by Boots Hart, CAP

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yves St. Laurent: Touching Genius


With a strong creative Leo Sun in the societal 11th house, Yves St. Laurant's eyes were always turned towards the world. Conjunct Deucalion, his Sun defines a life about finding one's way. And yet it's curious, this Sun...positioned by sign in shining strength of rulership yet placed squarely in an undermining position (the Sun is not positioned for strength of will in the 11th house), what does that tell us? Was he his own worse social or societal enemy? Was he entirely 'the light behind the idea'? Or was he a man forced into a societal 11th house mold he couldn't fit, making him either enough 'different' to be ostracized...or perhaps just enough different to have perspective on what could be, and be well received?

In St. Laurent's case, the answer may be all these things. For one, his Sun was also conjunct Athena (or Athene, signifying wisdom) conjunct Juno, guiding leadership. So his intelligence, insight and drive were pronounced. And yet perhaps at times, too pronounced.

Another indicator we have of where he would end up is his highly worldly Pisces Saturn; potently placed just below the Descendant, St. Laurent's Saturn pictures someone capable of a career which in 'feeling' the pulse of others (or the world) becomes embodied. And maybe entirely rejected, exacerbating the vulnerability of Pisces in a symbol which might otherwise denote a talent for connecting with others and the public.

Yves St. Laurent
August 1, 1936 - Oran, Algeria

This Saturn also rules Yves St. Laurent's 16 Capricorn Moon, a Moon which stands conjunct charismatic Vega in the 4th house. Taken together, this quartet of symbols (Sun, Saturn, Moon-Vega) describes the man as capable of highly successful Capricorn business enterprises  once St. Laurent could stand for his Moon (et all - including a Moon/Neptune trine) as an asset for reaching out to a reach the mass (4th house) market.

And this, St. Laurent certainly did. When in 1966 a lot of big design houses were thinking of going mass-market (aka ready-to-wear...or in French, 'pret-a-porter')...YSL was first out of the gate. His Rive Gauche store opened in Paris on September 26, 1966 as Pluto (transformation) connected with his nurturing Ceres, which natally placed in Scorpio gave him a knack for knowing where the public values live.

It was a marriage made in heaven. By the time fashion house YSL was sold in 1993, its price was $600,000,000. And that's a lot of connecting with the public!

But Laurent's life was not one without pain. Far from it. Before he learned to use his chart he was a classic example of one who is as if used by the energies depicted in his chart. Many people walk that road; YSL was one of them.

The story of St. Laurent's ascent to fashion fame begins in Algeria where he was born, and to which he would eventually return to live once fashionably well funded. As with all of us, Laurent's home, homeland, family heritage and end-of-life matters are associated first and last with the 4th house - which as we saw contains YSL's Moon.

As for the Moon's trine to a 12th house Neptune, that speaks of his homeland as inspiration. It also is an astrological validation of life-long talent and his homosexual orientation. It suggests that ultimately, royalties could well play a fortunate part in amassing a personal fortune.

It also speaks to drugs and insecurity and emotional instability.

Coming into 1953, change-inciting Uranus provided an oppositional, confronting motivation to that Moon. And it did so as Chiron (the need to do) was just conjuncting (providing impetus to) that Moon as well.

And all this took place as a Lunar Eclipse (the emotional spotlight) lit up YSL's highly societal, creative and contributing 11th house Leo Sun-Juno-Athena-Deucalion complex.

So what did YSL do? A young St. Laurent entered a young fashion designer's competition in Paris. And he placed third. Then, while in Paris to attend the ceremonies awarding winners he met Michel de Brunhoff, the editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue.

Advised to undertake formal training, St. Laurent enrolled at the prestigous Chambre Syndicat de la Couture. But it wasn't a good fit. Undaunted, YSL entered the next round of the young fashion designer competition...and this time he won, defeating (among others) none less than a German fashion student by the name of Karl Lagerfeld.

It's a small and very fashionable world.

Evidently encouraged by his feat and probably totally unaware of who Karl Lagerfeld would eventually be, St. Laurent took his winning self (and some sketches) off to visit Brunhoff at Vogue. And there, fortune and trial came to him all in one: Brunhoff, having just that morning been shown sketches with the same sort of theme by none other than Christian Dior, sensed a match.

YSL's drawings thus went over to Dior and St. Laurent was (voila!) in the door. In fact, he wasn't just in the door...he was about to be made head designer for the entire House of Dior.

Yves St. Laurent

Yet apparently it was just too much, too soon. There were a quartet of transits moving over his chart at the time...Saturn was trining Juno, providing the effortless (trine) connection between career (Saturn) and expressive, creative leadership (Juno); there was Chiron provoking that creative Juno to do something to prove that YSL was indeed worthy of the big break and capable of handling the enormous creative challenge of serving as head designer at Dior.

