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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 14:33 GMT
Fashion guru retires
Yves Saint Laurent
Mr Saint Laurent says he is suffering from ill health
One of the leading fashion designers of the 20th century, Yves Saint Laurent, has announced his retirement from the industry at the age of 65.

Mr Saint Laurent confirmed his decision - the subject of frenzied rumours in the fashion world for the past few weeks - at a news conference in the Avenue Marceau headquarters of Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture.

The most beautiful clothes that a woman can wear are the arms of the man she loves. But for those who do not have the luck to find such happiness, I am there

Yves Saint Laurent

"I have chosen today to bid adieu to this profession that I have loved so much," he said.

His retirement means that the world-famous fashion house is to close after 40 years of business.

Reading from a pre-prepared statement in his first-ever press conference, Mr Saint Laurent appeared emotional as he spoke.

Ill health

"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," he said.

"I tell myself that I created the wardrobe of the contemporary woman, that I participated in the transformation of my times."

Yves San Laurent at a press conference announcing his retirement
Mr Saint Laurent has fought problems with drink and drugs

He did not give a specific reason for his decision to retire, although he said he had been battling ill health and depression for several years.

However his business partner, Pierre Berge, said he thought Mr Saint Laurent was retiring because he no longer felt comfortable with the direction that fashion was taking.

"It's not very fun to play a tennis match when you are all alone," he said.

YSL's final collection will be shown later this month.


The reclusive designer, who is widely credited with having redefined women's fashion in the 1960s, sold the YSL brand to Gucci in 1999 - and there have been reported recriminations ever since.

Mr Saint Laurent's style revolutionised women's fashions

The Algerian-born designer became famous with his mould-breaking garments such as the trouser suit and the female dinner jacket.

Admirers say his style epitomised cool chic in the footsteps of another legendary designer, Coco Chanel.

But he had been criticised for failing to keep up with changing trends over the last two decades.

Women liberated

When the YSL brand was sold to Gucci, Mr Saint Laurent and Mr Berge kept control of the fashion house which belongs to French tycoon Francois Pinault, who himself owns Gucci.

Both Mr Saint Laurent and Mr Berge said that no one could ever succeed Mr Saint Laurent on the haute couture side of the business.

But Mr Saint Laurent was reportedly unhappy at the way Gucci is managing the YSL ready-to-wear business, while Mr Pinault balked at the large sums in royalties he is obliged to pay for the use of the name.

Mr Saint Laurent's path to fame began in 1953 when his designs were spotted by Vogue director Michel de Brunhoff.

Five years later his first show as art director at Christian Dior spelled the end of the strait-laced post-war look.

Images of Sophie Dahl in an Opium ad caused a stir
In 1961 he split from Christian Dior and set up his own fashion house with Mr Berge.

But his maverick skill at capturing the mood of the moment continued. The first YSL tuxedo for women surfaced in the 1966 autumn-winter collection and became a fashion landmark.

Danielle Mazinguard of Madame Figaro magazine, told the BBC: "He really liberated women's bodies.

"He made a lot of clothes for women that looked like men's clothes and suddenly women were able to a wear a lot of clothes they could not before."


He was still breaking boundaries in 1971 when he posed naked in an advertisement for his perfume of the same name.

An advertisement more recently for another perfume, Opium, was banned in the UK because of its picture of a nude Sophie Dahl.

In 1960 he spent six weeks in hospital after a breakdown during his military service, and for long periods he binged on drink or drugs.

Even when he conquered his addictions, he remained a heavy smoker, going through up to 150 cigarettes a day, and drinking up to 20 cans of soft drink.

Mr Saint Laurent has also designed stage sets and costumes for the theatre and last year he was made a commander of the Legion of Honour by President Jacques Chirac.

Vogue's Anna Cryer
"He had a tremendously shrewd eye"
The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"He is being feted as the last great artist of the fashion world"
The BBC's Fiona Werge
"He has decided to bow out while still at the top"

Yves St Laurent
What is his legacy to fashion?
See also:

07 Jan 02 | Europe
End of an era in fashion
07 Jan 02 | Europe
In pictures: Yves Saint Laurent
19 Jun 01 | Business
YSL relaunch drags down Gucci
16 Nov 99 | The Company File
Gucci buys YSL
18 Dec 00 | UK
Naked Sophie Dahl ad banned
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