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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 23:16 GMT
Fashion guru bids adieu
Screens at Yves Saint Laurent's final show
Giant screens broadcast the show to crowds outside
Pioneering fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent has said an emotional farewell to the fashion world at his last couture fashion show.

France's fashion world turned out en masse to pay tribute to the 65-year-old designer, who announced his decision to retire two weeks ago after more than 40 years in the business.

It's sad, but he's given so much to the fashion world

Show attendee
Held at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, his final show was attended by more than 2,000 guests, and thousands more thronged the streets outside to watch the show on giant video screens.

The show contained a retrospective of his most innovative designs, including the trouser suit for women.

'Too much reverence'

Following the presentation of the collection, Mr Saint Laurent walked down the catwalk flanked by long term friend and muse, French actress Catherine Deneuve, and his favourite model Laetitia Casta.

Yves Saint Laurent at his final show
Saint Laurent seemed emotional at his final show

However, some of his fellow designers were less than kind in their opinions of his retirement, with French designer Christian Lacroix saying that the atmosphere was more like that of a "national funeral".

"There is too much reverence," he said.

"It's as if he were being buried alive in a mausoleum."

Others expressed their sadness, saying that the fashion world was losing one of its greatest talents.

"It's sad, but he's given so much to the fashion world," one woman told the Associated Press news agency.

"We have to be grateful for that."


At a press conference two weeks ago, Mr Saint Laurent 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.

"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."


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

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

Saint Laurent's style revolutionised women's fashions

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

But in 1961 he split from Christian Dior and with Mr Berge set up his own fashion house.

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."

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

And although he was criticised for failing to keep up with changing trends over the last two decades, the rapturous reception of his final collection means that his place in history is now assured.

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"The highlights of his career were all there"

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

07 Jan 02 | Europe
Fashion guru retires
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
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