Pierre Bergé And The Saint Laurent Legacy
Pierre Bergé, the deeply cultured but combative partner of Yves Saint Laurent, has died at age 86 on the eve of opening up two final resting places for the YSL heritage.
Museums in Paris and in Marrakesh were designed by Bergé to keep the flame alive of the great 20th-century fashion designer, who passed away in 2008.
I remember so clearly Bergé, speaking from a wheelchair in Paris in June, explaining every last detail of his project to laud the Yves Saint Laurent legacy. The two museums are due to open in the French capital this month and in Morocco in October. Both are designed to commemorate the heritage of Bergé’s late life and business partner – the designer who changed the face of fashion in the second half of the 20th century.
In his familiar pugnacious style, Bergé laid out the plans to display what he believed the YSL history stands for – his mission since Saint Laurent withdrew from ready-to-wear fashion in the new millennium and died in 2008, aged 71.
The Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent has brought together an archive of 5,000 clothes, 15,000 accessories, and manifold sketches by the late designer, transforming memories into a vast, visual archive of the past century.
The comprehensive vision was presented in a meeting at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM, or French Institute of Fashion), founded by Bergé, where the line-up featured his current partner – the landscape designer Madison Cox – and the various people involved in the two museums.
The investment in people and finance to keep Saint Laurent’s legacy alive developed from the early days, when Bergé started to collect the designer’s original drawings, and gained pace in 1980 when he and Yves bought the Jardin Majorelle in Morocco, an artist’s home that was then under threat from developers.
“An exceptional case of love at first sight,” said Bergé of the Marrakesh experience. He was financing the twin projects, although he offered his gratitude to François-Henri Pinault – CEO of the Kering luxury group, the brand’s current owner – for some financial support for the two venues.
Pinault paid tribute to Bergé, after his death, saying: “It is with great emotion that I learn of the death of Pierre Bergé, a person integral to the history of the house of Yves Saint Laurent.”
“I will always remember him as a man instilled with a fertile tension between avant-gardism and the will to work relentlessly to inscribe creation in history,” Pinault continued. “This man who has just left us was a great cultural figure, and a man with convictions he fought tirelessly to uphold.”
At the IFM presentation, the YSL heritage team then set out the detailed plans. The Marrakesh site will be a cultural centre: a low-rise building with a lattice-style façade that will house permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, state-of-the-art storage, an auditorium for film screenings and concerts, a book shop, café, and an extensive library funded by Bergé. In Paris, Yves Saint Laurent’s home on Avenue Marceau is being completely remodelled so that different rooms will bring to life particular garments and show the studio where the designer and his team, including his muse Loulou de la Falaise, worked.
The minutiae of these double displays of Saint Laurent as an artist in clothing are admirable. The plans show exceptional detail, with Bergé and Flaviano explaining how one area will be devoted to a single show, from drawing to couture creation, with the subject changed each year. The first exhibition in Marrakesh will be called ‘The Morocco of Jacques Majorelle’, including paintings by the French expatriate artist, the son of Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle.
While exhibits of the work of other fashion designers are on show in museums around the world, Saint Laurent will hold his lofty position in the two permanent exhibitions, designed to keep the single flame alive.
The legacy of Yves Saint Laurent deserves this unique position, since he was the first living designer to have been granted a retrospective show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 1983. This set off a slew of fashion exhibitions that seem to become more numerous each year. So, the designer was not only the inventor of ‘Le Smoking’ – the tuxedo for women – and so many other fashion creations we now take for granted, but also of museum displays that in his case, thanks to Bergé, are designed to preserve those inventions for posterity.