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Yves Saint Laurent dressed a new generation of powerful women

By Emily Morgan

June 3, 2008 at 1:41pm

In a career spanning half a century, fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent drew inspiration from such iconic figures as Christian Dior and Catherine Deneuve and created a classic style that is masculine yet beautiful.

Saint Laurent, who died Sunday at 71, began working for House of Dior at age 17. He became head of the fashion label after Christian Dior died in 1957.

After leaving Dior, Saint Laurent established his own labels - Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture and a ready-to-wear line, Rive Gauche.

Rive Gauche was sold to Gucci in 1999, and the Yves Saint Laurent line is now a subsidiary of the Gucci Group, which is also the parent company of Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga.

Carla Bruni, now the first lady of France, walked the runway for Saint Laurent during her career as a model. Actress Catherine Deneuve was one of the designer’s muses and he designed her ensembles in several films. Saint Laurent’s designs have long been fixtures on the red carpet, and worn by most A-list stars.

He retired from designing for Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture in 2002, because of failing health, battles with drugs and depression and, according to his long-time business partner, Pierre Berge, frustration with the current fashion industry.

In 2002, Berge told the Associated Press that the designer felt that “we have entered the era of marketing, at the expense of creativity.”

Saint Laurent is best known as the creator of the women’s pantsuit, which has become Hillary Clinton’s campaign uniform.

“Chanel gave women freedom,” Pierre Berge told the French press. But Saint Laurent, he said, “gave them power.”

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