There was Jupiter - the opportunity - squaring the always societal Nodes speaking of the chance and the need St. Laurent felt to set the world afire and on its ear at the same time! And then there was Uranus, symbols of breakthroughs and change, anarchy and innovation all hooked in by pulsating trine with Eris, goddess symbol of discord.

The combination was indeed all about changing society or being changed by society.

But he was still so young. And with Juno coming from the societal/marketplace Juno, Saturn trine Juno can easily become a rejection of what may be valid creative efforts. And Chiron opposition Juno is easily seen as the enormity of the strain which the 21-year old YSL must have been under as the untested, unseasoned and still fairly innocent head of a major fashion house.

Given YSL's South Node being conjunct Chaldea (the old way) and Niobe (pride), that Jupiter square the Nodes thing was definitely YSL wanting to blow  everyone's socks (or stockings) off with his innovative flair. But would it work? With his natal Jupiter conjunct Kassandra (not being believed) in the not-always-so-friendly-to-Jupiter 3rd house, and Mnemosyne (memory) and Scheherazade (exotic tales) along as accessories complimenting the look of things, YSL could always be seen as the inspiration or the over-the-top 'who would wear that?' sort of designer.

And considering this was Paris in days before fashion had any real sense of mass market at all (it was couture or nothing back then), it was just as likely that his work would be greeted with a 'why do you think we need anything new?' and a hearty 'how dare you, a mere young whippersnapper, think that you can tell us what to wear?'

So would it be fame and public acclaim - or a thorough public trashing? Given the final note on this quartet of transits comes from Uranus/Eris (a whole lot of change-rebellion in one package!) we could be rightly skeptical. (And maybe a bit queasy for our hero-in-fashion-waiting.) With YSL's Uranus colored by the Taurean sense of values in an interactive 8th house where values becomes what's valuable, though the trine to Eris certainly signified his vaulting to the head design position at Dior out of "nowhere" it would also be his coming in with an abrasive suddenness.

So with the good indeed came the bad. YSL became head designer at Dior and just as promptly had his first collections torn apart at the seams by the dismally  unforgiving Paris fashion press and a public wholly inclined to go along with public shaming.

And we're not just talking one collection here. St. Laurent might have weathered that. But after a pair of years in which collection after collection went up in fashionable Neptune began a not three but five-time transit by challenging, dissolving, disillusioning, weakening square to YSL's Sun, the man's confidence, will, self worth and identity crumbled and totally collapse.

YSL caved - not just as a designer, but as a person. And though he didn't go off and join the Foreign Legion (maybe in coming from Algeria he knew better than that) he did consign himself to becoming a conscript in the French national Army.

That lasted 20 days. Hazed and harassed beyond tolerance, St. Laurent broke under the additional stress and ended up in the military hospital....where he got the news that Dior had fired him.

This is all very in line with and indicative of YSL's Uranus. In a challenging natal square to his Sun in the house of values/being valued, Uranus was at this moment bringing its 'innovate-or-disrupt' energy to bear on St. Laurent's Leo-creative Mercury thought processes ...and YSL's Leo Venus, symbolic of how highly creative he was (on one side) and yet how fused his creative drive and reception by others was to his own self worth.

A dangerous game, you say - hooking self worth to creative success? Maybe so. But some people are just made that way.

At the time where was also that Uranus was also performing an inescapable trine to YSL's Sedna (individuation through maturation). And that may be the final signal we need: what maturity he had crumbled, telling us he had not yet developed sufficient maturity - no matter his age - to withstand what was handed him.

So Yves St. Laurent apparently lost it. That 'losing' part is indicated by two things, the first been Saturn hitting his Moon - a classic signature of 'loss' and often enough, depression. But as this was happening, there was another circuit activated, too. Neptune, the classic 'is it fantasy? Illusion? Inspiration? Ideal? Delusion?' opposing that worth-to-self/worth-to-others Uranus' natal position.

It was literally a bit much. And once Neptune entered the picture the walls, the resistance, his persistence... everything dissolved, including in all likelihood YSL's personal conception of himself. And as that happened, the worldly agents of the moment (the medical staff at Val-de-Grace mental hospital) took up the other side of this whole Neptunian affair, administering courses of sedatives, psycho-active drugs and electro-therapy.

So what YSL didn't lose in one manner became lost to him in another.

As the transits ended, so did St. Laurent stay at Val-de-Grace, though he would continue to site what happened there when fighting through the periodic bouts of mental instability and drug use for the rest of his life. Addictions of various kinds often being seen in connections between Saturn and Neptune, the natal opposition from Saturn as a structural/limiting factor in the house of health posed against Neptune in a weak Neptunian sign (Virgo) but a strong Neptunian house (the 12th) recalls the 'undermining' quality of YSL's Sun. And that the 12th is the house of hospitals and incarceration certainly fits.

