Jun 2, 2008
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Global tributes pour in for Yves Saint Laurent

Jun 2, 2008

PARIS, June 2, 2008 (AFP) - Tributes poured in from across the world Monday June 2nd for French design legend Yves Saint Laurent, who revolutionised fashion by foreseeing the rise of working women and making their outfits classy.

Yves Saint Laurent with Laetitia Casta (g) and Catherine Deneuve (d), during his last fashion show - Photo : Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

"Saint Laurent was one of the great couturiers, one of the few who have achieved perfection with everything they touched," said British designer Vivienne Westwood.

Saint Laurent, whose slinky tuxedo suits and safari jackets became a symbol of women's liberation in the 1960s, died aged 71 of a brain tumour late Sunday in Paris.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the designer was "the first to elevate haute couture to the rank of art."

"Yves Saint Laurent infused his label with his creative genius... because he was convinced that beauty was a necessary luxury for all men and all women," he said.

Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni, a former model, said she had "a heavy heart".

Karl Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent's longtime rival, did not wish to comment on the death, a spokesperson at his company said when contacted by AFP.

Fellow designer Christian Lacroix said no other design great could touch Saint Laurent's versatility.

"Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga and Dior all did extraordinary things. But they worked within a particular style," he explained. "Yves Saint Laurent is much more versatile, like a combination of all of them."

British designer Alexander McQueen said he was "the reason why I am in fashion".

"To me fashion should predict the time we live in. He did this is the 60s and 70s," McQueen said in a statement. "Pure genius and a man that I always revered and tried to emulate."

Jean Paul Gaultier said Saint Laurent was his "idol" and "a model to be followed," while veteran Italian designer Valentino called him "a giant" with "limitless imagination".

Valentino and Saint Laurent studied fashion together in Paris, and the Italian recalled how they would meet up in the evening at the famous Cafe de Flore and set off on a night of "interminable parties."

"He was a great artist, whose drawings, writing and torment bore witness to a fragility that has sadly taken him prematurely," he said.

The model known as Mounia, Saint Laurent's protege and one of the first black supermodels, said he had "revolutionized the colour black."

"He made me proud of my colour," she told French radio. "

Hanae Mori, one of Japan's most prominent designers and the only Asian woman to be accepted as a full-fledged member of France's exclusive haute couture federation, said Saint Laurent understood women more than any other designer.

"Even before anybody else, he understood what the new woman was... He left the pantsuit open to interpretation. By combining it with a silk blouse or a print shirt, he could make a male style look feminine. I loved it," she said.

Even designers who did not particularly care for his style called him a visionary for women who enjoyed greater economic freedom, providing for both their functional and fashion needs.

"When the pantsuit look was first launched, I didn't -- and I still don't -- like it because I thought it hid the woman's legs, which I believe are some of her sexiest assets," said Japanese designer Jun Ashida.

"But he had a penetrating eye for the working woman. He accurately predicted the times and he moved the world. He is the emperor of the fashion world," he told AFP.

The editor of British Vogue magazine, Alexandra Shulman, said Saint Laurent had helped democratise fashion.

"Before that people had small salons for rich people," Shulman told the BBC. "Saint Laurent brought it to the people. He was young and groovy. Pop stars were hanging out with him and younger generations related to him."

Australian designer Collette Dinnigan, known for her slinky cocktail dresses worn by Hollywood A-listers like Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz, called Saint Laurent "a genius."

His death was "such a tragedy... because he was one of the iconic designers that was left in the world," she told national news agency AAP.

Former African top model turned designer Daiya Gueye, whose international career was launched by Saint Laurent, said she had lost a father.

"He was a genius ... it is a loss for the whole world," Gueye told AFP from her fashion and beauty empire in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

"More than a big brother he was a father, my father," she said.

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