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Pierre Bergé: Saint Laurent Retired and Died “at the Right Time”


Reflecting on the state of the fashion industry today, Yves Saint Laurent‘s always outspoken, never shy lifelong partner Pierre Bergé remarked that the late designer left the fashion and the material world just on schedule.

Pierre Bergé: Saint Laurent Retired and Died at the Right Time

In an interview with The Talks, Bergé was asked if Saint Laurent would hate the fashion industry today, to which he responded “Of course!” Bergé laments that it is “not very easy to work with fashion magazines” anymore and that he “never traded a front cover against advertising…Never.”

When he and Saint Laurent founded Yves Saint Laurent, or rather Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, in 1962, by 1963 “we were already on the front covers with full pages inside. Do you think that is possible today? Even with a new Saint Laurent?”

When Saint Laurent was diagnosed with brain cancer, his doctor and Bergé “mutually decided that it would be better for him to not know” of his imminent death out of “the belief that Yves would not have been strong enough to accept” it.

Still,  Bergé  maintains that “Yves retired at the right time and he died at the right time.” Citing his own difficulty in understanding “what has happened to the fashion business” where it “is all a question of money and marketing” and not “about talent,” Bergé  states matter-of-factly, “Yves Saint Laurent would have hated that.”

It is perhaps this deference for talent that led Pierre Bergé to throw his full support behind Hedi Slimane and his controversial decision to change the name of the house to Saint Laurent Paris and work from Los Angeles rather than Paris. Having dealt with a tempermental artistic soul for 40 years, he understands better than anyone what it takes to fuel the house that Saint Laurent built.

“Saint Laurent is, along with Chanel, the most important fashion designer of the 20th century. It was a different time of designers, a time of great masterminds. I’ve seen wonderful dresses by Balenciaga and Christian Dior – but the difference between those fashion designers and Chanel and Saint Laurent is that they stayed on the aesthetic field. Saint Laurent and Chanel went to the social field – they changed the lives of women around the world…Chanel gave liberty to the women; I think Saint Laurent gave them power.” [The Talks]

Written by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester dot brathwaite at gmail