Yves Saint Laurent, French fashion designer, hailed as a 20th century cultural icon who revolutionised the way women dressed, has died at the age of 71. Saint Laurent, whose death on Sunday was announced without any details of the cause, was plagued by health problems. He suffered from severe depression and underwent treatment for alcohol abuse.
Saint Laurent, who retired in 2002, was widely credited with changing forever what women wore, making the trouser suit a daytime staple and the tuxedo an elegant option. He exploded on to the world stage at just 21 and built up a clothes, perfumes and accessories empire that resulted in a 1989 stock market flotation, the first by a fashion house.
The reclusive Saint Laurent’s couture creations won global fine art status and he was widely considered to be one of an elite club of designers including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel who made Paris the fashion capital of the world.
From Princess Grace of Monaco to the actress Catherine Deneuve, Saint Laurent’s creations adorned many famous women but he was also the first designer to make luxury labels accessible to a wider audience through innovative ready-to-wear collections.
He also popularised safari jackets and thigh-high boots, and his transparent blouses made near-nudity acceptable in high society. His square-shouldered suits became classics and he simplified evening-wear, moving from shocking satins to flowing white crepe of Hellenic purity.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Saint Laurent as a creative genius.