Saint Laurent Rive Gauche: Fashion Revolution is a large, generously illustrated book that charts the inception and rise of the YSL Rive Gauche label and the massive impact that (initially) one small shop can have on a global industry. Laid out in eye popping orange and pink (just like the original Rive Gauche shopping bags), this is a concise, lovingly constructed title with a host of never seen before photographs and sketches.
For those who don’t know, Yves Saint Laurent introduced Rive Gauche in 1966 for women who didn’t have the means to buy haute couture. This was one of the first standalone ready-to wear boutiques in the world. No Rive Gauche = no ready to wear labels (that means no Marc, no Acne, no Kooples, no Fashion Month as we know it and a world of people who aren’t as well-dressed as they’d like to be). As much as we love his couture, Yves Saint Laurent may well go down in history as the great democratiser of fashion, ‘en-nobling’ movements like Pop Art and the beatniks to create legitimate high fashion.
The book is laid out in very Rive Gauche colours – all pinks, oranges and white, tonally flat and very bold. Illustrated with photographs, original advertisements, sketches, and Vogue articles and editorials form the 60′s and 70′s, it’s a diverse and well represented swathe through all aspects of Rive Gauche. Saint Laurent’s original sketches with small fabric swatches are very pretty, and the dresses are almost alarmingly bright – the majority of the pictures in the book are B&W. You would need a working knowledge of French to get 100% enjoyment from this book however; at least two lengthy articles including an interview with Saint Laurent himself are reproduced as they appeared in French magazines with no translation provided.
Ultimately though, this book is just as much about the pictures as the words. With an introduction by Pierre Berge, it’s obvious that this book is a labour of love as well as a celebration of YSL. Two essays bookend a section on Saint Laurent’s muses – Loulou de la Falaise, Betty Catroux and Catherine Deuneuve. However, there is very little narrative text on how these muses influenced him. They remain very beautiful ciphers – possibly because to talk about them would be to tread already very-worn ground. Ultimately, we learn more about what has been a much overlooked period of the YSL oeuvre. Hopefully, this book will restore the importance of Rive Gauche to it’s rightful place.
Saint Laurent Rive Gauche: Fashion Revolution
By Pierre Bergé and Jéromine Savignon
Published by Abrams Books