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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 20:33 GMT
Yves Saint Laurent shuts its doors
A worker packs her bags in the showroom
The haute couture house opened in 1961
One of France's most prestigious haute couture fashion houses, Yves Saint Laurent, has finally closed its doors following the retirement of its famous designer and co-founder.

Paying tribute to staff and colleagues, Mr Saint Laurent said the closure marked "the end of a long love affair".


I am very sad to put an end to a love affair that has lasted for 40 years

Yves Saint Laurent
The reclusive 66-year-old, who spent more than four decades producing designer clothing for the rich and famous, has been battling poor health for many years.

His retirement - announced at his last fashion show in January - marks the end of an era for Parisian style.

Although the brand itself will continue, Mr Saint Laurent himself lamented that he "was the last of the fashion Mohicans".

'Tremendous sadness'

"I'm feeling a tremendous sadness at the idea that I will no longer see these marvellous and enormously talented people, who brought all my ideas to life with their vast know-how," Mr Saint Laurent said of his employees.

"I am very sad to put an end to a love affair that has lasted for 40 years," he said.

Of his 158 staff, some have found jobs with rival houses Jean-Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaia, and Chanel, while others have followed Mr Laurent into retirement or are still looking for work elsewhere.

Seamstress Marie Sandoz works on a garment on her final day
Yves Saint Laurent specialised in garments for the rich and famous
Although the haute couture workshops are now closed, the Yves Saint Laurent name will continue in the pret-a-porter range owned by Gucci, which is due to open 47 new stores in 2004.

The Yves Saint Laurent couture house started in 1961, with groundbreaking designs which won a loyal clientele among the rich and famous, including Bianca Jagger and Lauren Bacall.

They and other celebrities were at his last show in January - a star-studded event that also counted admiring rivals and former supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Jerry Hall and Carla Bruni.

Life of fashion

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent was born in Algeria in 1936, at a time when the North African country was still under French rule.

A shy, lonely child, he became interested in clothes at an early age and was discovered by the fashion magazine Vogue when he was just 17.

He went to work for the designer Christian Dior in 1954, taking over from him when Mr Dior died three years later.

A model leaves the catwalk during the final show in January
The name will live on under Gucci
After returning from a short stint of military service in Algeria, he decided to open his own fashion house together with Pierre Berge.

It was then that he began to create the imaginative and innovative clothes that became his trademark.

His feminisation of the male trouser suit and tuxedo saw him credited as the man who "empowered women".

His designs, which were often influenced by the work of painters like Picasso and Mondrian, became works of art in themselves.

In 1983 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York devoted an entire show to his clothing.

The last item made by the designer was a black wool jacket with gold embroidery - an updated version of a design that first premiered on the catwalk as part of Yves Saint Laurent's autumn/winter 1985-1986 collection.

It will hang in the closet of Mr Saint Laurent's close friend and muse, actress Catherine Deneuve.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sunita Nahar
"The fashion giant has taken his final exit"
See also:

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