The French fashion designer, Ted Lapidus, the man who made the safari suit and jeans the height of elegance in the 1960s, has died aged 79.

M. Lapidus, born in Paris into a family of Russian émigré tailors, was best-known for creating a "unisex" style of clothes. His high-profile clients in the 1960s and 1970s included the actors Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon. He died of respiratory problems in hospital in Cannes on Monday.

President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to him yesterday as a "man who was always at the forefront of modernity" and the designer who had, for the first time, made high fashion "available to the man and woman on the street".

Born Edmond Lapidus in Paris on 23 June 1929, Ted Lapidus opened his own fashion house in 1958 and was admitted in 1964 into the prestigious haute couture association, La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He is credited with making blue jeans – previously an anti-fashion statement – part of the repertory of fashion design.