In 1970, Yves Saint Laurent designed the first in a series of greeting cards in poster form that he would send his friends, collaborators, and clients annually until 2007.
Every year, Saint Laurent adopted a new color palette and created an image using collage, drawings, and gouache. The leitmotif of every card was the word “LOVE.” Many of the cards were inspired by Morocco, where Saint Laurent frequently created them, but also by Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Andy Warhol, and Henri Matisse.
He did not give these cards during Valentine’s Day, instead, the cards were given as a greeting card for the new year to welcome the year with positivity and radiance.
Saint Laurent’s sacred tradition lasted every year from 1970 to 2007, except for 1978 and 1993 where he referred to the years as “the years without love.” It remains a mystery why the years were seen as gruesome to the French Couturier, those years showed height in the designer’s creativity, in 1978, the designer created spectacular costumes for Jean Cocteau’s play, L’Aigle à deux têtes (The Eagle with Two Heads) and in 1993 the launch of his fragrance “Champagne” was the third best selling fragrance in all Europe.
At the start of 1970, the style began with YSL’s snake motif wrapping around “LOVE,” representing creativity, rebirth, and transformation. Saint Laurent has kept the motif of the brand for countless decades as it was a cherished symbol that recounts Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge’s first arrival to Marrakech in 1966 where their first home was referred to Dar el Hanch, House of the Snake in Morocco.
In 1972, Saint Laurent centered LOVE in a sun linking his happy childhood in Oran to the luminosity of the power of love. “I have such vivid memories of those wonderful days in what was Oran, where I was born. I can see that beautiful city with all races of people together, Algerians, French, Italians, Spanish, leaving their mark of good spirit, cheer, and the craving to live passionately,” Saint Laurent recalls.
As Saint Laurent famously said, “without an elegance of the heart, there is no elegance.” The sentimental gesture of holding a joyous word presents Saint Laurent’s values, memories, and passions in cartes de voeux. Cards are how one expresses a celebration of expression to spark a positive force through a physical message and image where the receiver gets a sense of instant gratification. Saint Laurent embraced the power behind giving a long life line to an object that’s typically forgettable and thrown away. It’s Saint Laurent’s attempt as an artist of many forms by creating a poster-sized greeting card showcasing his understanding of art, history and style. It’s an extension beyond his well-known commercialized artistry in the fashion world.
In the 1980’s, the designer experiments with typography from the Dada movement (1915-1920’s), Saint Laurent looked to Dadaists who would drop random letters, experiment with punctuation, write words horizontally and vertically in a variety of semi-bold type lettering.
1986, Saint Laurent makes his Marrakech Majorelle Jardin fountain his LOVE theme with the cobalt blue and yellow reminiscing his Moroccan villa. The French couturier often invited his muses Loulou de la Falaise, Betty Catroux and other guests at his Villa Oasis.
In 1991, we see Saint Laurent’s play of a mix art influences with the surrealism of Rene Margueritte and P0p Art style of Andy Warhol. The card present’s his pet bulldog Moujik painted by Andy Warhol, what a better way to express of love of man’s best friend? This card is special for its quality in showing a doubling of appreciation by Warhol’s friendship to Saint Laurent and in turn Saint Laurent giving it a new spin with his own card.
“My name will be written in fiery letters on the Champs Elysees.”
– Yves Saint Laurent
The following materials have been used for this post:
Publications of Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent,
Publications of Musée Yves Saint Laurent (Paris),
“INSIDE YVES SAINT LAURENT’S SECRET LOVE LETTERS” article by EMAN ALAMI for CRFASHIONBOOK.COM
“SPECIAL DELIVERY: YVES SAINT LAURENT’S LOVE CARDS” article by LAIRD BORRELLY-PERSSON for VOGUE