From our files: Yves Saint Laurent and team succeed Dior
In 1957, the Monitor covered the launch of the career of Yves Saint Laurent, who died on June 1, when he became head of Christian Dior's couture house at age 21. He would go on to become of the most influential fashion designers of the past century.
From the November 11, 1957 issue of The Christian Science MonitorSkip to next paragraph
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Yves-Mathhieu Saint Laurent has been chosen to spark creative design in the Maison Christian Dior, one of a team of four to head the firm which currently does an annual twenty-million-dollar business.This news, eagerly awaited by the fashion world, has just been announced by Marcel Boussac, millionaire French textile magnate and financier of the firm, and Jacques Rouel, its business administrator.
Still in his early 20's, M. Saint Laurent has been with the firm since he was 18. The late Christian Dior often laughingly referred to him as "my Dauphin." He has designed for the boutique and some of his specially successful models have even been included in Dior's big opening.
Yves-Matthieu Saint Laurent helped M. Dior to prepare his last collection in the great designer's Riviera hideaway. Dior had already selected some materials and made some sketches for next spring and summer that will serve as directives for the new line.
M. Saint Laurent will also be ably assisted by the expert team of Dior's personal collaborators, who have worked closely with him since he went into business for himself. Madame Raymonde, M. Dior's assistant, often referred to as "my second self," Madame Bricard, valued style consultant, and Madame Marguerite, head of the workrooms - "Dame Couture in person." This experienced team will continue to guide the workers in the high standards of craftsmanship insisted on by M. Dior.
M. Saint Laurent's technique is one of the most precious legacies left to the couture by the great designer. His dresses, he said, must be "constructed like buildings," they must be able to stand alone, and be perfectly finished inside and out.
The tradition of a Paris couture house, which depends largely on the technique of the workers, is very tenacious. It can keep on going for years by its own momentum, so to speak. But if it is to remain in the lead, it must, of course, be sparked by new ideas.
Christian Dior will be a hard figure to replace in our time. He possessed all the qualification that combine to make a couturier great. He could design, drape cut and execute a toile (the muslim pattern of the model) himself. He had well-nigh perfect taste, was a consummate colorist and understood the "behavior" of materials. Architecture was his hobby and he visualized the ideal settings to show off his own fashions. He established himself the price at which each model must be sold.
Besides this, Christian Dior was probably the most beloved of all Paris couturiers. Kind as he was gifted, this retiring "country gentleman" expressed to a remarkable degree the rare quality of empathy. He was vitally concerned with the well-being of his employees, established a canteen with prices scaled to salaries, and a complete social security setup on the premises, and set aside one of his country estates as a rest home for the feminine personnel.
Christian Dior's success story was perhaps the most phenomenal of fashion dreams come true. His aim was to have a small "craftsman's workshop" where he would cater to a tiny elite of discriminating women. But the triumph of his "New Look" in 1947 pushed him into big business. The Main Dior now shelters six enterprises and 1,200 workers under one roof. With main branches in New York, London and Caracas, eight independent firms and 16 allied subsidiaries spread the Dior label over five continents.