Yves Saint Laurent’s legendary co-founder and companion dies at 86

Pierre Bergé, longtime lover, business partner and confidante of Yves Saint Laurent died this morning at his home in Provence. He was 86. The French cultural patron and industrialist was the yin to Saint Laurent’s yang, both personally and professionally.

“Chanel gave women freedom. Yves Saint Laurent gave them power,” said Bergé, the entrepreneurial mastermind of his greatest muse.  It was Bergé who was instrumental in giving Saint Laurent his power, transforming the young, unknown apprentice of Christian Dior into a sartorial sensation. The two co-founded the illustrious fashion house in 1961 together; Yves was the tortured, creative genius and Pierre the levelheaded businessman who lingered in the shadows. Together they built one of the most iconic fashion labels – both through Haute Couture and Pret-à-Porter – and likewise nurtured one of the country’s greatest love stories. Despite Yves’ longtime dalliances with drugs, sex and alcohol, Pierre forever stood by his side. Though technically separated in the 1970s, just days before Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, they joined in civil union, and their legacy continues with the renowned Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, and their famed Marakkech home/museum Jardin Majorelle.

Bergé was more than just Saint Laurent’s other half; he was one of the nation’s greatest cultural and social justice advocates.  In 1973 he was elected President of the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter Des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode – the governing body of French fashion – and he founded the Institute Français de la Mode – one of Paris’s most prestigious design schools – in 1986. He’s been an influential voice for gay rights and AIDS research, saved Le Monde – France’s national newspaper – from shuttering, and has even bankrolled political careers. Bergé had a heavy hand in Socialist President François Mitterand’s re-election, and was one of the first advocates of political underdog – and now President – Emmanual Macron.

Bergé devoted his life to championing beauty and the arts, both through the iconic creations of Saint Laurent, and the cultural fabric of France. His death comes sadly a mere month before his Foundation reopens into the YSL Retrospective Museum, but it is there that his story lives on. As Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “fashions fade, style is eternal.” So too is the patronage of Pierre Bergé.

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