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Jun 2, 2008
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Women owe Saint Laurent a debt, says partner Berge

Jun 2, 2008

PARIS, June 2, 2008 (AFP) - Women around the world owe Yves Saint Laurent a debt for revolutionising their dress, his long-time partner Pierre Berge said Monday June 2nd.

Pierre Bergé with Yves Saint Laurent at the end of a fashion show in 1992
Photo : Pierre Verdy/AFP

Berge announced Saint Laurent's death to the world late Sunday at the age of 71 and paid his own emotional tribute to the genius of the designer.

"I am shattered but don't want to share my emotions or my sorrow," Berge, Saint Laurent's former lover and long-time business associate, told French television.

Berge said Saint Laurent, mentally and physically frail through most of his life, died of a brain tumour after a prolonged illness and would be buried on Friday in Paris.

"Yves Saint Laurent was reserved and timid but could also be fun and very funny," said Berge, who knew the couturier for 50 years.

"He was shy but had the strength and daring of many shy people," he said. "He could bulldoze everything in his way. He had a strong personality but was extremely kind."

Saint Laurent knew "women across the world owed him something" for the way he changed their dress.

Berge called Saint Laurent "the world's greatest fashion designer in the second half of the 20th century."

"He made few mistakes because he followed the evolution of women."

"He was the first to have put women in pants, the first to have put them in tuxedos, the first to have put them in masculine clothes, the first to have employed black models," he said.

"He was audacious, he revolutionised the trade," Berge said in a radio interview.

The reclusive designer was best known for bringing trouser suits and tuxedos into a women's wardrobe, changing style forever and bringing a breath of fresh air into feminine silhouettes.

"Yves Saint Laurent was fully aware that he had transformed the world and fashion, that all women across the world owed him something," Berge added. "He was conscious of this and was very happy about it."

Inspired too by some of the 20th century's greatest painters -- Mondrian, Warhol and Picasso -- Saint Laurent reflecting the atmopshere of the swinging 1960s in his early days and stayed close to what was happening on the street.

"During many years he never went out much, saw few people. He would go from his home to his couture house driven by his chauffeur. That was where he would see what was happening out in the street," Berge said.

Saint Laurent was shy and had few close friends, Berge added, remaining closest to his early muses, US-French socialite Betty Catroux, model-turned-designer Loulou de la Falaise and actress Catherine Deneuve.

Berge, who moved in with the designer in 1961, co-founded the eponymous couture house and helmed the powerful YSL fashion empire during four decades. He said his legacy forever would remain the women's tuxedo, "le smoking", in French.

"Le smoking," he said, "symbolises Saint Laurent's complicity with women."

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