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Couturier Yves Saint Laurent Dead at 71

DPA News Agency (jen)June 2, 2008

French couture designer Yves Saint Laurent, considered one of the most important figures in fashion history, died Sunday, June 1, in Paris.

Couture designer Yves Saint Laurent
His initials, YSL, were synonymous for luxury ready-to-wearImage: AP

Saint Laurent was born on Aug. 1, 1936, in the port city of Oran, Algeria. In the 1960s he became famous for his women's tuxedo. In 2002, Saint Laurent withdrew from the public eye, and his brand now belongs to the French luxury company PPR.

On the company Web site, Yves Saint Laurent is described as "one of the 20th century's most innovative and provocative designers. He created signature looks and styles and left a legacy of timeless iconic products such as the tuxedo, the pantsuit, the safari jacket and the trench coat."

Ready-to-wear pioneer

Yves Saint Laurent is recognized as the first designer, in 1966, to launch the modern concept of luxury women's ready-to-wear garments, in a collection called Rive Gauche, which represented the first step in making luxury labels accessible to a wider market.

Saint Laurent moved to Paris to study fashion at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture after winning first prize in a competition by the International Wool Secretariat and got his first break in fashion in 1955, after meeting French designer Christian Dior and becoming his assistant.

When Dior died of a stroke in 1957, Saint Laurent was appointed head designer at 21 years of age.

Legion of Honor recipient

Saint Laurent was known to have battled depression and drug abuse throughout his career, but he was also known as an ambassador of French fashion. In 1985 he was awarded the French legion of honor by then-president Francois Mitterrand.

Saint Laurent's friend and partner Pierre Berge said Saint Laurent died after an extended illness.