All About Yves—Fashion's Ultimate Virtuoso Takes a Final Bow

Yves Saint-Laurent, who died on Sunday at the age of 71, had been ailing for a long time (something evident from this dutifully pre-prepared obituary in the New York Times). Still, the memory of the glamors he created for Dior and his own label continue to hold sway. In modern fashion there have only a handful of designers have created entire immediately recognizable aesthetics larger and more influential than any garment that bared their name. Yves was a prince in that club.
Saint-Laurent's work combined graphic boldness, luxury, fantasy, and a odd sense of restraint; Chanel with a blast of Wharolian pop. Rarely was he gaudy and never was he tacky. Instead, he was sleek and sexy in extremis. From the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s, his sensibilities dominated—sensibilities you can still find in every Chanel ad and so many of the greater houses (including his own).
Saint-Laurent's retirement six years ago marked the narrowing of a generation of designers, but it wasn't a surprise. For a life of glitz, periodic excess, and famous friendships, he kept to himself, only poking his head out of his Moroccan idyll to remind us he was there, still Yves. That hadn't happened in years, and it won't happen again.

Photo by Pierre Boulat, via Film Forum.


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