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Yves Saint Laurent dies at 71

Widely considered last of a generation of top designers

PARIS -- Legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent, who reworked the rules of fashion by putting women into elegant pantsuits that came to define how modern women dressed, died Sunday evening, a longtime friend and associate said. He was 71.

Pierre Berge did not give details but said Saint Laurent had died following a long illness.

A towering figure of 20th century fashion, Saint Laurent was widely considered the last of a generation that included Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and made Paris the fashion capital of the world, with the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank, as its elegant headquarters.

In the fast-changing world of haute couture, Saint Laurent was hailed as the most influential and enduring designer of his time. From the first YSL tuxedo and his trim pantsuits to see-through blouses, safari jackets and glamorous gowns, Saint Laurent created instant classics that remain stylish decades later.

When the designer announced his retirement in 2002 at age 65 and the closure of the Paris-based haute couture house he had founded 40 years earlier, it was mourned in the fashion world as the end of an era. His ready-to-wear label, Rive Gauche, which was sold to Gucci in 1999, still has boutiques around the world.

In October 2006, Saint Laurent slipped and fell outside a Paris restaurant during Fashion Week, suffering slight scratches but reminding fans of the perennially fragile designer's advancing age.