Ionic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent died on Sunday night at his Paris home at the age of 71 from an undisclosed illness. The news was announced by Pierre Bergé, his long-time business partner and former lover.
Speaking to France Info Radio, Bergé, said that, “There are not that many people in the pantheon of fashion. There will be two who will undeniably remain – one who symbolised the first part of the 20th century, and that’s Chanel, and the other one who will symbolise the second part of the 20th century, and that’s Yves Saint Laurent.”
Saint Laurent was born in 1936 in Algeria, then a French colony. He started working for Christian Dior at the age of 17 and went on to take over the fashion house at 22 after Dior’s death in 1957.
He was then conscripted into the French army to fight in the Algerian War of Independence. But after three weeks of serving he suffered a nervous breakdown – said be a result of harassment by other soldiers.
He was institutionalised for a time in a psychiatric hospital, which led to his being let go by Dior. He would always be known for his fragile and nervous nature.
He started his own label, YSL, in 1962, which was partly financed by Bergé. The couple split in the early eighties but remained business associates for the rest of Saint Laurent’s life.
YSL became a highly sought after label in the sixties and seventies; known for its elegant look, yet often bringing a masculine edge to women’s fashion. He also promoted the use of pants by women.
“My small job as a couturier is to make clothes that reflect our times. I’m convinced women want to wear pants,” he was quoted as saying.
He was no stranger to controversy – once posing nude in an advert for his men’s fragrance. He was also slammed for trivialising drug abuse by naming a perfume Opium in 1977.
Yves Saint Laurent went on to become one of the most popular and influential designers of the 20th century.