12/01/2023 General, Books & Autographs
NEW YORK, NY -- In September 1954, Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) moved from his childhood home in Oran to Paris, where he enrolled in the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture to study fashion design. He met a classmate there named Fernando Sanchez (1935-2006), and the two would remain close friends throughout their lives. Yves stayed in Paris and Fernando, inspired by West Side Story, moved to New York City, but the two would meet regularly in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, which they both grew to love. It was a place where they shared their passions with one another and refueled their creativity. In fact, Fernando bought Yves’ first house in Marrakech, Dar El Hanch, allowing the two friends to remain in close proximity throughout their lifetimes. Fernando also went on to enjoy a successful career as a fashion designer.
Doyle is honored to offer a remarkable collection of original Yves Saint Laurent fashion designs, costume designs, drawings, and other ephemera, all gifted by Saint Laurent to Fernando Sanchez. The collection illustrates important aspects of the foundational years of Saint Laurent’s career, ranging from a drawing by a seventeen-year-old Yves, drawn the summer before he moved to Paris, to a group of fashion designs from his landmark fall-winter 1976 collection, Opera-Ballets Russes, which the designer sketched when he was forty and at the height of his genius.
The two early drawings (lot 228, lot 233), made within a year of each other, illustrate the young Saint Laurent’s development as an artist during his first year in Paris. The drawing of a thin young boy in a tattered shirt is dated July 1954, just two months before he left his family’s home. It is reminiscent of surrealism, giving a glimpse into one of the fledgling designer’s early artistic influences. Yves would go on to find inspiration from the fine arts, especially painting, throughout his career. The second drawing, a sketch ripped from a spiral-bound notebook and hastily cut down to size, shows a stylish young woman seated in a box at the theatre. Here we see the beginnings of his mature artistic style starting to take root. It closely resembles a fashion design – the woman is barely delineated, while her elegantly placed glove, her dress, and her bows dominate the image. One wonders if Yves sketched the drawing from life while at the theatre, waiting for the curtain to rise.
Once in Paris, Yves was introduced to Christian Dior, who would become his mentor. The older designer was immensely impressed by Yves’ talent and hired him as an assistant. This apprenticeship was relatively short lived, however, as Dior died unexpectedly in 1957. He had named Yves, then only twenty-one years old, as his successor. Despite his inexperience, Saint Laurent’s first show at Dior, his brilliant “Trapeze” collection, was a resounding success, catapulting the young designer to international stardom.
After a few fruitful years at Dior, in 1961 Yves and his partner Pierre Bergé established their own couture house, Yves Saint Laurent. That same year, Yves collaborated with The Ballets Roland Petit designing costumes for the theatrical dance piece, La Chaloupée. The December 6 auction includes two whimsical costume designs from this production. One has a fabric sample (lot 232) pinned down to its corner and shows a pivotal moment in the dance routine, while the other has been repurposed as a New Years card (lot 227), dated January 1st, 1962, and inscribed to Fernando Sanchez.
In 1966, Yves began to vacation regularly in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, sometimes accompanied by Fernando Sanchez. They were both inspired by the country’s natural beauty, its colors, and its rich cultural heritage. Enamored with the city, so different from the staid and Eurocentric Oran of his youth, Yves bought a modest house that he called Dar El Hanch (“House of the Snake”), where he painted a serpent design on the wall of the dining room. The snake is a recurring element in Saint Laurent’s artwork and features prominently in two of the works offered at Doyle (lot 223, lot 225). In 1974, Yves and Pierre Bergé moved to a much grander house, Dar Es Saada, and sold Dar El Hanch to Fernando Sanchez. Morocco’s colors and culture became major inspirations for Yves, especially visible in his Autumn-Winter 1976 collection – one of the most important and lauded of his career.
The collection, titled Opéra – Ballets Russes, marked a moment when Saint Laurent’s designs changed direction, embracing bright colors and sumptuous fabrics, and reintroducing opulence as a major theme in his work. The collection was, as the name suggests, partly inspired by the dance and theatre pieces of Sergei Diaghilev, his costume designer Leon Bakst, and Tsarist Russia. However, it was also evocative of nineteenth-century Orientalist paintings, with many designs inspired by traditional Moroccan dress, forms such as the jabador, burnous, saroual and tarboosh. Saint Laurent reworked these men’s garments into womenswear that was liberating in terms of its silhouette, yet inherently feminine – a collection that exists between genders and cultures.
Opéra – Ballets Russes was the first collection whose fashion show doubled as a theatrical spectacle, complete with opera music, a who’s who of society in the audience, and rapturous applause. It was held at the at the sumptuous Hotel Inter-Continental, where Saint Laurent would continue to present his designs in the years to come. The New York Times heralded the show as "revolutionary," and wrote in its gushing review that, "Yves Saint Laurent presented a fall couture collection today that will change the course of fashion around the world."
There are eleven fashion designs from this collection included in the auction, offered across four lots (lot 226, lot 229, lot 230, lot 231). One design is inscribed “Love and love again and again – Turcqueries d’Yves” to Fernando Sanchez. Yves' use of the word “Turcqueries” shows his awareness of the history of Orientalism, as well as the historical and cultural inspirations behind his designs – as Yves so elegantly explained, “this culture has become mine, but I didn’t just import it, I latched onto it, transformed and adapted it.”
While Yves enjoyed great acclaim and celebrity in Paris, his oldest friend Fernando Sanchez led a charmed life in New York City. He had an impressive career as a fashion designer, best known for his lingerie designs, oftentimes worn as seductive outerwear, and he was a cherished member of the city’s cultural scene. Born in Belgium, he moved to Paris in 1955 where he met Yves. Once out of school, he started working for Nina Ricci and then was hired by Yves at Dior. He left Paris for New York in 1961, designed his own line for Warner’s, later worked for Revillon, and had his own label. One highlight was the creation of two bridal dresses worn by Madonna in her Like a Virgin music video. He threw lavish parties and fashion shows at his enormous “Belle Epoque” apartment in The Osborne – “a classic fourteen.” A regular at Studio 54, his social circle included the likes of Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Halston, Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Naomi Campbell, and Marc Anthony. Despite their busy lives, Fernando and Yves always remained close, spending their vacations near to each other, exchanging gifts on New Year’s Day (lot 224), and sharing their lifelong passion for their chosen profession, a path which they started down together.
Fondation Jardin Majorelle. A Moroccan Friendship: Tamy Tazi, Fernando Sanchez, Yves Saint Laurent. Marrakech: Editions Jardin Majorelle, 2022.
Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris. Yves Saint Laurent. Paris: Editions de la Martiniere, 2010.
Auction Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at 10am
Exhibition December 2 - 3
The December 6 sale features a rare group of original fashion and costume designs by Yves Saint Laurent spanning the 1950s - 1970s.