Pierre Bergé the companion and business partner of the designer Yves Saint Laurent, President of Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent told the New York Times: “First, I want to say this: The time of Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior and, of course, Yves — well, that time is over,”
“Second, so too is the era of haute couture. Completely over, gone,” he continued. “This is why what we call luxe today is just ridiculous. To me, that whole industry now — all money and marketing — it is all something like a lie.”
Mr. Saint Laurent’s protector and promoter, both in life and in death, Mr. Bergé has long attracted admiration and loathing for his occasional scathing outbursts on the state of the contemporary luxury sector.
Scheduled by the French auction house Artcurial in the salons of the Palace Es Saadi in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Saturday, proceeds from the sale, titled “A Moroccan Passion,” will go to a foundation dedicated to the upkeep of the Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh. It is the cobalt blue Art Deco villa and botanical garden retreat that the couple bought in 1980, and where the designer’s ashes were scattered in 2008. The sale also will help finance the new Yves Saint Laurent museum, to open in 2017 in Marrakesh.
“These possessions are both beautiful and precious to me and have been for many, many years, but I don’t need to hold onto them any more,” said Mr. Bergé adding “New artists must be able to come and learn from these sites. I want our legacy to be one that centers around sharing and providing, creating forums of possibility — especially in Morocco, which has always been a place very close to my heart. It is my second home.”
Mr. Bergé and Mr. Saint Laurent first traveled to Marrakesh in 1966, social linchpins of a jet set that included Paul and Talitha Getty, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Loulou de la Falaise. As well as refuge, the medinas and rich flora and fauna of Marrakesh were inspirations for the Algerian-born Mr. Saint Laurent. The intense pressures of the fashion system he felt on becoming a boy wonder designer at the House of Dior at age 21 is one of the few things that Mr. Bergé believes has not changed in the five decades since they entered the industry.
“Fashion is so very fragile, you see. Really, what it is is a moment between the past and future, and it has to encapsulate the present — that has not changed and never will,” he said.
“But people’s perception of what luxury is has changed in such an extraordinary way. Their conception of what is fashion is so different now from the sort of fashion that Yves created — that I created with him. That no longer exists,” he continued. “A handbag that a woman takes with her all over the place — to a grocery store, through the airport — I cannot imagine how that can be considered luxury. That is not luxury.”
Mr. Bergé showered scorn upon the leading labels of today’s industry, save for Saint Laurent, whose controversy-courting creative director, Hedi Slimane, was seen as the heir to the house by Mr. Bergé long before his appointment in 2012.
“I love him,” said Mr. Bergé simply as he brushed away a stray piece of lint from his charcoal gray suit. “Hedi is a friend, and I have seen and recognized his talent for a very long time. I always said Yves had to have a successor, and someone with their own individual vision. I continue to watch and admire from afar what he does with the brand.”
Beyond Mr. Slimane at the helm of the brand now owned by the French luxury group Kering, it is the big high-street behemoths like Zara and H&M that Mr. Bergé believes are showing the way: “Those are the brands that understand and are reflective of our time, of the lives of active and modern women on the street. All the rest — as I said before — completely and utterly ridiculous.”
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