Godfather of haute couture dead at 71

Chetna Bhaskar June 2, 2008
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Yves Saint Laurent, the iconic fashion designer, died last night at his home in Paris. He was 71.

Saint Laurent was one of the greatest French couturiers of the 20th century, often dubbed the godfather of haute couture.

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria, on August 1 1936.

He came to Paris aged 17 and just four years later was heading the house of Dior.

He later started his own internationally-renowned label YSL.

His admirers claim Saint Laurent was the zeitgeist of modern fashion, making the modern woman what she is today, dressing her in modern silhouettes, and revolutionising avant grade fashion.

The Independent wrote in an editorial after Saint Laurent’s retirement:

“By putting a woman in a man’s tuxedo, he changed fashion forever, in a style that never dated.”

One of the most influential couturiers of the last century, Saint Laurent’s best known creation was the 1966 women’s tuxedo pant suit, “Le Smoking”, which combined traditional masculine tailoring with a feminine silhouette.

He dressed the likes of Paloma Picasso, Lauren Bacall, and Blanca Jagger and Marella Agnelli.

Yves Saint Laurent’s career, like all others, had his fair share of controversy.

In 1971, he appeared nude in an advertisement for his men’s cologne YSL, and then again with the launch of his perfume called “Opium”, which  brought accusations that he was  glamorising drug use.

Though Saint Laurent ruled the fashion world, he kept a low profile when it came to matters close to his heart.

In 1991 Saint Laurent came out publicly as gay in an interview for the French daily newspaper Le Figaro.

When the designer announced his retirement in 2002 at age 65, and the closure of the Paris haute couture house he had founded 40 years earlier, it was mourned in the fashion world

As Pierre Berge, Yves Saint Laurent’s lover, companion and business partner, said:

“Haute couture would die after the retirement of Yves Saint Laurent.”

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