The names Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent have been, for the most part, synonymous throughout the past half-century. They were responsible for establishing a fashion house that has become nothing short of legendary. Even before their felicitous meeting, as a young man Bergé had met poet Jean Cocteau and had been a huge supporter of his companion, artist Bernard Buffet’s, work. His commitment to the arts could not have been more brilliant than the talent and innovation he encouraged in Yves Saint Laurent.
1958 was the year that brought them together over a dinner at Cloche d’Or in the young designer’s honor. Less than 3 years after Saint Laurent’s tumultuous departure from Christian Dior, together they launched Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture. The youthful couturier made the cover of the March issue of Paris Match magazine that year with his beloved model, Victoire Doutreleau, posed in a wedding dress. It has been said that, though Saint Laurent’s relationship with his model was platonic, he had once mentioned a desire to marry her.
Bergé expanded the fashion line with focused determination beyond couture to include prêt-à-porter. This was a confident and bold move for the industry. The label met it’s zenith, and Saint Laurent’s designs continued to command of the runway. Bergé pivoted in creative strides to maintain the business end of the fashion house.
The couple went on to purchase a home in Marrakesh, Morocco where Saint Laurent gathered much inspiration. Marakkesh became a muse itself and was frequented by artists and other muses such as Loulou de La Falaise, Fernando Sanchez, Betty Catroux, Andy Warhol, Paul and Talitha Getty, and others. Bergè told Paris Match in an interview in 2017 that, “It is in Morocco that Yves discovered color and orientalism.” Today the grounds are the sight of a second museum that will house thousands of articles of clothing and haute couture accessories, all carefully selected by Pierre Bergé.
It is not until 1976, eighteen years after their meeting, that Bergé would depart their shared Paris residence on rue de Babylone for a nearby abode all his own. He could not free Saint Laurent from his plunge into drug and alcohol consumption. It was a bourgeois existence at times, with rumors of infidelities between them, including one said to involve one of Saint Laurent’s first models and muses, Victoire Doutreleau, and Bergé.
Yet nothing would ever shatter their pact. Perhaps a difference in lifestyle is to blame, yet their commitment to the house of YSL never waned. After the loss of Yves Saint Laurent to a brain tumor in 2008, at age 71, Bergé decided to auction off their collection of art. Christie’s handled the sale of the Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in the historical Grand Palais. The auction yielded a total sum of €373,935,500, and was referred to as the, “sale of the century.
Bergé offered a foundation and acted as a formidable catapult for the genius and vision that was Yves Saint Laurent. The synergy of this pair was something worthy of a lifetime. A love, an alliance that inspired something greater than themselves as individuals, a symbiotic union that the world of art and fashion shall be able to revere. Jalil Lespert who directed the 2014 film, “Yves Saint Laurent” described their relationship as “one of the greatest love stories of the twentieth century.”
On September 8, 2017, Bergé eventually succumbed of myopathy, a disease that weakens the muscles, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He was 86 years old. Goodbye celebrations to honor the life of this innovative businessmen, art collector, and entrepreneur were international. Anthony Vaccarello, Saint Laurent’s current creative director, dedicated his spectacular Spring 2018 show to Bergé under the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. Bergé has departed barely a month shy of two museum openings to preserve the legacy of the Yves Saint Lauren’s contribution to fashion. One in in Marrakesh and the other in Paris.
A dedication of the museum could be viewed in his hometown and in Saint Laurent. The Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which continues with its sister museum in Marrakech, was the final project of Bergé. This article explores a different kind of auspicious meeting: a meeting that leads to expanding boundaries in the perception of style, individuality, fashion, ambition, and love. To indulge in more layers of the synergy fostered by these 2 dynamic figures, we recommend the 2010 documentary by director Pierre Thoretton, “L’Amour Fou.”