Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 17:05 UK

Tributes for Yves Saint Laurent

YSL with Carla Bruni
Yves Saint Laurent's shows featured supermodels including Carla Bruni

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has led tributes to Yves Saint Laurent, saying the world-famous designer elevated fashion to "the rank of art".

Saint Laurent, aged 71, died on Sunday evening in Paris after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

"Yves Saint Laurent infused his label with his creative genius," said Mr Sarkozy, whose wife, former model Carla Bruni, is a long-time devotee.

Britain's Vivienne Westwood described him as "one of the great couturiers".


Carla Bruni-Sarkozy said in a statement that it was an honour to work with Saint Laurent during her modelling career.

"I am broken-hearted when I think of M Saint Laurent. He was an exceptional artist and human being."

Ms Westwood described the designer as "one of the few who have achieved perfection with everything they touched".

Saint-Laurent with French model Laetitia Casta on the catwalk for his Haute Couture spring/summer 2000 collection
He was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society
Pierre Berge
Yves Saint Laurent's former partner

France's Culture Minister, Christine Albanel, said the designer personally touched women's lives.

"This brilliant idea that a woman could be the most feminine possible while dressing like a man... it seems to me decisive," she said of the designer, who was the first to put women in elegant tuxedos for evening.

"Little by little, women get rid of their corset and then they live differently," Ms Albanel added.

From that first YSL tuxedo to slim trouser-suits to see-through blouses, safari jackets and glamorous gowns, Saint Laurent created instant classics that remain stylish decades later.

"Mr Saint Laurent revolutionized modern fashion with his understanding of youth, sophistication and relevance. His legacy will always be remembered," said Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa.

Saint Laurent began to change the face of the fashion industry when he became chief designer of the House of Dior at just 21.

He designed clothes that reflected women's changing role in society: more confident personally, sexually and in the work-place.

He retired from haute couture in 2002 and had been ill for some time.

Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's close friend and business partner for four decades, praised his old friend.

What an absolutely exquisite designer, his fashions will be long remembered
Julie, Atlanta, USA

"Chanel gave women freedom," and Saint Laurent "gave them power," Berge said on France-Info radio.

He said Saint Laurent went beyond the aesthetic to make a social statement.

"In this sense, he was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society," he said. "That's how he transformed society and that's how he transformed women."

Life of ill-health

Saint Laurent was a great innovator, helping to revitalise haute couture while making ready-to-wear design popular.

"I found my style through women," he once said.


YSL 'understood what women really wanted'

Born in the Algerian city of Oran at a time when the North African country was a French colony, he had a precocious talent.

His first collection caused a sensation with its gently flared dresses and jackets that set the mould for 1950s fashion.

Within three years, Dior had died and Yves St Laurent had taken his place and soon took the fashion world by storm.

Taunted as a schoolboy because of his homosexuality, Yves St Laurent suffered mental and physical ill health for much of his life and he appeared in public only rarely.

In pictures: Yves Saint Laurent
02 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Yves Saint Laurent
01 Jun 08 |  Europe
Fashion guru retires
07 Jan 02 |  Europe

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