Celebrities mourn Saint Laurent at Paris funeral

Fri Jun 6, 2008 12:08am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters) - France said farewell to fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at a funeral on Thursday attended by supermodels, film stars and President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Office workers and residents of nearby buildings leaned out of their windows as police held crowds back near the Paris church of Saint Roch where the ceremony was held.

Actress Catherine Deneuve, whose aura of refined elegance was most closely associated with the designer, read a poem by Walt Whitman, followed by a speech from Saint Laurent's long-time partner and business associate Pierre Berge.

"You could have slid into fashions at times, but instead you remained faithful to your own style, and you were quite right, for that style is now everywhere, perhaps not on fashion catwalks but in the streets of the whole world," Berge said.

Although Saint Laurent himself famously hated his own time as a conscript in the French army, his coffin was greeted by an armed honor guard, whose stiff military bearing contrasted strangely with the elegant mourners mingling after the service.

Sarkozy sat in the front row of the church alongside his wife Carla, a former model who used to strut the catwalk at Saint Laurent's glamorous shows.

Hailed as one of the great couturiers of the 20th century, Saint Laurent was part of a distinguished line of French designers from Coco Chanel to Christian Dior who consolidated the reputation of Paris as the fashion capital of the world.

A shy and reclusive figure in his later years with few close friends, his rank in the fashion world could nonetheless be gauged from the array of celebrities at Saint Roch, a church traditionally associated with artists and musicians.   Continued...

<p>France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) follows first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy after funeral services for fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes</p>