Pierre Bergé was the business-partner and companion of the couturier Yves Saint Laurent. In 1961 they co-founded the eponymous fashion-house, and they became legal civil partners shortly before the designer died on June 1st 2008.
Bergé and Saint Laurent made Morocco their adoptive home, acquiring the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech in 1966. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. On March 31st 2017 Pierre married Madison Cox, the American landscape designer and director of the charitable Fondation Jardin Majorelle. Pierre died aged 86 on September 8th 2017.
This interview with Pierre Bergé was made in Paris and published in La Stampa on March 10th 2010. We publish this interview here today as a gesture of respect and friendship for Pierre Bergé, his work, his talent and his longtime devotion to Yves Saint Laurent.
“I wanted his work to be preserved, and I wanted to know where the collection ended up”
My life with Yves: In Love with a Genius
Pierre Bergé, who was Yves Saint-Laurent’s life partner until his death, is elegant as always, wearing a brown cashmere jacket and grey flannel trousers. He speaks enthusiastically about the exhibition that will be inaugurated tomorrow at the Petit Palais in Paris, featuring three hundred of the designer’s outfits. “It is the most important exhibition held to date,” he says. “It will feature pieces dating back to the first day of business in 1958 all the way to 2002.”
You have just published the book “Lettres à Yves” with Gallimard. What is it about?
Six months after Yves died, I felt the need to write letters to him. When you lose someone very dear to you, you can no longer turn to him and say, “Did you see that?” or “I need to tell you about such and such.” This allowed me to continue talking to him about me, telling him what I think and about things good and bad.
In the book, you talk about how you sold your collection at auction. What would he have done?
I knew that Yves would have not been able to sell. I also knew I was going against his wishes. This is why, throughout my life, I had always been worried that he would die first. He would have left it all as it was, and so our things, our paintings, and our furnishings would have gone who knows where. However, I wanted his work to be preserved, and I wanted to know where the collection ended up.
But why did you decide to sell?
Because I no longer had space, and I wasn’t interested in having the collection without him.
From your book, it seems as though your life together was full of moments of great joy and difficult moments. Is that the way it was?
Yves needed to have his experiences, even extreme ones like during the era of “Swinging London.” He always told me I was boring, too exacting. He loved me very much—I never had any doubts about that—but I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, and I led a very normal life.
“I wasn’t interested in having the collection without him”
Was Saint-Laurent ever embarrassed for you to see him so overweight, considering you’d met him when he was thin and handsome?
He weighed more than one hundred kilos, and he would say that he’d turned into a monster. But it wasn’t all that important to me. He had an incredibly broad intellect, and an extraordinary way of seeing things.
Yours was a homosexual relationship that began back in 1958. It was always presented in a very nonchalant and free way…
Homosexuality is what it is. It is neither an illness nor an abnormality. Yves was a little scared to talk about it. He was a shy young man from Algeria. But I helped him make his way on his path. I wanted him to become the centre of the world.
“Saint-Laurent allowed women to feel free”
Why did Yves Saint-Laurent leave fashion?
Because it is a profession that no longer means anything today. Today it is a corrupt, commercial, and servile job. There is no longer the integrity there once was. Financial groups have bought fashion out. Fashion became something else, and there was no longer a place for him. He would have been considered passé, and he didn’t want it to come to that. He saw too many people who didn’t know how to leave and ended up in ruin.
Are there no new fashion geniuses?
No. Today, fashion is made more for brands than for tailors. I truly believe in the social aspect of fashion. I am talking about prices and who really can wear a certain type of dress. Yves didn’t dress rich women. He dressed active women. The era in which Dior created his “new look” and made women follow his rules is over. Saint-Laurent allowed women to feel free.
Today, how would you define Yves Saint-Laurent in just one word?
If I could only use one word, I would choose the word love. If I could choose three, I’d say: admiration, respect, and, again, love.
Paris, March 2010
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