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Pierre Bergé

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Pierre Bergé
Bergé in 2012
Pierre Vital Georges Bergé

(1930-11-14)14 November 1930
Died8 September 2017(2017-09-08) (aged 86)
Madison Cox
(m. 2017)
PartnerYves Saint Laurent

Pierre Vital Georges Bergé (French pronunciation: [pjɛʁ vital ʒɔʁʒ bɛʁʒe]; 14 November 1930 – 8 September 2017) was a French industrialist and patron. He co-founded the fashion label Yves Saint Laurent, and was a longtime business partner (and onetime lover) of its namesake designer.[1]

Early life and education


Bergé was born in Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron, on the Oléron Island, Poitou-Charentes, on 14 November 1930.[2] His mother, Christiane, was a progressive teacher, who used the Montessori method.[3] His father worked for the tax office.[3] Bergé attended the Lycée Eugène Fromentin in La Rochelle, and, later, went to Paris. On the day of his arrival, as he was walking on the Champs-Élysées, French poet Jacques Prévert landed on him following a fall from his apartment window.[4][5]

At the age of 18 in La Rochelle, I decided to leave my family. The day I arrived in Paris, I went for a walk on the Champs-Elysées when suddenly I saw a man go through a French window, fall through the air, grab at a store sign and crash at my feet. He was bleeding profusely. An ambulance arrived and took him to Marmottan hospital. The next day, I discovered in the newspapers that it had been Jacques Prévert. I have always considered it an omen that the same day I got to Paris, a poet fell on my head.

— Pierre Bergé

During his early years in Paris, Bergé met both Albert Camus and Sartre through his involvement in leftist organisations, including editing a short-lived leftist magazine.[6] Bergé also befriended and dated[7] the young French artist Bernard Buffet, and helped facilitate Buffet's success.[8][9]



Yves Saint Laurent


Bergé met Yves Saint Laurent in 1958. They became romantically involved and together launched Yves Saint Laurent Couture House in 1961. The couple split amicably in 1976 and remained lifelong friends and business partners.[10] Bergé acted as CEO of Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture until it closed in 2002. Highly protective of and invested in the reputation and legacy of Saint Laurent Couture, Bergé was known as the "Dean of Yves Saint Laurent".[11] According to The New York Times, a few days before Saint Laurent died in 2008, he and Bergé were joined in a same-sex civil union known as a pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) in France.[12] When Saint Laurent was diagnosed with brain cancer, Bergé and the doctor mutually decided that it would be better for him not to know of his impending death. Bergé said, "I have the belief that Yves would not have been strong enough to accept that."[13]

In 1992, Bergé sold shares of the fashion house just before the company released a poor economic report. In 1996, this action was deemed to be insider trading and he was sentenced to a fine of one million Francs.[14] After the close of the Couture house, Bergé became president of the Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.[15]

During Bergé's eulogy of Saint Laurent, he reflected on their lifetime of memories, saying;

I remember your first collection under your name and the tears at the end. Then the years passed. Oh, how they passed quickly. The divorce was inevitable but the love never stopped.[1]

Philanthropic, cultural, and political interests

Pierre Bergé at a marriage equality rally in 2012

Bergé has been described as a social liberal and a political conservative.[16] He voted for Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the 1970s.[16] In 1988, Bergé launched the French magazine Globe, which supported the candidacy of François Mitterrand for the presidential election.[2] Bergé participated in all the campaign rallies of François Mitterrand (contrary to 1981, when he did not vote for Mitterrand).[17]

Bergé later served as President of the association of the friends of Institut François-Mitterrand. In 1993, he helped to launch the magazine Globe Hebdo.[18]

A longtime fan and patron of opera, Mitterrand appointed Bergé president of Opéra Bastille on 31 August 1988. He retired from the post in 1994, becoming honorary president of the Paris National Opera. He served as president of the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler, a non-profit library with extensive collections relating to 19th and 20th century music.[8] He was also president of the Comité Jean Cocteau, and the exclusive owner of all the moral rights of all of Jean Cocteau's works.[19]

A supporter of gay rights, he supported the association against AIDS, Act Up-Paris, and assumed ownership of the magazine Têtu. He was also one of the shareholders of Pink TV, before withdrawing. In 1994, he participated with Line Renaud in the creation of the AIDS association Sidaction, and he became its president in 1996 until his death.[20]

Bergé's philanthropic patronages have included UNESCO. In July 1992, Bergé was appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.[21]

