JEFFREY BROWN: Now, he's often described as having help democratize fashion. I think this is going to what you're talking about, translated to everyday life. But explain that. Explain how that worked when he started in the industry and what he did.
VALERIE STEELE: Well, back then, fashion in Paris was really haute couture. And then you have the American industry, which copied French couture.
But Saint Laurent thought that all the young girls wouldn't necessarily want or be able to buy couture, and so he started a line Rive Gauche, "Left Bank," which was much less expensive and was very hip and beautiful.
I remember once a picture of him in '71 holding two dresses, one couture and one Rive Gauche. And the Rive Gauche one cost maybe 1/20th of the couture, and they both looked fantastic. And he was saying, "Fashion is for everyone. It's not just for the rich."
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, I assume, to stay at the top of this game for a long time requires both, I guess, a sense of art and of business. Did he have both?
VALERIE STEELE: He had the sense of art in spades. And, fortunately, his partner, Pierre Berge, was the businessman par excellence. So even though Yves was so creative and so nervous and anxious, Pierre Berge helped keep him on track and run the business.
JEFFREY BROWN: And in what ways is he influential on designers today? Where do you see it?
VALERIE STEELE: Any time anyone makes a pantsuit or a tuxedo suit for women, any time color -- sort of what used to be thought of as clashing colors, like fuchsia and orange come to the fore, any time an artist takes a painting and puts that motif on a dress, or takes a sportswear theme, a kind of sports jacket, and turns into that high fashion, all that comes from Saint Laurent.
JEFFREY BROWN: And you see that as you walk down the street today?
VALERIE STEELE: Absolutely. He once said that all a woman really needed to be stylish was a black sweater, a skirt, and a trench coat. So, beyond high fashion, fashion was really an attitude and a sense of personal style.
JEFFREY BROWN: And let me just ask you briefly, there are in the obituaries a sort of end-of-an-era feel, of a kind of generation passing, when Paris was the height of fashion -- may still well be, of course -- but, I mean, his generation. Does it feel that way to you?
VALERIE STEELE: Well, you know, I think we tend to think of him more in terms of being of the generation of Chanel and Dior. But when you realize he was only 18 when he started with Dior, he was so young back then. He really -- there's still plenty of people like Armani around who are still going who are older than Saint Laurent was when he died.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Valerie Steele, the Fashion Institute of Technology, thanks very much.
VALERIE STEELE: Thank you.