Hyde Park Corner is the venue for the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Maison, a pop-up house in celebration of “50 years of Edgy Beauty.” I can only describe my visit there as a pilgrimage to honour a legendary icon in the world of fashion, beauty and fragrance. Needless to say, it was an inspiring and emotional experience for me.
The maison is an Aladdin’s cave of photos and artwork (some especially flown in from
Paris). From the minute I stepped in, I was enthralled by the unfolding story of Yves Saint Laurent, one of my favourite classic designers, and of YSL Beauté. The story of Yves reads like an exotic fairytale – if it wasn’t true, you would be forgiven for thinking that it came straight out of Shehrezade’s 1001 Arabian nights.
Born in 1936 in
, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent (I love the way it trills off the tongue!), spent his childhood creating exquisite paper dolls. A child who has a passion can only become a success if he/she has the support of family. Yves was lucky – by the time he was a teenager, he was creating beautiful gowns for his mother and sisters, who wore the young boy’s creations with pride and flair. At the tender age of 18, he journeyed to Oran, Algeria Parisand joined the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. His designs quickly attracted the interest of fashionistas and other designers. It was only a matter of time before the young creative genius was “discovered” by Michel de Brunhoff, then editor of French Vogue. De Brunhoff introduced Saint-Laurent to the emperor of haute couture at the time – Christian Dior. The young man was appointed at Dior’s atelier and made such an impression that Dior went to Saint-Laurent’s mother and announced that he wanted her talented son to become his successor! When Dior tragically passed on from cardiac failure later that year, the 21 year old found himself heading the most celebrated fashion house of the era.
A tragic turn of events just three years later found the 24 year old prodigy drafted into the French Army to serve in
Algeria’s War of Independence. His dismissal from the House of Dior, coupled with cruel initiation by fellow soldiers landed him in military hospital. It was a traumatic time, as he was drugged and subjected to electro-shock therapy which impacted adversely on his health later in life. It is often said that emotional pain and trauma is the root of creativity in artists and this proved to be so true of Yves Saint-Laurent. Upon release from the army, he successfully sued the House of Dior and with a cash injection from an Atlanta billionaire, he bounced back and established, with his partner, the Yves St. Laurent YSL house of fashion. There was no stopping his creativity and amazing fashion sense as he gave the world of couture the most amazing item after item, all of which went on to become enduring classics. St. Laurentearned a reputation for innovative and avant-garde creations like the very first tuxedo for women and the very first full prêt-a-porter range.
St. Laurent wanted to celebrate the beauty of the women who wore his fabulous creations and soon Yves Saint Laurent Beauté was born. There was nothing shy about the new range of makeup. The gold packaging of the products glided elegantly onto store shelves, quietly but firmly emphasizing the opulence of the YSL brand. YSL scents like Opium (once hailed as the most expensive perfume in the world), Paris and Kouros are covetable items, recognized as ‘must-haves’ in the perfume closets of fragrance cognoscenti. Another Yves Saint Laurent Beauté icon is the Touché Eclat highlighter pen. One is sold every second! The Beauté Maison guides you through Yves Saint Laurent Beauté over the years through wonderful photographs and artwork and invites you to experience the makeup and fragrances, both early and new.
Faces of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté have included Yves himself, for the first male fragrance; the stunningly voluptuous Sophie Dahl, in a very risqué but artistically intriguing Opium campaign that generated much discussion; Jessica Chastain and currently Olivier Martinez, Cara Delevingne and Edie Campbell.
In 1980, Saint-Laurent and his his long-time partner and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent YSL, Pierre Bergé, bought the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, Morocco. The purchase was a tribute, not only to his appreciation of all things beautiful, but also to his North African roots. He magnanimously left the beautiful garden open to the public, as they had been since 1947.
When Yves Saint-Laurent passed away in 2008, the world mourned the legend who put the ‘haute’ into haute couture. He was cremated and his ashes appropriately scattered in the breathtakingly tranquil and elegant
that he so loved. Majorelle Garden
This year Yves Saint Laurent Beauté honoured the memory of the genius designer by creating Black Opium – black being his favourite colour. You can read my review of the fragrance here. Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and fragrances are available at selected retailers nationwide.
Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Maison is situated on the cinema level at Hyde Park Corner and will stay until November 24th 2014. If you are a lover of beauty, fashion, art, real-life fairytales… actually if you just love and appreciate beautiful things, please make the pilgrimage.
Until next time
Love and sparkles