When it came to defining womens fashion in the 20th century, no designer was as influential as Yves Saint Laurent. In many ways, I feel that I have created the wardrobe of the contemporary woman, mused Saint Laurent in 2002. (Bruno Pellerin / EPA)
The young designer
Born in Oran, Algeria, Saint Laurent spent his youth designing clothes. He would create doll-sized garments out of his mothers discarded dresses. (Loomis Dean / Getty Images)
Saint Laurent began his formal training in the 1950s, when he moved to Paris to study at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale. (Associated Press)
Dior, the mentor
Soon after, Saint Laurent began to assist Christian Dior. “Yves is my heart, my brain,” Dior once said.
After Diors death, 21-year-old Saint Laurent took over as chief designer. I was in a state of complete euphoria preparing that first collection,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I knew I was going to become famous.” (Reg Lancaster / Getty Images)
A dark period
In 1960, Saint Laurent was drafted into the French army; however, mental health problems landed him in the hospital. (Associated Press)
A constant struggle
Despite the success of his growing empire, Saint Laurent continued to struggle with addiction and clinical depression.
Saint Laurents friend and business partner Pierre Berge once said that Saint Laurent “was born with a nervous breakdown. (Associated Press)
Saint Laurent started his own label in the 1960s, and with it, an affordable, ready-to-wear line. The idea of a ready-to-wear boutique was revolutionary at the time, and Saint Laurents fellow designers followed suit. (John Minihan / Getty Images)
Saint Laurents friend and business partner Pierre Berge described Saint Laurent this way: “He was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society. That’s how he transformed society and that’s how he transformed women.”
Berges assertion that Saint Laurent transformed women is hardly an overstatement. Saint Laurent popularized the womens pantsuit at a time when many restaurants and workplaces still prohibited women from wearing pants. (Reg Lancaster / Getty Images)
In good company
Saint Laurent wasnt just king of the fashion world. He was also a prominent figure in the world of art and celebrities. His Paris apartment was full of works by Picasso and Matisse, and he ran with the likes of Andy Warhol and Barbra Streisand. (Associated Press)
The empire expands
Saint Laurents empire expanded to include mens clothing, mens fragrance, and stores in the US. In 1983, he became the first living designer to be honored with a show at New York‘s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On June 1, 2008, at the age of 71, the iconic designer died of an undisclosed illness. (Remy De La Mauviniere / Associated Press)