Yves Saint Laurent

By
Photography Francesco Scavullo

Published August 3, 2011

BIANCA JAGGER: What is on our mind, Yves?

YVES SAINT LAURENT: Many things…

JAGGER: Always pretty.

SAINT LAURENT: I can’t say.

JAGGER: Do you think you can speak in front of this machine? It’s not really the right time.

SAINT LAURENT: [In English] I would like to be sit…

JAGGER: [In English] There—Voila, that’s a perfect place. Monsieur Saint Laurent… (She laughs.)

SAINT LAURENT: Mrs. J. [They both laugh]JAGGER: Why have you chosen women as your inspiration? [In English:] To find something new? Do you find in your work that women have disappointed you?

SAINT LAURENT: Disappointed? No, not at all. Certainly not. Definitely not.

JAGGER: Do you feel that you can give everything you want to?

SAINT LAURENT: With women?

JAGGER: Aren’t there any women beyond your fantasy and imagination?

SAINT LAURENT: No, not at all. Because I don’t at all search for an ideal woman, but several ideal women.

JAGGER: Several ideal women?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, each model I have represents a type of ideal women to me.

JAGGER: But the epitome… A few women…

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, in a certain sense… Why so few women?

JAGGER: No, these few women.

SAINT LAURENT: Few? Why I know at least six. [They laugh.]JAGGER: At least! If you weren’t a fashion designer what would you do?

SAINT LAURENT: Live.

JAGGER: Have the people you’ve gotten emotionally close to influenced your creations?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, a lot.

JAGGER: Yes? Your vision of woman?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, absolutely. Completely transformed be certain women I have known, certain friends… For example, when I knew Thalita Getty—Thalita—You know her?

JAGGER: Yes.

SAINT LAURENT: …my vision completely changed.

JAGGER: Your idea of woman?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, absolutely.

JAGGER: And men, do they have any influence on your work?

SAINT LAURENT: Absolutely not at all.

JAGGER: Not at all?

SAINT LAURENT: Absolutely not.

JAGGER: Absolutely not! But from time to time in your life there have been women who have become your… your… your ideal and inspiration.

SAINT LAURENT: Ah, yes, absolutely. There are women who have completely transformed my view of fashion and if I hadn’t shown them I would never have arrived at this point in fashion, you see.

JAGGER: What do you do if you find that you must design something for a woman without any beauty of face or form?

SAINT LAURENT: I try not to put myself in that situation, poor things. I try to only be in agreeable circumstances.

JAGGER: Do you have a definite view of men and women, of two sexes, or are the two variations of one, or is it something ambiguous—Woman?

SAINT LAURENT: Why are you always asking me about women? Because I’m a couturier?

JAGGER: No, it’s not a question of women, it’s more general: you have people, you define them…

SAINT LAURENT: No.

JAGGER: No?

SAINT LAURENT: No, not at all.

JAGGER: That’s what I was saying…

SAINT LAURENT: No, absolutely not. No, for me they are human beings, that’s all. I love them, I am attracted to them, physically, or psychically, or morally… Classification isn’t part of it.

JAGGER: Do you like daring people?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, sure.

JAGGER: What about people who talk about fashion?

SAINT LAURENT: Oh, yes. I detest that. I detest fashion ultimately. I adore clothes but I hate fashion.

JAGGER: And talking about it?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes. [They laugh.]JAGGER: I’ll think of something else to ask you about. I like you because you have an extraordinary sensitivity…

SAINT LAURENT: Yes.

JAGGER: … And because you are one of those rare creatures always searching for beauty in the things you do.

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, that’s what I’m always looking for. I’m an aesthete.

JAGGER: You are always looking for perfection—are you aware of that?

SAINT LAURENT: Absolutely, I can’t avoid it. I’m constantly looking for perfection.

JAGGER: What have you been most deceived by?

SAINT LAURENT: I’m not deceived by people because I don’t pay attention to people.

JAGGER: Aren’t there qualities you look for in people?

SAINT LAURENT: No, because ultimately the qualities I see in people are what I perceive them to be. It is my vision of people that counts. It’s all projection. If I am deceived its my own doing. What interests me is my vision of others.

