Tournage YSL


Fashion lovers unite! The new Yves Saint Laurent movie covers the legendary designer’s start, and how he built one of fashion’s biggest luxury empires.  Director Jalil Lespert dishes on what it took to bring his past back to life.

In January 1958, Yves Saint Laurent (Pierre Niney) – aged 21 – was unexpectedly called upon to oversee the legendary Paris fashion house established by recently deceased Christian Dior.

All eyes turned to this very young assistant as he presented his first collection for Dior and instantly ascended to the heights of haute couture’s elite class. During Saint Laurent’s breathtaking and groundbreaking show, he met with another fate in being introduced to Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne), patron of the arts, future love of his life and lifelong business partner. Three years later, the two founded the Yves Saint Laurent Company, which would rapidly become one of the biggest luxury powerhouses on the planet.


“I wanted to tell a powerful, epic love story. I also wanted to portray characters striving to make their dreams come true,” said director Jalil Lespert. “As I was thinking over what I wanted to do for my new project, I came up with the idea of YVES SAINT LAURENT. I was thrilled to make a film about the great French designer and Pierre Bergé.”

In order to do a biopic justice, Lespert admits to heavily researching his life to get it right, down to his voice and mannerisms. “I probably read and saw everything even remotely related to Yves Saint Laurent. I had to do my homework because, at the beginning, I didn’t know much about him and because in the books I could get hold of there was hardly anything about Yves’ private life,” Lespert said. “As a result, I had to double-check all the info and piece everything together. It was a long, painstaking process. I was able to put together his life story over the course of twenty years. Then I chose to take some distance in order to either leave room for fiction or to use facts to add pace and enhance the story’s developments. And then I began shooting the film.

With Yves Saint Laurent no longer around, Lespert turned to his longtime love and business partner, Bergé, who became the ultimate resource. “I wouldn’t have made the film without Pierre’s [Bergé] consent – not because of the important figure he is, but because he was his lifelong companion. When it comes to Saint Laurent’s life, Pierre Bergé is an integral part of it – you can’t portray the former without portraying the latter. I needed to feel Pierre was by my side and access specific information only he could give me. I wanted him to share his thoughts and his feelings about the whole enterprise with me. Besides, it was important for me to meet with the “YSL Family” – i.e. Tournage YSLthe foundation where you can find all those who helped with Yves’ creative work. They still feel very close to the designer who passed away only five years ago. I realized from the documentaries I saw that there was a family-like atmosphere in the Saint Laurent house. Naturally, I wished to meet each and every one of them. Even though that haute-couture house was already an industry back then, they developed a team spirit. It is a key element as it echoes back to the love story between Yves and Pierre in that it is at once highly private and public. Both aspects are inseparable, like in a theater company. I wanted all that to come across in the film, and so I had to experience it myself first.”

Of course, the costume design was paramount to the film and Lespert admits there was twice as much work on the costume design than on a regular film. For Lespert, and costume designer Madeline Fontaine, the costumes couldn’t be reproductions. “First of all, we had to design the period costumes that were supposed to help recreate the period and reflect the changing trends in fashion over those twenty years,” said Lespert. “Then, we had to do some research and make clever decisions about some of Saint Laurent’s key collections. We had the support of Pierre Bergé and the Foundation, and so we were lucky enough to be able to use original costumes. Because, for the Foundation, making reproductions of those costumes was simply not an option, especially as several fabrics used by Saint Laurent at the time do not exist any longer.”


Yves Saint Laurent opens June 25 (limited) and wide on August 15, and stars Pierre Niney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon.





—Toni-Marie Ippolito

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