Pierre Bergé, who helped launch fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent, passed away this morning at his estate in southern France. He was 86.
In addition to being the brains behind YSL, Bergé was a consummate art collector and a tireless advocate for LGBT rights and AIDS research.
“He was a magician who made his life and those who he loved a symphony of happiness,” said Former French culture minister Jack Lang. “Pierre… was above all a marvelous and loyal friend., who was there to take on all the good fights, the noble causes, in particular to provide the means for research to defeat AIDS.”
Bergé met Saint Laurent in 1958 and the two men became romantically involved. Together they launched Yves Saint Laurent Couture House in 1961 and, while they ended their relationship in 1976, they remained lifelong friends and business partners. Bergé served as CEO of YSL Haute Couture until it shuttered in 2002, and then became president of the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.
So close were the two men that when Saint Laurent was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Bergé and his doctor decided not to tell the designer. “I have the belief that Yves would not have been strong enough to accept that,” said Bergé.
The couple entered into a civil union in 2008, just days before Saint Laurent’s death.
“I remember your first collection under your name and the tears at the end,” Bergé’s said of Saint Laurent at his eulogy. “Then the years passed. Oh, how they passed quickly. The divorce was inevitable but the love never stopped.”