- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

PARIS Yves Saint Laurent, who put women into elegant pantsuits and broke down other barriers between the sexes with cutting-edge designs that changed the way generations of women dressed, announced his retirement yesterday and said he was closing the legendary fashion house he started 40 years ago.

Widely considered the most influential designer of the 20th century, Mr. Saint Laurent spoke briefly about his legacy and thanked the women who wore his designs at a news conference at his salon in Paris.

"I want to thank the women who wore my clothes, the celebrities and the unknown, who were so faithful to me and who gave me so much joy," Mr. Saint Laurent said, reading from a speech without looking up.

"For a long time now, I have believed that fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves," he said.

Mr. Saint Laurent, 65, also talked about his battles with drugs, depression and loneliness, but gave no indication those problems were the reason for his retirement.

"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."

A show of Mr. Saint Laurent's spring-summer collection, scheduled for Jan. 23, has been canceled, his office said, although a retrospective of the designer's work will be held Jan. 22 at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Industry experts said it was hard to imagine what French fashion would be like without Mr. Saint Laurent.

"Saint Laurent is the supreme reference, the greatest, whom I admire and I revere. He knew how to make dreams real and embodied the fantasies of every period. His retirement makes me sad because he'll no longer astonish us with his collections," French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier told Liberation newspaper.

While yesterday's announcement means Mr. Saint Laurent's house of haute couture will close, the Yves Saint Laurent name will not disappear.

In 1999, Mr. Saint Laurent sold the rights to his label, ceding control of his Rive Gauche collection, perfumes including his designer scent Opium cosmetics and accessories to Gucci Group NV in return for $70 million cash and royalties.

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