In 2007, he supported the candidacy of Ségolène Royal.[22] On a more general basis, he has been considered to be her sponsor. For example, after late 2008, when she was no longer heading the French socialist party and he was paying for the rental of her political office located between the French Senate and House of Representants until this arrangement ceased on 3 March 2011.[23]

The art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Bergé was put up for sale by the latter in February 2009, with two of twelve bronze statue heads looted from the Old Summer Palace in China during the Second Opium War among them. When China requested the return of these statues, Bergé refused and declared "I am prepared to offer this bronze head to the Chinese straight away. All they have to do is to declare they are going to apply human rights, give the Tibetans back their freedom and agree to accept the Dalai Lama on their territory." Bergé's self-admitted "political blackmail" was received with criticism in China.[24] After Chinese art collector, businessman, and advisor to the PRC's National Treasures Fund, Cai Mingchao placed the winning bid and refused to pay on "moral and patriotic grounds," Bergé decided to retain ownership of them. Later on in a ceremony on 29 June 2013, François Pinault (CEO Kering) returned the artifacts to the Chinese National Museum, Beijing.[25]

Bergé also set up the museum of Berber art in Marrakesh,[26] Morocco, which holds a collection of Berber objects originating from many different parts of Morocco, from the Rif to the Sahara.[27]

Bergé published a book, Lettres à Yves, in 2010[2] which was translated into English with the title, Yves Saint Laurent: A Morrocan Passion, in September 2014.[28] On 2 November 2010, he bought a stake in Le Monde newspaper, along with investors Matthieu Pigasse and Xavier Niel.[29]

During the filming of Yves Saint Laurent in 2014, the Fondation Pierre Bergé — Yves Saint Laurent, which holds 7,000 vintage outfits from its archives, played an active role in providing authentic material and fashion of Saint Laurent.[30]



Bergé was recognized with the Order of Orange-Nassau, Officer of the Ordre National du Mérite, Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, and Legion of Honor.[9]



In November 2009, Bergé revealed he was suffering from myopathy. He triggered a controversy by accusing the Téléthon en France [fr] of "parasitising the generosity of French people in a populist manner", [31] of not using donations immediately and making real estate investments. The French Association against Myopathies [fr] (AFM), which organises the charitable program, denied Bergé's accusations.[32] Following the repeated attacks by the businessman, the AFM filed a complaint for defamation in February 2010.[33] On 28 June 2013, the 17th Chamber of the Paris Criminal Court sentenced him to a €1,500 fine.[34]

On 16 March 2013, on Twitter, Bergé retweeted the following message: "If a bomb explodes on the Champs Elysees because of the "#laManifPourTous", I won't be the one crying." This retweet triggered strong reactions because, according to the "Manif pour tous" organisation, it is an incitement to acts of terrorism.[35] On 21 June, he appeared on the TV show Le Petit Journal, and mentioned this episode, declaring that he was "non-violent".[36]

During the debate on same-sex marriage, Bergé supported the idea of gestational surrogacy and controversially said "rent her womb for a child or lease her arms to work in a factory, what's the difference?", provoking an outcry by same-sex marriage supporters who go against such positions.[37]

On 26 September 2013, Bergé declared he was in favor of the removal of all Christian holidays in France.[38]

In March 2016, Bergé expressed his position on "modest fashion" in an interview with French Radio Station Europe 1, saying, "I am scandalized. Creators should have nothing to do with Islamic fashion. Designers are there to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to collaborate with this dictatorship which imposes this abominable thing by which we hide women and make them live a hidden life... In one way they are complicit, and all this to make money. Principles should come before money."[39]

Personal life


Bergé had an on and off relationship with model Victoire Doutreleau for three years in the 1960s.[40]

Bergé's longtime partner was Yves Saint Laurent who died on 1 June 2008, aged 71.[41] His other longtime partner was Bernard Buffet, with whom the relationship lasted for ten years.[41]

On 31 March 2017, Bergé married Madison Cox, a landscape architect and gardener, in Paris.[6][41]



Bergé died of myopathy on 8 September 2017 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at the age of 86.[6][42]

