French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent dies

Mon Jun 2, 2008 3:40pm EDT
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By Crispian Balmer

PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent has died at the age of 71, hailed as a 20th century cultural innovator who revolutionized the way women dressed.

The couture creations of the reclusive Saint Laurent 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.

His long-time companion, Pierre Berge, told RTL radio the designer had been diagnosed with a brain tumor last year and had died on Sunday in Paris.

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 wide audience through innovative ready-to-wear collections.

He made his appearance on 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.

But Saint Laurent also suffered from severe depression and underwent treatment for alcohol abuse and became increasingly withdrawn later in life.

The daily Le Figaro gave over its whole front page to the man it called "the world's greatest couturier" and President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Saint Laurent as a creative genius. "He was convinced that beauty was a luxury that every man and woman needed," Sarkozy said.

The president's wife, former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, said: "My heart wrenches when I think of Mr Saint Laurent. He was an artist and an exceptional human being."   Continued...

<p>Yves Saint Laurent seen with lipstick marks on his right cheek, acknowledges applause at the end of his Spring-Summer 2001 high fashion collection presentation in Paris January 24, 2001. REUTERS/Jack Dabaghian</p>