It’s a sad day in fashion indeed. Yves Saint Laurent, undisputedly one of the most influential of the 20th century, died Sunday at his Paris home after a yearlong battle with
brain cancer. He was 71.
"Chanel gave women freedom" and Saint
Laurent "gave them power," said Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s business partner for
four decades on France-Info radio. Saint
Laurent was a "true creator," going beyond the aesthetic to make a
his own words, Saint Laurent once said he felt "fashion was not only
supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them
confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves."
Laurent was widely considered the last of a generation that included
Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and made Paris the fashion capital of
the world, with the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) as its elegant
Saint Laurent’s influence on the world of fashion was so great that if he made a slight change in a
hemline or a subtle shift in a waistline, the repercussions rippled
around the globe. At the minimum, fashion owes him the credit for the
invention of ready to wear through the launch in 1966 of his Rive
Gauche collection. But there also were his iconic tuxedo suit “le
smoking,” beatnik fashions, the use of safari jackets as a style
statement for women and men, the Ballets Russes collection, his unmatched sense of color combinations, the artistry of his cut,
designer denim and the launch of a significant fragrance and beauty
business with a designer name.
Laurent was born Aug. 1, 1936, in Oran, Algeria, where his father
worked as a shipping executive. At 17, he won first prize in a contest sponsored
by the International Wool Secretariat for a cocktail dress design.
In 1954, he enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale school of
haute couture, but student life lasted only three months. He was
introduced to Christian Dior, then regarded as the greatest creator of
his day, and Dior was so impressed with Saint Laurent’s talent that he
hired him on the spot.
opened his own haute couture fashion house with Berge in 1962. The pair
later started a chain of Rive Gauche ready-to-wear boutiques.
Laurent’s simple navy blue pea coat over white pants, which the
designer first showed in 1962, was one of his hallmarks. His "smoking,"
or tuxedo jacket, of 1966 remade the tux as a high fashion statement
for both sexes. It remained the designer’s trademark item and was
updated yearly until he retired.
In 1983, when the Metropolitan
Museum of Art devoted a show to his work, the first ever to a living
designer. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 1985.
When Saint Laurent announced his
retirement in 2002 at age 65 and the closure of the Paris-based haute
couture house, it was mourned in the fashion world as the end of an
era. His ready-to-wear label, Rive Gauche, which was sold to Gucci in
1999 for $70 million cash and royalties.
I carry my Muse today in his honor.
A funeral ceremony is scheduled for Friday at the Saint Roch Church in Paris.
Update: WWD is reporting funeral services for Yves Saint Laurent are scheduled for Thursday
afternoon in Paris and French President Nicolas Sarkozy expected to
Berge said the service
is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at the Eglise Saint-Roch at 296 Rue Saint
Honore. Afterward, Saint Laurent will be incinerated, and his ashes
will rest at his famous Majorelle Garden in Marrakech.
Sources: The Associated Press, WWD
Photos: WWD, www.fondation-pb-ysl.net