Monday, June 2, 2008

It was sad and a great loss in fashion industry that remarkable top French designers had left us. His designs and YSL brand will always in our mind.

Yves Saint Laurent, one the top French designers of the 20th century, died last night in Paris, a source in the fashion icon's foundation said.

"Yves Saint Laurent died Sunday at 11.10pm,'' the source in Pierre-Berge-Saint Laurent Foundation said.

The reclusive French maestro, who had retired from haute couture in 2002 after four decades at the top of his trade, had been ill for some time.

One of a handful of designers who dominated 20th century fashion - on a par with Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret - Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent was born in the coastal town of Oran, Algeria, on August 1, 1936, at a time when the North African country was still considered part of France.

A shy, lonely, child, he became fascinated by clothes, and already had a solid portfolio of sketches when he first arrived in Paris in 1953, aged 17.

Vogue editor Michel de Brunoff, who was to become a key supporter, was quickly won over, and published them.

The following year Saint Laurent won three of the four categories in a design competition in Paris -- the fourth went to his contemporary Karl Lagerfeld, now at Chanel.

Discerning the young man's potential, de Brunoff advised Christian Dior to hire him and he rapidly emerged as heir apparent to the great couturier, taking over the house when Dior died suddenly three years later.

However in 1960, like many Frenchmen of his age, Saint Laurent was called up to fight in his native Algeria, where an independence war was under way.

Less than three weeks later he won an exemption on health grounds, but when he returned to Paris Dior had already found a replacement for him, in the person of Marc Bohan.

With his close associate and lover Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent resolved to strike out on his own, with Berge, who survives the couturier, taking care of the business side.

Saint Laurent's success lay in the harmony he achieved between body and garment -- what he called "the total silence of clothing''.

He was also in the right place at the right time. Having learned his trade at the house of Dior, he founded his own couture house at the start of the 1960s, at a time when the world was changing and there was a new appetite for originality.

Saint Laurent rode his luck through the rise of the youth market and pop culture fuelled by the economic boom of the 1960s, when women suddenly had more economic freedom.

His name and the familiar YSL logo became synonymous with all the latest trends, highlighted by the creation of the Rive Gauche ready-to-wear label and perfume, as well as astute licensing deals for accessories and perfumes.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he set the pace for fashion around the world, opening up the Japanese market and subsequently expanding to South Korea and Taiwan.

In his later years the depression that had haunted him all his life became more oppressive.

When he bowed out of fashion in 2002, Saint Laurent spoke of his battles with depression, drugs and loneliness, though he gave no indication that those problems were directly tied to his decision to stop working.

"I've known fear and terrible solitude,'' he said. "Tranquilisers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I've emerged from all this, dazzled but sober.''


Key dates in the life of Yves Saint Laurent:
- 1936: Born on August 1, in Oran, Algeria.

- 1954: Moves to Paris to study design and wins three of the four first prizes in the International Wool Secretariat competition.

- 1955: Hired as a design assistant by Christian Dior.

- 1957: Dior dies unexpectedly in Italy, and Saint Laurent is appointed the house's chief designer.

- 1958: First couture collection for Dior, the Trapeze Line, receives rave reviews. Meets future lover and business partner, Pierre Berge.

- 1960: Outrages conservative Dior clientele and executives with his "Beat Look" drawn from the streets of Paris. Is conscripted into the French army in September but has a nervous breakdown and is exempted two months later.

- 1961: Saint Laurent and Berge start living together and found the couture house. Saint Laurent wins a lawsuit against Dior for unfair dismissal. Designs costumes for a Roland Petit ballet and a Zizi Jeanmaire revue.

- 1962: First own-label couture show in January receives mixed reviews.

- 1964: Launch of "Y", his first perfume.

- 1965: His "Mondrian" dresses take Paris by storm in the July couture show. Begins long association and friendship with actress Catherine Deneuve by designing her costume for Luis Bunuel film's "Belle de Jour".

- 1966: The spring couture show features the first tuxedo for women, while the controversial autumn collection is inspired by Andy Warhol.

- 1968: The "safari look" and first see-through dress cause a sensation at the spring collection. Dedicates his autumn range to the student protesters of May 1968, including duffle coats and fringed jackets.

- 1969: Launches Rive Gauche men's range. Rive Gauche boutique opens in London.

- 1971: Poses naked for an advertisement for the first YSL for Men fragrance. Launches "Rive Gauche" perfume.

- 1973: After a period of doing only ready-to-wear, returns to couture.

- 1974: Moves premises to Avenue Marceau in Paris's eighth district.

- 1977: Launch of the perfume "Opium". The first of many rumours circulates to the effect that Saint Laurent has died.

- 1982: Twentieth anniversary gala at the Paris Lido.

- 1983: Launch of "Paris" perfume. YSL becomes the first designer to have a retrospective dedicated to his work in his own lifetime. In New York, where it opens, it is seen by a million people.

- 1985: Awarded the French Legion d'Honneur.

- 1986: Italian industrialist Carlo de Benedetti takes a 25 per cent stake in YSL and helps finance a $US630 million ($A660 million) buy-out of the perfume interests from the American outfit, Squibb.

- 1989: Unfounded press reports claim Saint Laurent is suffering from AIDS.

- 1990: Speculation about his health continues after he breaks down at his home in Marrakesh and is admitted to hospital in Paris. Fails to attend ready-to-wear show due to nervous exhaustion.

- 1991: Saint Laurent discusses his drug problems and homosexuality for the first time in an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro.

- 1993: YSL is sold to Sanofi for $US650 million ($A680 million). January couture collection is dedicated to Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian ballet dancer who recently died of AIDS. Launch of the women's perfume "Champagne", leading to an ultimately successful lawsuit by producers of champagne wine over the use of the name.

- 1994: Successfully sues Ralph Lauren for copying a tuxedo dress design.

- 1995: Launches "Opium for Men" and relaunches the female version.

- 1999: Israeli-born Alber Elbaz makes his debut as designer for the ready-to-wear label in the spring collections. Gucci complete the takeover of Sanofi, the parent company of YSL and appoint their own creative director, Tom Ford.

- 2000: Ford is appointed to replace Berge as head of collections and named design and communications head for Yves Saint Laurent Couture and perfumes. A YSL museum opens in Paris.

- 2001: Saint Laurent celebrates his 65th birthday.

- 2002: In January, he marks the 40th anniversary of his couture house, and formally announces his retirement.

- 2008: Saint Laurent dies on June 1 in Paris, the Pierre-Berge-Saint Laurent Foundation says.