June 2, 2008

yves saint laurent: 1936-2008.


yves saint laurent passed away yesterday after a long illness. he was 71.

after being hired by christian dior as his assistant, he took over for the designer when he died suddenly in 1957. after three turbulent years (and a stint in the army), he was unsurped for marc bohan, and contemplated a life outside of fashion. until he met pierre bergé. the two found a backer, and saint laurent showed his first collection until his own name in 1962.

a see through dress from 1968

in the years that followed, he changed the way women dressed, from “le smoking” to the safari collection and rich peasants, to mondrian dresses and picasso-themed evening gowns. he had a following of many of the best-dressed women of all time: lee radizwill, catherine deneuve, nan kempner, betty catroux, loulou de la falaise, talitha getty and others. he was a staunch supporter of black models, becoming the first to use them in his runway presentations and one, katoucha, became one of his muses.

ysl with models (including pat cleveland, right)

when ysl was sold to the gucci group, ysl retainted control of the couture collection and he named alber elbaz his successor in ready-to-wear, but after lasting only three season with the house, was replaced by tom ford. ysl announced his complete retirement in 2002. as he told wwd on that day: “I always served women and I did it without compromise until the end, with respect and love.”

he loved to dress women and make them feel confident and sexy without ever being vulgar. many designers owe their success to him, and many others are greatly influenced by his work. the world has lost a true visionary. rest in peace…goodbye and thank you.

pic of yves with laeticia casta and catherine deneuve at his final couture show from style.com, others from guardian.co.uk and nytimes.com