See also



  1. ^ a b Elizabeth Snead (5 June 2008). "Pierre Bergé bids a tearful adieu to designer Yves Saint-Laurent". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 8 June 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Pierre Bergé". Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b Walden, Celia (29 January 2009). "Why Yves Saint Laurent was never happy". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  4. ^ Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent | Secrets: 1948 A Poet on the Head Archived 20 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Fondation-pb-ysl.net. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  5. ^ Fatras – la succession Jacques Prévert | Biography: 1948 October 12th – Prévert falls from the window of the French Broadcasting (Radiodiffusion Française). He is taken to Marmottan hospital and will be several days in a coma. Archived 27 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine Jacquesprevert.fr. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Jonathan Kandell (8 September 2017). "Pierre Bergé, Transformative Fashion Executive and Opera Czar, Dies at 86". The New York Times. New York City. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Bernard Buffet: Return of the 'poser'". The Independent. 16 March 2009. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b Médiathèque Musicale Mahler – institution Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Mediathequemahler.org. Retrieved on 4 July 2011.
  9. ^ a b Biography of Pierre Bergé – UNESCO Celebrity Advocates | UNESCO.org Archived 5 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  10. ^ Shaun Cole (2002). "Saint Laurent, Yves". glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  11. ^ Pierre Bergé loses out on joining the Immortals Archived 4 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Vogue (30 May 2008). Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  12. ^ "France Salutes the Ultimate Couturier". The New York Times. 6 June 2008. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  13. ^ Pierre Berge: "Yves Died at the Right Time" Archived 26 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine; The Talks
  14. ^ Yves Saint Laurent Biography and profiles of fashion designers Archived 19 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Infomat.com. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  15. ^ Arts and Humanities – Record is not live Archived 5 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Intute (31 October 2002). Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  16. ^ a b F.R. (12 September 2017). "Pierre Bergé was one half of an extraordinary fashion duo". The Economist. Archived from the original on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Pierre Bergé sort ses griffes". Lexpress.fr. 21 January 2010. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  18. ^ Magoutier, Luc (8 September 2017). "Pierre Bergé, homme du " Monde "". La Croix. Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Jean Cocteau – Jean Cocteau Committee". Jeancocteau.net. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  20. ^ "DÉCÈS DE PIERRE BERGÉ, PRÉSIDENT DE SIDACTION". Sidaction. 8 September 2017. Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  21. ^ Pierre Bergé – UNESCO Celebrity Advocates | UNESCO Archived 5 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (7 June 2000). Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  22. ^ Pizzi, Sara (16 May 2010), Giorgio Armani, Vogue, archived from the original on 22 December 2015, retrieved 18 December 2015
  23. ^ Le PS met Ségolène Royal au régime sec – Le Figaro, 23 January 2009 Archived 24 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Lefigaro.fr. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  24. ^ Political blackmail in disguised form – People's Daily Online Archived 28 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine. (25 February 2009). Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  25. ^ Mark McDonald; Carol Vogel (2 March 2009). "Twist in Sale of Relics Has China Winking". The New York Times. New York City. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  26. ^ Sciolino, Elaine (11 May 2011). "Pierre Bergé on His Relationship With Yves Saint Laurent". The New York Times. New York. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2012. Marrakesh
  27. ^ "Berber Museum". YSL Foundation. Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012. Berber objects originating from regions of Morocco, from the Rif to the Sahara.
  28. ^ Elaine YJ Lee (6 September 2014). "Inside Pierre Berge's Yves Saint Laurent: A Morrocan Passion Book". Selectism. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  29. ^ Joelle Diderich (19 February 2013). "Pierre Bergé Sells Têtu Magazine". WWD. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  30. ^ Joelle Diderich (10 January 2014). "Yves Saint Laurent Biopic Wins Pierre Bergé's Approval". WWD. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  31. ^ "L'attaque de Pierre Bergé contre le Téléthon prend une tournure politique". Le Monde. 21 November 2009. Archived from the original on 17 December 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  32. ^ "L'Express". Archived from the original on 22 August 2012.
  33. ^ "L'AFM porte plainte contre Bergé". Europe 1. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  34. ^ "Pierre Bergé condamné à 1 500 euros d'amende pour des propos sur le Téléthon". Le Parisien. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  35. ^ "Bombe sur les Champs-Elysées : le "retweet" de Pierre Bergé dérange". Direct Matin. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  36. ^ "Le Petit Journal". Canal+. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013.
  37. ^ ""Louer Son Ventre Pour Faire un Enfant": Pierre Bergé Crée Le Scandale!". Marie Claire. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  38. ^ "Pierre Bergé favorable à la suppression de toutes les fêtes chrétiennes". RTL. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  39. ^ "Pierre Berge Accuses designers of 'enslaving women' with Islamic styles". Ikon London Magazine. 3 March 2016. Archived from the original on 28 September 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  40. ^ Guilbault, Laure (29 December 2014). "Q&A With Victoire Doutreleau at 80". WWD. Archived from the original on 12 March 2022. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  41. ^ a b c "Pierre Bergé Ties the Knot With Madison Cox". WWD. 4 May 2017. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  42. ^ "Pierre Bergé Dies at 86". wwd.com. 8 September 2017. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2020.