Opium by YSL, smell of another life…

The son of an insurance company manager, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent left home at the age of 17 to work for the French designer Christian Dior… 

After winning first prize in the International Wool Secretariat contest for his cocktail dress design in 1954, Yves Saint Laurent landed the job of Haute Couture designer when Dior died in 1957. In 1960, he was conscripted into the French Army… 


yves saint laurent

In 1962, in the wake of his nervous breakdown, Saint Laurent was released from Dior and started his own label, YSL, financed by his companion, Pierre Bergé. The Rive Gauche boutiques for women were established in 1966, and men’s wear followed in the 1970s… 

When I was reading his History, it seemed like a fairy tales to me… Can you tell me, why there’s a great story behind every great thing??? 

Don’t know why this happens with me… is it my passions about French or truly French stuffs are so artistic… Every time I go though their ways, I feel like somehow I’ve been there…  

Actually, perfumes have seemed to play a secondary role for Yves Saint Laurent. Perfumes have long been the label’s chief sales engine. Yves Saint Laurent Perfumes, under the direction of Sanofi’s CEO Raymond Ortal, produces and markets perfumes, cosmetics, and personal care products under the Saint Laurent name… WOW…. 

Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium and Rive Gauche have long been leaders in the women’s perfumes market; while Jazz, and, in the mid-1990s, Opium pour Homme, have helped the company capture a share of the men’s perfume market as well. The company also produces its own line of lipsticks, eye shadows, and other makeup products, as well as a line of personal care products, such as lotions and cremes. Whereas production and distribution of perfumes and beauty products are the responsibility of Sanofi, Yves Saint Laurent continues to guide the creative development of products bearing his name. The group’s newest perfume and cosmetics line, In Love Again, expected to be launched as a limited edition in 1998. 

Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé


He launched its first women’s perfume, Y in 1964. In 1971, the design house unveiled its Rive Gauche perfume; that same year, Jean Loup Sieff photographed Yves in the nude for the advertising campaign of his first men’s cologne Pour Hommes. 1977 saw the launch of the very popular Opium perfume. Other YSL fragrance offerings include Baby Doll and Cinema perfumes and Young, Sexy Lovely or YSL, a play on the designer’s initials. 

When Opium hit the market in 1977, women bought it by the gallon. Lolz… 

Opium was so much more than a fragrance. It became an identity. Just as Chanel No. 5 showed its wearer as someone elegant and timeless, the woman who wore Opium signaled that her life was rife with exoticism and secrets, even if she lived in a split level in the suburbs. The Yves Saint Laurent marketing machine fueled this image with print advertisements of mostly naked women surrounded by crimson and shadows. 


Maybe the rush toward Opium was a reaction to stagflation and fuel rationing. Maybe it was a response to all the colonial hoo-ha surrounding the Bicentennial. Or maybe it was simply clever marketing. Although Opium stood out among the mid-1970s perfume launches — for instance, the fresh chypre Molyneux Quartz came out the same year, Dana Tabu and Estée Lauder Youth Dew covered the same ground decades before. For whatever reason, Opium was the right fragrance at the right time, and it became a cultural marker… how surprising… 

The Legendary Opium

Even it’s told that “It is forever linked to another life”



  1. April 4, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Lovely blog, Sami! it seems you feel about France the way I feel about Colombia! A bientot! (Sorry, don’t know how to do accents en francais!)

  2. Nikola said,

    April 4, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Hi Sami,
    Wonderful bio on YSL. I love classic perfumes and you touched on my favorite, Chanel No5; such a timeless scent. I’m really looking forward to reading more of your post! – Nikola

    PS Thanks for stopping by!

  3. April 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Hi, Sami! Thanks for visiting my blog! Yours is so fashion-forward — love it! 🙂

    Bon chance with everything! 🙂

    Jelinas (BookBloggyBlogg)

  4. April 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Sami, I’m learning so much from reading your blog! thanks for visiting mine as well….peg

  5. viettravel4u said,

    April 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    wow nice…I liked

  6. fahim said,

    April 5, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Great work…..i like it.

  7. fahim said,

    April 5, 2010 at 1:57 am

    great thoughts

  8. ladyelenauk said,

    April 5, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Interesting Article. I’ve heard of the name but didn’t know any background info about it. Thanks for sharing. Regards.

  9. lighterliz said,

    April 6, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Wow Sami

    Great blog!!! I’ve got a lot to learn.
    Thanks for the visit and comment.
    Keep up the good work!!!

  10. lichanos said,

    April 6, 2010 at 5:36 am

    I was not aware that YSL’s Opium was a “cultural marker.” Is there anything at all distinctive about it? My impression was that it was simply a new twist in marketing, and unusual at the time because haute couture had not yet gotten into the habit of selling their name for everything from car upholstery to sneakers. Maybe I have a bad nose…

  11. mohua said,

    April 6, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    wow……………quite interesting……………..OPIUM by YSL……………..

  12. April 9, 2010 at 5:22 am

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  13. Nandita Ahmed said,

    April 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

    wow..u r sooooo talented Sami…its a beautiful blog

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    September 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

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