In 2012, the YSL brand was heavily criticized when it’s newly appointed creative director, Hedi Slimane, rebranded Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) to Saint Laurent Paris (SLP).
Two years later, the controversy is now around the two films being released this year, chronicling Yves Saint Laurent’s journey from promising young designer to celebrated couturier at the pinnacle of the fashion scene. Ironically, the movie titles are Yves Saint Laurent and Saint Laurent.
The first film – Yves Saint Laurent, which opened in cinemas last week has been supported by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s business partner and former lover. The film stars Pierre Niney in the role of Yves and Guillaume Gallienne as Pierre.
The second film – Saint Laurent, scheduled for release later this year, stars Chanel model Gaspard Ulliel as Yves. Ulliel previously played the young Hannibal Lecter in the 2007 movie Hannibal Rising. Whilst Bergé has publicly expressed his disapproval of this film because director Bertrand Bonello did not include his involvement in its production, the Kering group (formerly PPR) that currently own the SLP brand are in full support of Bonello’s rendition.
In the first biopic on one of the greatest designers of all time, Pierre Bergé is portrayed as the business brains behind Yves Saint Laurent the brand and the designer. He is depicted as protecting Yves throughout their turbulent relationship. Whilst Yves is portrayed as shy and neurotic Bergé is presented as the calm and steadying influence.
However, over the years people have speculated on whether Bergé was actually the strength holding the fragile Yves together or whether he was a control freak who took advantage of the designer. Based on the current drama over the release of Saint Laurent it may be safe to assume that Bonello plans to show Bergé from the other end of the spectrum.
Aside from Bergé, the film highlights crucial aspects of the life of Yves Saint Laurent that is probably not known to many outside the fashion industry. He was born in Algeria and started working for Christian Dior at the tender age of 18. He later succeeded Dior after his death as head designer for the brand at the age of 21.
The film focuses on the making of the legacy that is YSL and his most iconic collections (including the Mondrian dress) despite his drug addiction, mental illness and promiscuous love life. His muses Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux also feature in the movie depicting just how much he revolutionised the fashion world when he became the first designer to use ethnic models. Karl Lagerfeld also makes an appearance in the film at a critical time in his own career with the recent launch of his flagship store in London.
Yves Saint Laurent’s impact still continues as was seen just recently when Le Smoking, his famous female tuxedo, was worn by Angelina Jolie to the BAFTA Awards in February.
With two movies on Coco Chanel (Coco Before Chanel and Coco and Igor) and two on Yves Saint Laurent, which iconic designer will the film industry focus on next?