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Fitting climax to Paris show

THE MIGHTY Yves Saint Laurent closed the autumn/winter haute couture season in Paris yesterday. For his final collection of the century, the designer presented a loving look back at his own past triumphs, proving once again the enormous impact he has had on contemporary fashion.

There were the famous Le Smokings - this time as strong-shouldered jacket and trouser and/or skirt combinations, but best of all transformed into a floor-sweeping black chiffon coat, tied at the waist with satin lapels. Saint Laurent introduced this now classic look in 1968 to relieve women of overblown and fussy evening wear.

The chiffon blouse worn with nothing beneath it, which once scandalised the fashion establishment, was sent out again. As a colourist, Saint Laurent remains unsurpassed. There were embroidered lime jackets worn with fine suede gloves in brightest fuchsia peaking out of the sleeves; a vivid purple sweater offset by a magenta belt. he also revisited Hungarian peasant-inspired evening wear. Skirts in jewel-coloured velvet were lifted to dizzy heights by beaded and embroidered tops in poppy and emerald, sunshine yellow and rose, and ultra-violet and flame.

Changes are afoot at the House of Saint Laurent, recently purchased by Pinault-Printemps Redoute from Sanofi. It is prime fodder for revitalisation. Paul Gautier, the designer tipped to take over the haute couture when Yves Saint Laurent retires, was at the show and they took a photocall together. However, a spokesperson for Saint Laurent said, quashing any rumours that might suggest otherwise: "For couture, it's business as usual."

Yves Saint Laurent is the greatest couturier of the latter part of this century. Long may he reign.