JAGGER: One of the things I admire most about you is that you always give credit to people.

SAINT LAURENT: I am for all the people I’m in contact with.

JAGGER: What do you think of Erte?

SAINT LAURENT: Oh, I adore him. I think he’s marvelous. I feel very close to him. I have no jealousies.

JAGGER: I know. That’s one of the things I admire about you.

SAINT LAURENT: I’m very sure of myself—what I do and what I like.

JAGGER: That’s a rare quality in your world, fashion, where people are so unsure and intriguing. 

SAINT LAURENT: You know me very well. [Laughs.]JAGGER: I’ve got a good eye. I’ve seen that you would like to be above merely material things. You live in a bit of a dream world.

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, possibly. Yes, certainly. I’d really like to be in closer contact with life. I’m a little too distant, I guess. I like to place myself outside.

JAGGER: Has there been a woman or women in your life that you’ve been truly in love with?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, one or two.

JAGGER: What did they represent to you?

SAINT LAURENT: They didn’t represent anything aesthetic. They weren’t muses at all. It was for me a completely new sentiment. It had nothing to do with fashion.

JAGGER: It didn’t enhance your creative life?

SAINT LAURENT: No. I couldn’t love a woman who inspired me to be totally disinterested. If I fell in love with a woman for an artistic reason, or from the point of view of my work, I think it would rob her of something.

JAGGER: What do you think of this country? America?

SAINT LAURENT: I adore America. It’s an extraordinary country. A new country.

JAGGER: You don’t feel out of it here?

SAINT LAURENT: No, do you?

JAGGER: Well, I’m a bit…

SAINT LAURENT: I love the contact with the people at home. I’m so secluded. Very alone.

JAGGER: I like America very much but I feel very surprised—everyone seems to be social-climbing.

SAINT LAURENT: But people are like that everywhere. There are some extraordinary people here.

JAGGER: There are many creative people here because of competition.

SAINT LAURENT: People seem closer here. You have to have an extraordinary rapport—intimacy, really.

JAGGER: You like that?

SAINT LAURENT: Oh, yes—‘cause I’m very timid.

JAGGER: I’m always a bit disarmed with a too rapid rapport. However with people in any country, when I really like them it’s instant. When I don’t know if I’m going to like them I’m disarmed if it’s too sudden.

SAINT LAURENT: It depends on circumstance. In one’s work it’s nice to see people already biased in your favor.

JAGGER: But you must be used to that.

SAINT LAURENT: Yes. [They both laugh.]JAGGER: Aren’t you a bit annoyed when women make themselves too available to you?

SAINT LAURENT: On the contrary, I adore it.

JAGGER: Not embarrassing?

SAINT LAURENT: No.

JAGGER: Does the fact of giving revolutionized fashion and having arrived at the summit at such a young age upset you?

SAINT LAURENT: Possibly—I would surely have liked to know other things, more interesting, more real, less superficial…

JAGGER: Yes, and after this, what would you like to do?

SAINT LAURENT: Afterwards? I would like… I would very much like to write. I would very much like to write a book…. A very, very beautiful book that would be a summation of everything I love, of all my thoughts about life, women, men, beauty…. It would be a memoir… but I don’t have the patience right now to write it. I’m waiting ‘til I have time

JAGGER: You should do it now.

SAINT LAURENT: I can make notes.

JAGGER: Are you always making notes? Tapes every night?

SAINT LAURENT: I’m a little like that—although I do it in a different way.

JAGGER: I’ve seen some extraordinary drawings you’ve done. Do you have any plans to publish them?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, definitely.

JAGGER: When?

SAINT LAURENT: I’ve no idea whatsoever.

JAGGER: You want to publish a book…

SAINT LAURENT: In any case I haven’t enough things yet, but I want very much to publish this book. It’s difficult. I don’t quite know what to do because, you’ve seen it, it’s very erotic.

JAGGER: But you who have dared to do so much should dare to do this—beauty is beauty.

SAINT LAURENT: Sure [Laughs.]

