How YSL Rebounded From the Shock of ‘Scandal’

Yves Saint-Laurent.
Yves Saint-Laurent. Photo: Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos

After Yves Saint Laurent showed his 1940s-themed spring 1971 collection, widely known as the “Scandal Collection” or “Liberation,” journalist Eugenia Sheppard wrote that it was “the ugliest show in town.” The months that followed were full of harsh criticism, but Yves prevailed, and his use of a retro silhouette would soon be seen for the innovation it was. He followed “Scandal” with more controversial moves. He launched his Opium perfume in 1977 (he was accused of glamorizing the drug); he posed nude for his men’s fragrance ad campaign; and he continued to push the boundaries on the runway with his now iconic silhouettes and styles, like le smoking. The aftershock of “Scandal” may have been considerable, but it was his knack for injecting shock value into almost everything he did that ended up defining his career.