Yves Saint Laurent, one of the world’s greatest fashion designers, died in Paris. He was 71. Here is what the New York Times wrote about him:

During a career that ran from 1957 to 2002 he was largely responsible for changing the way modern women dress, putting them into pants both day and night, into peacoats and safari jackets, into “le smoking” (as the French call a man’s tuxedo jacket), and into leopard prints, trench coats and, for a time in the 1970s, peasant-inspired clothing in rich fabrics.

Mr. Saint Laurent often sought inspiration on the streets, bringing the Parisian beatnik style to couture runways and adapting the sailors’ peacoats he found in Army-Navy stores in New York into jackets that found their way into fashionable women’s wardrobes around the world. His glamorous evening clothes were often adorned with appliqués and beadwork inspired by artists like Picasso, Miró and Matisse. Above all, he was a master colorist, able to mix green, blue, rose and yellow in one outfit to achieve an effect that was artistic and never garish.

What can innovators learn from Saint Laurent? 

There are three simple lessons. First, he found inspiration, not inside his studio, but “on the streets.” Second, he was fearless, able and willing to break the rules of an industry that has very rigid rules. Third, he built his innovative designs on life style.

I heard a fashion expert explain Saint Laurent’s success brilliantly. “His success was due to the baby boomers”, explained Gil Michaely, Israeli  Paris-based journalist. “He designed clothes for baby-boomer mothers who wanted to look like their daughters. He designed clothes, as well, for the daughters, who wanted to look like their mothers. And, he designed clothes for the mothers, who wanted to look like their [wealthy, successful] husbands.” Saint Laurent invented the pants suit, which now has become a high fashion item women wear not only to work but also to parties and evening social events. 

“My small job as a couturier,” the New York Times quotes him as saying, “is to make clothes that reflect our times. I’m convinced women want to wear pants.”

“The clothes incorporated all my dreams,” he said after a show, “all my heroines in the novels, the operas, the paintings. It was my heart — everything I love that I gave to this collection.”

Live your dream, we tell innovators. Yves Saint Laurent not only lived his – he let other people wear them. In doing so, he made them beautiful.