No one did Polaroids like Yves Saint Laurent

For the designer, instantaneous prints served both as documentary device - and vital creative tool
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Wooden bird earrings, worn with a day outfit, Spring/Summer 1988 haute couture collection. All images taken from Yves Saint Laurent Accessories
Wooden bird earrings, worn with a day outfit, Spring/Summer 1988 haute couture collection. All images taken from Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

Today, Polaroid cameras are vintage technology, and Polaroid prints are valued less for their instantaneous development and more for their retro appeal.

However, the late, great French designer Yves Saint Laurent first began using Polaroids at a time when the cameras were still relatively cutting edge, and there were few other ways to visualise and record a new outfit with its attendant accessories, especially in the lead up to an important fashion show.

 

Ceramic anchor earrings (made by Baschet), worn with a dress, Spring/Summer 1987 haute couture collection.
Ceramic anchor earrings (made by Baschet), worn with a dress, Spring/Summer 1987 haute couture collection.

“Instant Polaroid pictures were taken at the end of the production process,” we explain in our new book Yves Saint Laurent Accessories, “when the choice of accessories to go with each design was finalized.

“These working documents recorded the first name of the model in the show, the collection and the workshop sheet and running order numbers. There were often several of these snapshots per look, and they were used backstage at the shows as visual references for the accessories to go with each design.

 

Series of Polaroid shots and ‘hat’ table, backstage at the Inter-Continental hotel, Spring/Summer 1994 haute couture collection, Marie-Claire (Singapore), May 1994 (photograph by Bertrand Marignac). As reproduced in Yves Saint Laurent Accessories
Series of Polaroid shots and ‘hat’ table, backstage at the Inter-Continental hotel, Spring/Summer 1994 haute couture collection, Marie-Claire (Singapore), May 1994 (photograph by Bertrand Marignac). As reproduced in Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

“A series of these Polaroid shots can be seen propped up on the ‘hat’ table in our book, on which all the head accessories in the collection were laid out. This was the last stage in the dressing process, and the point when Yves Saint Laurent and [YSL accessories designer] Loulou de La Falaise signed off each design before it was ‘dispatched’ on to the catwalk by [fashion house co-founder] Pierre Bergé.

 

Sun brooch, earrings and ring, worn with an evening dress, Autumn/Winter 1985 haute couture collection.
Sun brooch, earrings and ring, worn with an evening dress, Autumn/Winter 1985 haute couture collection.

“The Polaroid shots were taken by members of the fashion house staff in corridors, fitting rooms or Yves Saint Laurent’s studio. They were used consistently from 1980 until the house closed in 2002.”

 

Heart earrings and choker made of grainy-textured silvered metal pierced through with a rock crystal pick (made by Goossens), worn with a suit, Autumn/ Winter 1987 haute couture collection.
Heart earrings and choker made of grainy-textured silvered metal pierced through with a rock crystal pick (made by Goossens), worn with a suit, Autumn/ Winter 1987 haute couture collection.

You can see many more of these shots, as well as sharper photos and drawings of the accessories in our new book Yves Saint Laurent Accessories. Order a copy here.

 

Yves Saint Laurent Accessories


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