He was a genius in my book!
    looking fwd to watch 'L'Amour Fou' YSL documentary, darling!

  9. Love these.

    As my reading of Vogue tells me, classic YSL is having something of a resurgence lately. Just in time, too.

  10. I agree with you, prints of some of these would be fantastic. Such a beautiful and refreshing post David!!
    Nancy xo

  11. I've always thought the white monstrosity looks like a giant penis.
    I'm with Lenore. I can't wait to see L'Amour Fou

  12. Good sketch will always go a long way! I agree with Karena, an exhibition of his drawings would be wonderful to see. Hope you get to relax a little over the weekend!


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