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Legendary Designer Yves Saint Laurent Dies In Paris at Age 71
Yves Saint Laurent (detail), Photo by André Rau, Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent.

PARIS.- Legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, 71, died Sunday evening in Paris. Longtime friend and associate Pierre Bergé, stated Yves Saint Laurent died at his Paris home after a long illness. Yves Saint Laurent was part of a generation of designers, together with Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, that made Paris the capital of fashion. Saint Laurent created instant classics, such as the first YSL tuxedo, trim pantsuits, see-through blouses that still remain stylish.

Pierre Bergé said Yves Saint Laurent was the man who marked "the second half of the 20th century" in fashion. He continued, “Chanel gave women freedom" in the first half, and Saint Laurent "gave them power. Saint Laurent was a ‘true creator,’ going beyond the aesthetic to make a social statement, Berge said. In this sense he was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society. That's how he transformed society and that's how he transformed women."

Yves Saint Laurent is famed for revolutionizing the haute-couture tradition and laying the foundations of modern women’s wear. The wardrobe basics that he designed – pantsuit, culotte skirt, pea coat, blazer, safari jacket and tuxedo ­– shone with his innovative style and became true timeless classics. His designs were equally remarkable, reflecting wide-ranging sources of inspiration. In Saint Laurent’s stylistic vocabulary, music, art, performance, literature and impressions of far-off places were just as important as the new shapes he introduced.

In 2002 Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement at age 65. Born in 1936, Yves Saint Laurent spent his childhood in Algeria. Moving to Paris in 1954 to take design courses at the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, he caught the eye of Christian Dior and was hired as his assistant the following year. At the age of twenty-one, he took the reins of the House of Dior after the master’s sudden death in 1957 and swiftly rose to triumphant fame with his Trapeze line.

In 1958, he met Pierre Bergé, then a theatre director and stage producer, who went on to manage his career. With Bergé’s help, Saint Laurent founded his own maison de haute couture. On January 29, 1962, he unveiled his first collection under the Yves Saint Laurentlabel, an array of dazzling creations stamped with the inimitable style for which he will always be known. Pioneering the couturier move into the ready-to-wear market, Saint Laurent also designed costumes and sets for such famous ballets and plays as Cyrano de Bergerac (1959) and The Marriage of Figaro (1964), and for films including The Pink Panther (1963) and Stavisky (1974). He also dressed a number of actresses, the most famous being Catherine Deneuve.

On January 7, 2002, Yves Saint Laurent announced to the press his retirement and the closure of his maison de haute couture. On January 22, a crowd of 2,000 admirers from around the world gathered to celebrate his career at a valedictory fashion show staged in Paris. Since stepping down, he has worked with Pierre Bergé managing the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, which holds a remarkable collection of more than 5,000 ensembles and 15,000 objects that trace the history of the House of Yves Saint Laurent. Yves Saint Laurent not only transformed the world of women’s fashion, but is also the first living haute-couture designer to be honoured by a museum.

In 1983, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the very first exhibition on Yves Saint Laurent, which later travelled to Beijing, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Paris, Sydney and Tokyo. In 1985, he was awarded the “Oscar du plus grand couturier” at the Paris Opera House for lifetime achievement in fashion. On thusday May, 29, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts inaugurated an exhibit dedicated to the designs of this modern master.

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