June 2, 2008 -- Yves Saint-Laurent, one of the most influential designers of the last half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 71. He was perhaps most famous for democratizing fashion by making ready-to-wear clothing acceptable in haute-couture circles with his Rive Gauche line. He also popularized the women's pantsuit, and was the first major designer to show women in pants for evening wear with his famous Le Smoking tuxedo in 1966.
Saint Laurent was only 21 when he was put in charge of the House of Dior after the unexpected death of Christian Dior in 1957. In 1962, he left Dior to found his own house, YSL, which became an iconic couture fashion house, frequented by the likes of Jackie Kennedy and French actress Catherine Deneuve.
Inspired by beatniks and bohemians, Saint Laurent created clothing that was anything but typical haute-couture for the times, but has since come to define them. He created new looks for women inspired by menswear (trousers and jackets), and elegant, simple, and fragile feminine dresses.
Gucci bought the YSL brand in 1999, and Saint Laurent closed his couture house in 2002. His ideas, however, continue to influence countless students of fashion around the world.