Yves Saint Laurent, the iconic French designer who revolutionized fashion by putting women in pants without sacrificing their femininity, died Sunday in Paris. He was 71. Saint Laurent's three-letter monogram is perhaps as synonymous with — and significant to — 20th-century style as T.S. Eliot's is with literature. He was "unquestionably the greatest designer" from the 1950s to 2000, says Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT (New York's Fashion Institute of Technology). Saint Laurent's influence and magnitude is eclipsed only by Coco Chanel, Steele says. "Just as Chanel brought modernism into women's fashion, you could say Yves Saint Laurent brought fashion up to a kind of contemporary life. "Most designers are incredibly lucky if they can contribute one thing to fashion," Steele continues. "But he was like Picasso: He contributed to so many significant movements." He championed women's liberation in the 1960s and '70s and the era's youth-led street culture (from mod to hippie). He shepherded the rise of ready-to-wear with the 1966 launch of his Rive Gauche line. He celebrated the globalization of style, fused fine art with fashion (as with his 1965 Mondrian shift) and injected vivid color into a historically staid industry. "All of those things are part of his legacy," Steele says. "It's impossible to imagine contemporary fashion without this man." Indeed, when Saint Laurent, long plagued by depression and drug and alcohol addiction, famously bid adieu to his art at a Paris press conference in January 2002, he read a statement from behind his trademark thick, dark-rimmed glasses. "I tell myself that I created the wardrobe of the contemporary woman, that I participated in the transformation of my times," he said. "For a long time now, I have believed that fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves." ... Long a wardrobe mainstay of socialites, including the late Nan Kempner and Talitha Getty, Saint Laurent has recently been embraced by young and edgy Hollywood, including Kirsten Dunst, who donned a vintage flapper-esque gown to this year's Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute ball, and Chloë Sevigny, who wore a vintage black-and-white graphic one-shouldered sheath to the 2007 Golden Globes. Gucci bought the YSL brand in 1999, a year after Saint Laurent had ceased designing the Rive Gauche collection. Ready-to-wear is now designed by Stefano Pilati, a former protégé of Tom Ford's (Ford, as YSL's creative director from 2000 to 2004, headed the line previously). The couture arm of the company, the branch that turned out hand-wrought, multi-thousand-dollar garments, ceased production in 2002, when Saint Laurent retired. At the time, Bergé, who remained his business partner after their romantic relationship ended, blamed in part the current culture of sneakers and denim — ironic considering that Saint Laurent often said he wished he'd invented jeans. "They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity — all I hope for in my clothes," he once said of blue jeans. Aside from creating his now-ubiquitous trousers and tuxedos, Saint Laurent is also credited with coining — and abiding by — one of his industry's most oft-repeated mantras: "Fashions fade, style is eternal."
Yves Saint Laurent was truly a fashion genius ... he will be sorely missed. [Source]