No one did gold like Yves Saint Laurent

The late designer adored gold, and shaped the precious metal into some surprisingly commonplace forms
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Ear of corn brooch made of diamanté with gilt metal whiskers (made by Goossens), Spring/Summer 1989 haute couture collection; ear of corn earrings studded with diamanté (made by Goossens), Spring/Summer 1982 haute couture collection. Photograph © Lavanchy Matthieu. As reproduced in Yves Saint Laurent Accessories
Ear of corn brooch made of diamanté with gilt metal whiskers (made by Goossens), Spring/Summer 1989 haute couture collection; ear of corn earrings studded with diamanté (made by Goossens), Spring/Summer 1982 haute couture collection. Photograph © Lavanchy Matthieu. As reproduced in Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

Though Yves Saint Laurent sometimes dismissed precious stones as overly showy and ostentatious, precious metals were another matter entirely. Yves liked gold.

“I see women as objects of adoration,” the great French designer told Vogue in 1983, “not just in the religious sense of the word, but as idols to be adorned with gold – like those statues of the Virgin Mary which the conquistadors used to decorate with their booty – to be covered with gold and offerings.”

 

Original sketch for a long evening outfit with headdress of gold flowers and leaves
Original sketch for a long evening outfit with headdress of gold flowers and leaves

“The idea of an idol naturally made Saint Laurent think of gold, a material he loved because it exuded a sparkling, almost abstract, metaphysical brilliance,” explains Patrick Mauriès, author of our new book Yves Saint Laurent Accessories, “quite the opposite of the vulgar glitter of wealth or the monetary value normally associated with it.”

Gold, unlike diamonds, was a more malleable material, in Yves eyes. “‘It has to be gold,’ he recorded in a private note,” explains Mauriès, “‘because with its pure, liquid flow it smooths the body into sheer line.’”

 

Headdress of gold flowers and leaves created by the designer Nina Wood, worn with a long evening outfit, Spring/Summer 1980 haute couture collection
Headdress of gold flowers and leaves created by the designer Nina Wood, worn with a long evening outfit, Spring/Summer 1980 haute couture collection

The designer favoured gold lamé fabrics, and worked the metal earrings, headdresses and decorative details in other garments, particularly when he came to work with darker darker pigments. “I always light up modern black with gold buttons, belts, chains,” Mauriès quotes the designer as saying.”

 

Gypsy-inspired dress with accessories, Spring/Summer 2000 haute couture collection. The model’s cigarette does not feature on the workshop sheet, but captures the mood Yves Saint Laurent was looking for
Gypsy-inspired dress with accessories, Spring/Summer 2000 haute couture collection. The model’s cigarette does not feature on the workshop sheet, but captures the mood Yves Saint Laurent was looking for

However, one of Yves’ best-loved golden motifs mimics a common, lowly organic form: ears of corn.

“He would place sheaves of these emblems of creativity in every interior he occupied, and in his design work they turned up in jackets embroidered with gilded ears of corn, blouses dotted with plain spikes and delicate brooches by [jewelry designer and collaborator] Robert Goossens.”

What better emblem for a man whose career straddled the old-world couturier era, and the modern, design age; and who understood the antique, regional, seasonal traditions and contemporary, global trends?

 

Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

For more small yet perfectly formed works, all by Yves, order Yves Saint Laurent Accessories.


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