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Yves Saint Laurent, fashion legend, dies


June 2, 2008/0.13

Yves Saint Laurent, arguably the world’s most famous fashion designer, has died in Paris on Sunday, 11.10 p.m. local time, aged 71, according to the Pierre Bergé–Saint Laurent Foundation.
   Born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent in Oran, Algeria on August 1, 1936, he had a childhood fascination for clothes, often teased and bullied for them at school. By his teens he was already designing for his sister and mother, with the clothes made up by a local dressmaker.
   He arrived in Paris in 1953 with a portfolio of sketches and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. Michel de Brunhoff, the editor of Vogue Paris, published them.
   In 1954, Saint Laurent won three of the four categories in a design competition—the fourth went to Karl Lagerfeld. It was on this, and the persuasion of de Brunhoff, that Christian Dior hired Saint Laurent.
   When Dior died in 1957, Saint Laurent, 21, was the obvious successor, creating the trapeze look in the 1958, but he was drafted in 1960 to fight in the Algerian War of Independence.
   There was a rumour that Dior owner Marcel Boussac had thought so ill of one of Saint Laurent’s collections that he arranged the conscription.
   However, after 20 days Saint Laurent suffered a nervous breakdown in the army, and was incarcerated in a military hospital. He was rescued by Pierre Bergé, an art dealer who had fallen in love with him, who persuaded the military command to release the designer.
   On his return, Bergé tried to have Saint Laurent reinstated at Dior, but the house refused. They successfully sued for breach of contract.
   Saint Laurent started his own label along with some of the Dior staff, at a time when Paris was hungry for a new wave of fashion. Bergé was the rational voice as the company president, but insiders say the relationship was tempestuous.
   While Bergé moved out of their home in the mid-1980s, he remained a strong influence in the business.
   The YSL initials rivalled the interlocked Cs of Chanel in terms of international standing, and Saint Laurent himself, in marketing the ‘house of love’, instigated numerous trends including the smoking jacket and the safari look in the 1960s and 1970s.
   His influence was such that people regarded any new trend from the label as the start of a new Zeitgeist.
   He dressed women in slacks in the 1960s, considered a sign of rebellion then—so much so that they were banned from fancier Parisian restaurants.
   However, Saint Laurent was also known for his depression, which led him to become a virtual recluse in the 1980s and 1990s.
   Bergé even had to announce that the designer did not have Aids.
   Saint Laurent was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1985. The following year, the company took control of its fragrance business and floated on the stock exchange.
   In 1994, the company was sold to Elf Sanofi. Gucci bought the house in 1999 and Tom Ford took over the ready-to-wear designing. Saint Laurent continued designing the couture line till 2002, after which he retired to his home in Marrakech.
   In December 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed Saint Laurent Officier of the Légion d’honneur.

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Filed by Lucire staff

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