Ahead of the museum opening, friends of Pierre Bergé reminisce about the visionary entrepreneur

October 3 will be the opening of the last great project in Pierre Bergé's life, the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé museum (Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris). We asked a group of fashion experts who knew him very well to recall one of fashion's greatest legends.


Pierre Bergé - AFP

Didier Grumbach, Honorary President of the the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode

The thing about Pierre Bergé is that whatever he tried his hand at, he was successful. In the media, as an art collector; creating French caviar – all of them were successes. And, obviously, the greatest success was creating a great house like Saint Laurent. Would Yves Saint Laurent ever have become famous without Pierre Bergé? In my view, no. He was primordial.
 
We worked together for about 20 years, beginning in 1965 when he came and asked me that I produce their first collection of Pret-à-Porter, the line that became Rive Gauche. Well, I refused and when he asked me why, I replied: “You don’t become the sole supplier of a brand that has only one boutique!” I thought that was settled, but then I opened the France Soir, and discovered that Bergé had told the newspaper that we were his suppliers. So, I called him back the next morning, and he replied: “Don’t worry, you’ll get by!” Which I suppose we did.

Ralph Toledano, President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode

Pierre Bergé was at once an aesthete, a visionary and instinctive entrepreneur, a man of firmly-held convictions and a great philanthropist. His passion for culture and the arts made him a distinguished collector, both of paintings and objets d'art. He was also passionate about opera - he ran the Opéra de Paris in the 1990s - literature - he was a great bibliophile - and the theatre - he was once the owner of the Athénée theatre in Paris, before selling it to the French government. He fought passionately and successfully for major causes like the acceptance of homosexuality and clinical research against AIDS, and often stood at the forefront in the fight for the rights of the
oppressed minorities. He put his money to the service of creativity, art and culture without seeking personal gain. Hailing from Morocco as I do, I am highly sympathetic to what he achieved there, notably in Marrakesh
and Tangier.  

But for us fashion people, Bergé's name is above all inextricably linked to the work of Yves Saint Laurent, with whom he formed the most brilliant duo in the history of fashion. Pierre Bergé was the kingpin of the Maison Yves Saint Laurent's colossal commercial success. The way in which he supported Yves Saint-Laurent, the protection he gave him, the deep respect - as well as love - he had for him, were such an example for our profession that the expression "to find/to seek for one's Pierre Bergé" when talking about a designer has become common parlance. He was also extremely active on behalf of our profession as a whole, during his presidency of the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-á Porter et des Créateurs de Mode (the French association of ready-to-wear couturiers and fashion designers) - in the 1970s, it was Bergé who brought emerging ready-to-wear talents together with the major couturiers - by creating the French Fashion Institute (IFM) and the ANDAM Grand Prix, and through his constant lobbying with public authorities.

He was very brave in the course of his long illness, as he fashioned the image and the mark he wanted to leave behind, sometimes not being shy in rewriting history to his advantage! We cannot nevertheless omit to mention the character traits for which he was widely criticised: Despite his outspoken devotion to liberty and justice, he often happened to behave like an autocratic chieftain, someone who attacked his detractors cruelly, and who recognised he was utterly capable of acting in bad faith. No one is perfect, and Pierre Bergé must be accepted whole, since it was the fullness of his character that gave him the strength to accomplish his multi-faceted life's work.


Musée Yves Saint Laurent

Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode

I was very lucky to be able to work with Pierre Bergé for 20 years, when I was heading the Institut Français de la Mode, which he founded and helmed since its beginning. When I first met him I was immediately struck by the depth of his vision, how cultured he was, by the precision of his words and his unwavering commitment. My perception of him as such never faltered - in fact, quite the opposite.

Anthony Vaccarello, Artistic Director of Yves Saint Laurent

It is with a deep emotion that I have learned of Pierre Bergé’s passing, he welcomed me with kindness since my first day at Saint Laurent. His advice and his support have always guided me. I am infinitely sad that he will not be able to attend the opening of the two museums in Paris and Marrakesh that he cared about so much. A great figure in French culture has left us.
 
Francesca Bellettini, President and CEO of Yves Saint Laurent

Mr. Pierre Bergé was always ahead of his time. He believed in the power of creativity. He believed that art, fashion and culture could change lives and the way we live. Mr. Yves Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé founded the eponymous Maison with creativity at the heart of the house. Creativity is fundamental and believing in it is the key to success. Mr. Pierre Bergé was an inspiration for me. He trusted his instincts. He fought for what he believed in. He stayed true to himself being the founder and supporter of incredible cultural and educational activities. This extraordinary heritage is the DNA of the Maison and we are honoured and thankful to have the chance to bring his values and his spirit into the future. My thoughts are with his closest friends and family.
 

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