Gold and other offerings: how Yves Saint Laurent reinvented the humble accessory
‘I like dresses to be sober and accessories to be wild,’ Yves Saint Laurent told Elle in 1977. Now, a new Phaidon-published tome, Yves Saint Laurent Accessories, by Patrick Mauriès – author of Jewellery by Chanel (2012) and Maison Goossens: Haute Couture Jewelry (2014), documents the extravagance and diversity of the designer’s jewellery creations. It’s a chronology which begins with Yves Saint Laurent’s collaboration with Paloma Picasso in 1970, after the designer took note of her jewellery designs for Fernando Sanchez, and spans partnerships with jewellery houses including Goossens (a relationship honed during his time at Christian Dior), Scemama, Gripoix and Devez.
Yves Saint Laurent Accessories is split into thematic chapters, each of which highlights the diverse decorative motifs that singled out the designer’s jewellery collections, until his final runway show in 2002. There are sections devoted to golden ears of corn, hearts, crosses, doves, butterflies and feathers, bows, shells and coral, which capture creations ranging from the ornamental to the abstract, the modern to the theatrical, the graphic to the gilded.
Each chapter is interpersed with original sketches, backstage Polaroids, catwalk shots and still life set ups of Yves Saint Laurent’s imaginative designs, like a black and white backstage image of the designer holding a necklace to himself before his brand’s A/W 1981 Haute Couture show, or a Polaroid snapshot of model Bess Stonehouse sporting a pair of Goosens made bird earrings from the maison’s S/S 1988 Haute Couture collection.
Throughout the image-led volume, Mauriès offers an insight into the mindset behind Yves Saint Laurent’s approach to jewellery design, one overseen by Loulou de La Falaise after she began working for his house in 1972. Saint Laurent had a penchant for gold, distaste for the ‘bourgeois’ value of diamonds, and an instinct for elevating everyday materials such as wood, ceramics and soft trimmings into the realm of haute couture. For him, buttons were the jewellery for daytime.