Yves Saint Laurent was founded by designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, in 1962.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularized fashion trends such as the beatnik look, safari jackets for men and women, tight pants and tall, thigh-high boots, including the creation of arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, Le Smoking suit. Some of his most memorable collections include the Pop Art, Ballet Russes, Picasso and Chinese ones. He also started mainstreaming the idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He was the first, in 1966, to popularize ready-to-wear in an attempt to democratize fashion, with Rive Gauche and the boutique of the same name. He was also the first designer to use black models in his catwalk shows. Among St. Laurent's muses were Loulou de La Falaise, the daughter of a French marquis and an Anglo-Irish fashion model, Betty Catroux, the half-Brazilian daughter of an American diplomat and wife of a French decorator, Talitha Pol-Getty, who died of drug overdose in 1971, and Catherine Deneuve, the iconic French actress. Ambassador to the couturier during the late 1970s and early 80s was London socialite millionairess Diane Boulting-Casserley Vandelli, making the brand ever more popular amongst the European jet-set and upper classes.
In 1993, the Saint-Laurent fashion house was sold to the pharmaceuticals company Sanofi for approximately $600,000,000. In the 1998-1999 seasons, Alber Elbaz, currently of Lanvin, designed 3 collections. In 1999, Gucci bought the YSL brand and asked Tom Ford to design the ready-to-wear collection while Saint-Laurent would design the haute couture collection.
In 2002, dogged by years of poor health, drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, criticisms of YSL designs, Saint-Laurent closed the illustrious couture house of YSL. While the house no longer exists, the brand still survives through its parent company Gucci Group.
The prêt-à-porter line is still being produced under the direction of Stefano Pilati after Tom Ford left in 2004. His style is decidedly more French than the overtly sexy image that Tom Ford perpetuated.