But were his mental issues entirely due to hospital treatment? Maybe not; the overly vivid Neptune/Jupiter natal square combined with the boundless emotionality of the Neptune/Moon trine plus possibilities beyond knowing (or maybe sorting) represented by YSL's natal Mercury/Jupiter trine says a lot. As does the fact that the Jupiter which figures so prominently in the 'thought process' third house is itself described by Kassandra -  lack of belief/believability, Mnemosyne (memory) and story teller Scheherazade.

So is it real - or is is Mnemosyne or Scheherazade?

This is the question in some ways - and also an astrological mouthful. And it says many things, among which is that St. Laurent was a mental  work-a-holic who never conceived of the need or ability to stop. Virtually haunted by his creative drive and need to contribute, this was a man who was under the illusion life would crumple if he did stop. And if not life itself, his life for sure. YSL's Neptune natally in an 'ego bruising' semi-sextile to his somewhat (!!) egocentric Mercury with its highly expansive natal trine to Jupiter suggests a need to excel, a need to be 'with it' and a driving force within 'it' (life). There's a bit (?) of grandiose thinking - and yet incredible perception.

It all adds up to a man with a disinclination to recognize limits, splendor of visionary ability and yet an inability to deal with certain realities. Which obviously so far had played against him.

Yet this moment in time may have also marked St. Laurent's metaphorical 'hitting bottom' since once out of Val-de-Grace he never looked back (success-wise). The first thing he did was sue Dior for breach of contract and win. With that under his belt, he teamed up with lover/industrialist Pierre Berge and Atlanta millionaire J Mack Robinson in the founding of his own fashion house.

The Uranus innovate-or-disrupt energy which had marked life's erratic moments in how his values were valued by others he now took in hand. It was the classic astrological turnaround. What had been an energy of rejection he flipped and by updating the known and quirking it just a bit he turned into genius. And from that he not only got wealth and acceptance, but the ultimate Uranian reward: freedom of expression.

It's a huge demonstration of how Aquarian Uranus really is. Yes, you can innovate, but you have to start with  knowns and things which are accepted and understood. That's where you start - that's the Saturn part of Aquarius. And from innovate.

In YSL's case, one of his great forms of fashion innovation was being at the forefront of ready-to-wear in a day when there really was couture and everything else.

For him, it was the democratization of fashion (speaking of Uranus and freedom) and he was certainly on trend. It was the protesting mid-60's when his Rive Gauge shop opened. Pluto Transformer had just moved across natal Neptune (sealing away its past function) and was opening the sextile door of opportunity to St. Laurent's nurturing, people-public-popular taste friendly Ceres.

He wasn't hesitant to walk through. And well he shouldn't have been as Saturn, symbol of career and achievement was at that time making its return to natal position and moving on into the 7th house of 'delivering to the audience.'

And was he ready to deliver or what? From then on, St. Laurent had triumph after triumph, giving to pop fashion culture a diverse collection of lasting images still worn today. The safari jacket - his. The thigh high boot - totally YSL. Tight pants for the ladies (where would men be without them?) and even the famous 'Le Smoking Suit' - the ladies' svelte tuxedo? Pure St. Laurent.

And it wasn't just the clothes. St. Laurent was the first to use black models on the runway. He was the first to use Asian and Pacific island models too. He was one of the first truly modern-minded designers who believed in the individual validity of individual style.

In 1977 came the release of Opium, one of the world's (and this writer's) most opulently treasured scents. Its release came when transformative Pluto and ego-subduing Neptune were in perfect sextile and both focused on YSL's Jupiter-Kassandra-Mnemosyne-Scheherazade.

Here we see transformation (Pluto) and connection to the common chord (Neptune) at their best, eliciting Neptune's mysterious, inspirational and seductive fantasy side through Kassandra as the quintessential 'leave reality behind' which when combined with Scheherazade's exotic story telling quality and Mnemosyne as marker of something very 'memorable' allows even YSL's effusive 3rd house Sagittarian Jupiter to express itself in massive marketplace success.

Ultimately, Yves St. Laurent became the first living designer to be honored by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition in 1983 - reflecting a Solar Eclipse on his Midheaven (achievements, position in society) in combination with his service to and in this world (Vesta) and that difficult if magical symbol we know as Chiron which is all about doing what needs doing - yes, even when we don't know how, or even precisely what the goal is or may be.

Yves St. Laurent had reached that unknown goal - and then some.

When brain cancer took St. Laurent from us on June 1, 2008, his driving creative symbol - Juno - was conjuncting his natal Jupiter. Considering how many people pass when transiting Jupiter aspects their natal Jupiter position, this seems altogether rather fitting.

After all, YSL was nothing if not an innovator. Remember...? His was the genius to take something quite known and accepted...then he'd put his own twist on it.

Like I said...Juno/Jupiter? It's perfect!

Today would have been Yves St. Laurent's 74th birthday. So go something fashionable - and maybe just a little quirky-creative. Maybe the world will thank you for it.

Or maybe you'll just feel a bit freer and more realized as the person you actually are.

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