JAGGER: Is there… Who is the person in your life who most impressed you? Whom you found most striking?

SAINT LAURENT: In my life?

JAGGER: Yes.

SAINT LAURENT: That’s too difficult, I can’t….

JAGGER: Artistically, for example…

SAINT LAURENT: Who most impressed me? There are many… But I think, finally, one learns most from oneself, from personal experience

JAGGER: But you don’t think there is someone about whom you could say, “I got a lot from him”?

SAINT LAURENT: Artistically… When I started I was very young… I started with Christian Dior. He taught me the business, a way of seeing fabric… Yes, there are things one learns from others. I don’t think one can be alone, always alone; I mean in one’s field, it’s not possible.

JAGGER: I’ve noticed that you’re always in touch with things, you’re always observant

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, that’s very important in my business; the life of women that I dress that is, I always demand the lives of my models.

JAGGER: The trouble with most designers…

SAINT LAURENT: …is that they have an idea of women that they try to impose on them. I can all of a sudden forget the idea I’m working on when confronted with the body of the woman I’m dressing.

JAGGER: What’s good about you is that you have an understanding of the people, of the women, for whom you’re making something: ‘a meeting of minds.’

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, I must have that to be able to work. I’m very unhappy when I sense that I’m confronted with a woman who is not responsive to me.

JAGGER: Responds to what you want?

SAINT LAURENT: Rather what she wants of me.

JAGGER: Did you ever want to be an actor, for example?

SAINT LAURENT: Yes, I’d very much like to be an actor. I’m too timid.

JAGGER: [Laughs.] In one of Andy’s films?

SAINT LAURENT: Why not?

JAGGER: I think you should be an actor.

SAINT LAURENT: I could be, I don’t know, I’d love to act.

JAGGER: What the name of the movie you saw that you like the most in New York? What can you say about that movie?

SAINT LAURENT: Which movie? [Giggles.]JAGGER: BIJOU.

SAINT LAURENT: [In English] ‘Jewel.’ [Laughs.]JAGGER: Do you like erotic things?

SAINT LAURENT: Oh yes, absolutely. It’s one of the motors of emotional life in people.

JAGGER: Pornography—does is excite you?

SAINT LAURENT: (Sigh.) Pornography? I don’t know what that is. Pornography, eroticism, love, it’s all the same to me.

JAGGER: I think it’s eroticism as long as it’s beautiful; when it ceases to be beautiful, it’s pornography.

SAINT LAURENT: I don’t much draw a distinction. I don’t know to what we could apply that—in love all is possible.

JAGGER: Not really. I’m not all that much for beauty.

SAINT LAURENT: I mean things can be done beautifully or not.

JAGGER: Sure. It depends on who it is.

SAINT LAURENT: It’s what the people project.

JAGGER: Yes. I don’t care much for the distinction people draw between eroticism and pornography.

SAINT LAURENT: But there is no difference. It’s a question of beauty.

JAGGER: Exactly. It’s a question of degrees in relations between people in physical relations.

SAINT LAURENT: Is physicality very important to you?

JAGGER: I think all human life is dependant on this contact between people.

SAINT LAURENT: The primary importance is on the physical, not the visual.

JAGGER: Physical yes.

SAINT LAURENT: Are there any other questions?

JAGGER: I think you were marvelous. [In English:] Yes, marvelous, you’re the new Louella Parsons.

SAINT LAURENT: Do you have anything to add?

JAGGER: Yes, that you should continue to interview me.

SAINT LAURENT: [Bianca goes to phone. Yves continues in English:] She’s a fantastic journalist.

ANDY WARHOL: Oh really?

SAINT LAURENT: The best interview I’ve ever had.

JAGGER: Sheer poetry. That guy is completely disarming.

SAINT LAURENT: Who was it—Mick?

JAGGER: Yes, when I think he no longer loves me he says, “I love you.”

SAINT LAURENT: Isn’t that the truth; people are boring when we’re sure of them. Do you really think it’s boring?

JAGGER: Not always. Sometimes I like reassurance; I’m childish.

SAINT LAURENT: What are you looking for—your fur?

JAGGER: My pussy.