Saint Laurent, Yves [key], 1936–2008, French fashion designer, b. Oran, Algeria, as Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. Moving to Paris at 17, he ultimately established houses of couture and boutiques there and in New York. He was the foremost assistant to Christian Dior and became his designated successor as head of the House of Dior at the age of 21. His early collections were noted for their maverick quality, and his work of the 1960s and 70s helped to democratize the world of fashion. His last Dior collection (1960) featured the “chic beatnik” look: knitted turtlenecks, thigh-length boots, and short black leather jackets. He opened his own Paris house in 1961, in partnership with Pierre Bergé (1930–2017); Bergé, Saint Laurent's romantic partner until the 1980s, ran much of the business end of the house until it closed. In the following years Saint Laurent revolutionized the fashion world by creating trousers for day and evening wear and broad-shouldered suits that were images of power for women. His other designs include sophisticated tweed suits, the Mondrian dress, pleated skirts, safari jackets, pea coats, updated peasant costumes, le smoking (tuxedos for women), and heavy costume jewelry. His focus on an androgynous look was extremely influential in the fashion of the 1970s. He also designed for the Ballets de Roland Petit. By the mid-1970s, at the height of his success, his design empire included sweaters, neckties, eyeglass cases, linens, children's clothes, and fragrances. Gucci acquired his ready-to-wear and cosmetics divisions in 2000. Saint Laurent retired and closed his house in 2002.
See D. Teboul, Yves Saint Laurent: 5, Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris (2002); A. Drake, The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (2006); two documentary films dir. by D. Teboul, one of the same title as his book, the other Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times (both: 2003).
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