Obituaries

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Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion Icon Yves Saint Laurent Dies at 71

June 02, 2008 01:13 PM
by Anne Szustek
The Dior protégé whose work exploded onto the Paris fashion scene in 1958 revolutionized women’s fashion, updating ladylike 1950s styles to embody the freedoms of later decades.

30-Second Summary

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Yves Saint Laurent’s trademark trapeze dress, the definitive work of the 1958 Dior collection, put the first swing in the Swinging Sixties. His last line under the Dior label, released in July 1960, personified “chic beatnik,” in the words of The New York Times.

After a brief stint in the military, Saint Laurent launched his own fashion house along with his life partner, Pierre Bergé. The first collection under the YSL label was released on Jan. 19, 1962.

“Le smoking,” his tuxedo for women released in 1966, was a sartorial emblem of women’s newfound societal freedoms. Said Saint Laurent in 2002, “I participated in the transformation of the era … with clothes, which is surely less important than music, architecture, painting … but whatever it’s worth, I did it.”

Yves Saint Laurent was born on Aug. 31, 1936 in Oran, Algeria. His family was “pieds noirs,” French nationals living in Algeria. Despite his parents’ desire to see him become a lawyer, Saint Laurent entered Paris’ Chambre Syndicale de la Couture to pursue education in fashion design. He soon dropped out. But the cocktail dress he entered into an international competition caught the eye of a certain Christian Dior.

Management of his fashion house traded several hands in his later years. The French government took over a majority stake of YSL in 1993, with Bergé and Saint Laurent keeping 43 percent of the company through 2001, when Gucci Group took over the house.

Saint Laurent officially declared his retirement in 2002. Yet his menswear aesthetic remains an indelible influence on women’s style to this day.

Headline Link: ‘Yves Saint Laurent, Giant of Couture, Dies at 71’

Opinion & Analysis: Forever classic

Video: Yves Saint Laurent

Reference: The life and times of Yves Saint Laurent; fashion

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