Yves Saint Laurent launched his ready-to-wear line and corresponding boutique, both called Rive Gauche, in 1966. Translating to “Left Bank,” the name Rive Gauche indicated the boutique’s location in relation to the Seine river, a part of Paris with a large student population that was known for its Bohemian sensibility. Rive Gauche centered strictly on mass-produced, ready-to-wear clothing, and as such, one might imagine that its offerings were designed to be affordable. Saint Laurent himself proclaimed that Rive Gauche fashions were designed for young women “from 15 to … still young at heart,” but his prices were in fact better suited to wealthier – and somewhat older – women.
This raincoat is one of the earliest Rive Gauche designs. It highlights the playful, vibrant aesthetic that characterized many 1960s creations for the label. Made from bright yellow vinyl with crocheted wool sleeves, it cost $90 U.S. dollars in 1966 (the equivalent of $675 in 2017). Saint Laurent intended his Rive Gauche designs to be more fun than luxurious – but, as the journalist Marilyn Bender wryly observed in her 1967 book The Beautiful People, “Like the goose that lays golden eggs, Saint Laurent has pretty expensive notions of fun.” Nevertheless, Rive Gauche was a great success. Saint Laurent’s designs for the label were widely covered by both the French and American fashion press, and he opened a New York boutique in 1968.
Saint Laurent Rive Gauche raincoat
Gift of Ethel Scull
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968
runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT