Bookbinding with… Yves Saint Laurent

An idea, a scent

I had wanted to make a crossed structure book since I bought this book with a beautiful blue one on the cover some years back.


I finally made one the other day. But as I was putting together the two interlocking, finger-like pieces of paper for the cover, I had another idea: How about reproducing the design of Yves Saint Laurent’s famous perfume Rive Gauche?

The perfume’s “stripey” modernist design would be perfect for crossed structure binding.

And the unusual colour combination would be a good challenge.


But I was also curious about the history of this unusual design — why, for example, is it so cold, abstract and hard-edged?

What happened to romance, joy and sensuality — the usual qualities associated with fragrances?

Then I discovered the idea behind the Rive Gauche brand.

A new attitude

Like so many of his ideas at the time, YSL’s Rive Gauche line of clothes and products reflected a new ideal for womanhood: A break from tradition, assertiveness, independence, control.

The expectation-defying design of the Rive Gauche perfume is a product of the same philosophy.

Perhaps the blue, silver and black bands can be thought of as legs.

Why, just a few years earlier, YSL had shocked and awed the world with his pantsuits, tuxedo, trousers – a breakthrough that gave pants a respectability and glamour it never had in womenswear.

To approximate the blue-band look for my crossed structure book, I bought blue and silver cards from Fancy Paper on North Bridge Road here in Singapore and some black ribbons from Chinatown.


Rive Gauche the brand

But first, some history.

Rive Gauche the perfume debuted in 1971, proclaiming itself a scent “for the unpredictable women”.


Flirty or serious, the Rive Gauche woman is in control.

Earlier in 1966, YSL had launched Rive Gauche as a new line of ready-to-wear with its own boutique on rue de Tournon.


Rive Gauche (Left Bank) — the artistic and intellectual heart of Paris of the early 20th century — was then the epicentre of youth culture.

Rive Gauche gave YSL the opportunity to design with unbridled imagination for the younger, working woman who sees herself as a free, liberated spirit.

Like Rive Gauche the clothes, Rive Gauche the perfume also broke new ground.

It was the first to be housed in an aluminium tube instead of a glass flacon, thanks to the ingenuity of perfume bottle designer Pierre Dinand.

In his book Perfumes: The A–Z guide (2008), perfume critic Luca Turin remarked that “the beautiful light-proof metal atomiser is the best possible container for long-term conservation”.

He also said Rive Gauche was “probably the best floral aldehydic of all time” and gave it five stars — and a place among his top ten women’s perfume.

Top 10 perfume

The Rive Gauche perfume was an instant hit.

To get an idea of how the scent was marketed, take a look at this commercial.

Definitely “not for the unassuming woman”.

And in the American version, the Rive Gauche woman is in the driver’s seat, alone, speeding towards the sunset. As she spritzes indulgently, the chorus explains, “The girl’s so contemporary, she’s having too much fun to marry.”

Make the book

Back to bookbinding. Crossed structure books demand great precision when cutting the interlocking covers.

I also had to be extra careful when working with silver cards, because they scratch and dent so easily.

First attempt here with a black grosgrain ribbon.


Some notes, some ideas.


Let’s get going.


Find a way to tuck everything in.


OK — but there’s room for improvement.

After making the first book, I wanted to make another using a silver card with a mirror finish.

And a lighter, more faithful shade of blue, the same shade that Meryl Streep chastised Anne Hathaway about in > this scene < from the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006) — cerulean blue. (No, YSL never did military jackets in cerulean blue. It was this perfume called Rive Gauche.)


Stitching one of the covers on and fastening the black ribbon.


The right blue — cerulean blue.




Fashion and art

To be sure, YSL also borrowed heavily from famous paintings and art.

In the book Yves Saint Laurent (2010) that accompanied YSL’s first retrospective exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris, you can see various references:


Model Carla Bruni wears a YSL wedding dress with doves by Cubist artist George Braque. There is also a dove hat that she is not wearing.


Van Gogh in sequins.


Colour blocks for shift dresses — homage to modernist painters Serge Poliakoff (left) and Piet Mondrian.

Here’s my bookbinding tribute to YSL:


A tribute to Yves Saint Laurent — blue card, silver card and black velvet ribbon.

Last time I looked, the Rive Gauche perfume is still available, retailing at S$110.10 (US$79) at Singapore Changi Airport. Expensive? “Not as expensive as Chanel,” said the sales girl. 



Back to homepage.


One thought on “Bookbinding with… Yves Saint Laurent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s