The essence of Yves

Describing Yves Saint Laurent's career sounds like an exercise in hyperbole, but he is the originator of many of today's trends, including pantsuits, ready-to-wear collections and designer wares in mass-market stores such as Target.

“Every woman in the world, sometimes without even knowing it, has something in her closet inspired by Yves Saint Laurent,” said American designer Michael Kors.

Saint Laurent, 71, who battled brain cancer for a year, died Sunday at home in Paris. At 21, he became head designer of the House of Dior when Christian Dior died in 1957. The next year, he introduced the trapeze dress (fitted at the shoulders, wider at the bottom) at a time when body-hugging silhouettes were the norm.

He made the often imitated connection between fine art and fashion with his color-blocked “Mondrian” dress in 1965 (inspired by the works of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian). At a time when women wore dresses, he put them in pants and fitted, sexy tuxedo jackets. His introduction of safari-styled clothing and use of ethnic embellishments is still felt today.

“As a woman, he made me feel the way I wanted to feel – powerful and feminine,” designer Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, told the Wall Street Journal.

N.C. Dance Theatre associate artistic director Patricia McBride wore a custom Saint Laurent gown when she married NCDT president and artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in France in 1973.

“When I thought about the wedding, Jean-Pierre said, ‘Oh (Saint Laurent)'s a friend of mine,'” McBride recalled this week. “I went with (Saint Laurent) to design the dress. I told him I was thinking something Victorian and he got so excited. He sketched out a design and we picked the fabrics together. He offered me the dress, he gave me the wedding dress.” The Associated Press contributed.