You may know Yves Saint Laurent for his signature Le Smoking suit and for his It bags, but you may not know that his road to fame was far from smooth. “Yves Saint Laurent: Birth of a Legend” is an ongoing exhibition that gives us a glimpse into the tumultuous start to the young designer’s career, after he was unceremoniously fired from his first job at the House of Dior.

The expulsion was so traumatic that there were hospital stints involving sedatives, psychoactive drugs and electroshock therapy. In 1962, he finally got back on his feet, and together with partner Pierre Berge, he launched his eponymous brand as it is known today. As part of this year’s annual Voilah! French Festival, the exhibition features exclusive shots by photographer Pierre Boulat, who was one of the lucky few to witness the intense moments leading up to the launch. “I had the rare privilege of working in the shadow and the mind of a genius whose legend has continued to grow,”says Boulat.

“Yves Saint Laurent: Birth of a Legend” is on at the Alliance Française Gallery from Apr 28 to May 21.