Five Questions For Laurence Benaïm

Words by Keven Amfo

18 June 2020

This May, Assouline will publish a beautiful new addition to their Ultimate Collection. Created in collaboration with journalist and writer Laurence Benaïm, Yves Saint Laurent: The Impossible Collection spotlights the designer's trailblazing classics, featuring the 100 most iconic designs from his 40-year oeuvre.

Ahead of its release, we speak to Laurence. Long considered the foremost expert on Saint Laurent; she shares some insight into the pioneering designer and his process.

You are considered the premier expert on Yves Saint Laurent. What is your personal connection to the designer?

I met him in 1987 at a very young age. I initially worked on his' oeuvre,' and began to build what felt like a neverending love of fashion. I started to write on the topic of fashion because of Yves Saint Laurent. And, ultimately, I write on other topics also because of Yves Saint Laurent. He paved the way for me in such endeavours… He gave me confidence. I eventually found my way, my voice, partially in thanks to him.

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How did Yves' well-known interests outside of fashion—art, glamorous nightlife, Jardin Majorelle—make appearances in his designs?

Yves Saint Laurent used to quote 'Tout, mais terriblement' as Guillaume Apollinaire titled one of his poems. All of which he loved, including his homes, has been an element of inspiration in his designs. Even small details like a poor little Moujik muppet on his desk inspired him. He used to say: 'I have just one regret: Having not invented blue jeans.'

5 Assouline

What was most important to Yves?

I think that nothing was more important to him than celebrating life. To him, life was a quintessential expression of beauty, a beauty which could come from anywhere and everywhere. A beauty without any taboos, restricting filters, or social distinctions. He was the first to show that what was considered bad taste, could be great taste—beyond morality and intolerance.

Reality and fiction, the natural and supernatural, were linked even though they seemed like opposites. Just like black neutrals versus colours, or pants and nightgowns, purity and extravaganza, et cetera.

15 Yves Saint Laurent Alexandre Guirkinger

Yves was oft credited with making forward designs that were also commercially successful. What are a couple of styles from the book that exemplify this unique talent?

The styles that show his use of colour and shape, or the mix of materials. His signature use of black but also bright colours, including red, pink, orange, green and blue. He was one of the first to implement combinations like blue and black. He was known for his chiffon dresses, nude dresses, unique use of lines, ruffles, velvet, all inspired by his dreamy vision.

Yves created so many trailblazing designs during his forty-year career… How did you choose just 100 for this book?

It was such a challenge. However, with Martine Assouline's help, we did our best to properly celebrate Yves Saint Laurent through these 100 chosen iconic designs, that are each displayed in beautiful images. All capture Yves Saint Laurent's 'soul.' It's not a retrospective work, it's not an accumulation either. It's all about love, respect, emotions, all aspects that match these themes.

Yves Saint Laurent: The Impossible Collection with text by Laurence Benaïm, will be published by Assouline in May.
35.5 x 42 cm | 208 pages | 160 illustrations | 3 gatefolds | handcrafted volume in a luxury silk clamshell case, £695

For more information or to order the book, please contact your lifestyle manager.

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