Yves Saint Laurent announces retirement
PARIS, France (CNN) -- Marking the end of a fabled career, and perhaps an era in fashion, designer Yves Saint Laurent announced Monday he is retiring.
Saint Laurent, 65, read a statement at his Paris fashion house but took no questions. In recent years he has been dogged by ill health, and business associates said he was more and more frustrated by trends in the world of fashion.
Laurent took Paris by storm at the beginning of his career with pantsuits for women. He was also the first to design see-through shirts and have his models wear them on the Paris fashion show catwalks.
The Algerian-born Saint Laurent came to the attention of designer Christian Dior when Saint Laurent was just 17 years old.
Saint Laurent trained under Dior and took over Dior's fashion house when Dior died in 1957.
He paid tribute to Dior at his press conference. "I had the luck at 18 to become assistant to Christian Dior, and to succeed him at 21 and to meet with success from my first collection in 1958. That will be 44 years in a few days. Above all it was Christian Dior who was my master and who was the first to reveal the secrets and mysteries of haute couture."
He also paid tribute to Coco Chanel "who, everyone knows, liberated women. Which allowed me years later to give them power and in a certain sense to liberate fashion."
Credits Deneuve as muse
Saint Laurent's business partner, Pierre Berge, said he believed Saint Laurent had decided to retire because he was uncomfortable with the direction the fashion world had taken.
"We have entered the era of marketing, at the expense of creativity," Berge told The Associated Press. Alluding to Saint Laurent's status at the top of the fashion world, he added, "It's not very fun to play a tennis match when you are all alone."
The bespectacled and shy Saint Laurent teamed with business partner Pierre Berge to stage his first ready-to-wear collection in 1962.
Saint Laurent said that French actress Catherine Deneuve was his muse, and today she still wears only his designs.
Critics hailed Saint Laurent's designs as a total break from post- World War II fashion.
Saint Laurent took his inspiration from everywhere from his youth in North Africa to the designs of artists like Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso.
His designs not only changed the form and style of women's wear, they also changed the business suit. In the 1970s, American department stores were carrying Saint Laurent designs that departed from the pin-striped, narrow lapels of Brooks Brothers to new style and colors, with wide lapels for men's suits.
For a number of years, colorful foulard ties emblazoned with YSL were the rage.
Wanting to 'make women more beautiful'
In recent years, critics have complained that Saint Laurent was no longer breaking new ground with his collections but repackaging his former successes.
In 1999, Saint Laurent sold the rights to the YSL brand to Gucci for $70 million. He kept control of haute couture, but since then, there have been rumors of clashes between Saint Laurent and Gucci designer Tom Ford.
The designer has often closely guarded his privacy, but his battles with depression and drug and alcohol problems were well-known, and he addressed some of his troubles in his statement.
"I've known fear and terrible solitude," he said. "Tranquilizers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I've emerged from all this, dazzled but sober."
He struck an expansive note, however, paying tribute to the many women who have worn his clothes.
"I have always believed that fashion was not only to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence," Saint Laurent said.
"I want to thank all the women who have worn my clothes, the famous and the unknown, who have been so faithful to me and given me so much joy."
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