Remembering Pierre Bergé: The Man Who Co-Founded Yves Saint Laurent

By: Valeria Ramos

Four days ago, French businessman and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé passed away after a long illness at the age of 86. The fashion world has since offered their words of tribute to the man who was not only a partner to Yves Saint Laurent in business and life, but played a tremendous role in the company's success as well. An active developer of several organizations focused on fashion, Bergé was the founding president of an institution dedicated to preserving the work of the Saint Laurent house. 

Pierre Bergé at the YSL Foundation in Paris, 2015. (Photo: NY Times)

According to a recent article by the New York Times, sales at YSL soared under the guidance and dedication of Bergé, primarily due to the inclusion of ready to wear clothing. His business management skills even landed him a prestigious position overseeing several opera houses in Paris. 

Bergé's interests were not limited to fashion and opera, however, as he was never one to shy away from politics. Bergé advocated for gay rights and donated millions to AIDS research. He also contributed generously to S.O.S Racisme, an organization dedicated to defending minority rights in France.

Pierre Bergé at the Musée Saint Laurent, Paris, Aprl 2017 (Photo: Luc Castel)

Due to his continuous work in fashion, Bergé's legacy will live on in the Saint Laurent house long after his passing. Designer Diane von Furstenburg expressed her appreciation for Bergé and his final achievements with the opening of a YSL museum in his and Yves' adoptive home of Morocco.

"With Pierre gone, the 20th century's world of fashion has ended. Pierre was a huge force and voice, and I am happy that he was able to put his last efforts into the Yves Saint Laurent museum that will open in a few weeks in Marrakech," she said.

Pierre Bergé & Yves Saint Laurent, Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, 1982 (Photo: Didier Fevre)

The success this duo achieved in establishing the eponymous fashion house cannot be doubted, as the label would not be what it is today had it not been for their work and creativity.

Francesca Bollettini, CEO of Yves Saint Laurent said the house was founded "with creativity at the heart," which she believes was fundamental to their accomplishments. Bollettini praised Bergé for the passion he expressed for his career. "He believed that art, fashion and culture could change lives and the way we live," she said.

Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé (Photo: Rex features)

Bergé's approach to fashion was one rooted in authenticity. Pascal Morand, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, expressed just how important Bergé's impact was, not only for Yves Saint Laurent, but for the fashion world in general.

"He was fully aware of the transformation of society and the role of fashion. He played such a big role himself in favoring moves for the sake of humanistic values, respect of diversity and self-accomplishment of people," said Morand. "Fashion was at the heart of his identity, in the sense that for him, as a societal matter it had to be substantially linked to culture."

It is refreshing to have seen a businessman like Bergé in fashion, whose focus was success not only in terms of profit, but in terms of creativity and fulfillment as well. That, to me, is what makes a fashion house Saint Laurent strong.