February 1958. The scene at Dior after the showing of Yves Saint Laurent’s first collection. The model leading the way is Victoire Doutreleau, who was quite a character.
In 1955, age 19, Yves Saint Laurent is taken on as an apprentice by Christian Dior, who becomes a father figure to him and declares: “Saint Laurent is the only one worthy to carry on after me.” When Dior dies two years later, the textile magnate, Marcel Boussac, who finances Dior, appoints Saint Laurent and three female staff to take over from the master.
Saint Laurent, at 21 the world’s youngest couturier, sketches 1,000 designs in a fortnight. It falls to his three female colleagues to edit his ideas. They choose the trapeze look – a youthful silhouette with narrow shoulders and raised waistline above a wide hemline – for his first collection. Public and press are equally enthusiastic, with Le Figaro proclaiming that “Saint Laurent has saved France.”
Yves Saint Laurent will go on to dominate the catwalks of the 1960s and ’70s. A caption on the back of a companion photo reads:
At Dior, Yves Saint Laurent (22 years old) unveils his first collection, baptized ‘Trapèze’. Victoire [Doutreleau] and Christine [Tidmarsh] are the two star models. From bottom to top: (with hat) ‘Refrain’ dress-blouse, black and white silk; ‘Flora Coffee’, tweed silk and black silk tailor; ‘Thursday’ dress, blue baby bure; ‘Brussels’ dress, sand shantung; ‘Bonne Conduite’ dress, grey matted blouse; ‘Colonies’ dress, azure shetland; ‘Virevolte’, grey and black, wool and silk suit; ‘Zouzou’ grey flannel tailor; ‘Cannes’ dress, azure canvas; ‘Hippodrome’ dyed beige chiffon dress; ‘Lady tartine’ navy alpaca tailor.
Photo by Willy Rizzo.