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Encounters

1948 Bernard Buffet

 He was 20, I was 18, and love at first sight struck us like lightning. We met in a café which no longer exists on the rue de Seine, Chez Constant. He drank cognac and taught me how to play the dice game 421. [...] 
Very quickly, Bernard hurried things along: we he had to leave Paris, leave for Provence where his art dealer had found him a house, leave to start living together. [...] 
Our story lasted eight years, which is both long and short. [...]
I have an abundance of memories. During these eight years, we did not leave each other's side for one day. Life revolved around Bernard's work. My apprenticehip of life began there. Whatever may have happened since, I have never forgotten our youth, the ambition that coursed through us, the unconsciousness that allowed us to confront all dangers, the passion that we lived for.
Excerpts from Les jours s'en vont je demeure by Pierre Bergé

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1950 Jean Giono

 Jean Giono was born in Manosque in 1895 and died there in 1970. 
His life was spent in the small Provençal town which was beautiful the day he was born and ugly the day of his death, scarred by successive municipal governments. [...] 
He continued to write. What else could he have done? Two pages every morning. Come what may. He would dip his pen into an inkwell, as he had done as a child. Two pages covered in a tight and elegant script. [...] 
Then began his so-called Stendhalian period. That is when I met him and lived in his house, and he would read the famous two pages to me every morning. Straight out of the oven. The book was The Horseman on the Roof (Le hussard sur le toit. [...] 
He wrote to me: "You are the only one that I love as a son and as my best friend." I cannot describe what I owe him. He was my mentor, my friend, my guide. He made me discover so many things, read so many books! He was an attentive friend all those years. Perhaps he welcomed me with so much warmth because I was one of the first since the end of the war, to come and see him, as his admirers used to do in the past. [...] 
I always knew he was a great writer of his time. That is why I had traveled to Manosque. Now, I know that he will stand the test of time. In Proust's questionnaire, in response to "How would you like to die?", he said: "Peacefully." That is how it happened. Death visited him in his sleep, without warning. Elise [his wife] wrote these words to me: "At his death, Jean had on him, in the wallet he always carried, the last letter that you wrote to him." There are some words that you cannot recover from very easily.
Excerpts from Les jours s'en vont je demeure by Pierre Bergé

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1952 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau was born in 1899, the same year as the Eiffel Tower. A painting by Romaine Brooks shows them both, young, victorious. He touched upon everything, meddled in everything and his imprint on the 20th Century is immense.[...]
Returning from a stroll during which he had not stopped talking, he told me: “We are like two old mandarins. We have whispered secrets to each other that soon no one will understand.” I pretended to believe him and accepted his remark as a gift.[...]When the poet passed away, [Edouard Dermit, who shared his life from 1947] competently managed his oeuvre. He passed this body of work on to me shortly before his death, hoping to push away all those who could have played a role. Was he right? It is not up to me to judge. The link that has connected me with Cocteau for so long lives on. Like Ariadne's thread, it often guides me.[...]
I was in Barcelona when his death tore through me like lightning. On the telephone, I was told: “Do you know about Cocteau?” I did not. When I hung up, I realized that I was in tears. 
- Excerpts from Les jours s'en vont je demeure by Pierre Bergé

Jean Cocteau's house in Milly-la-Forêt : scheduled for completion during the spring of 2010 has received significant backing from the Essonne General Council, the Ile-de-France Regional Council and Milly-la-Forêt Town Hall. 
www.jeancocteau.net

Michel de Brunhoff / Michel de Brunhoff

1953 Michel de Brunhoff

Yves Saint Laurent's mother, Lucienne, asked a family friend to organize a meeting with Vogue magazine's director, Michel de Brunhoff, whose brother is the creator of Babar. 
De Brunhoff was the friend and confidant of figures like Dior, Cocteau and set designer Christian Bérard. He was known as a mentor to young artists and would go on to have a decisive influence on Yves' career.

Dear Sir, I am sorry I did not respond earlier, but I preferred to wait for the results of my exams before doing so. As I had hoped, the grades are very decent and I will be moving to Paris in the beginning of autumn. My projects are perhaps too broad. Like Bérard, I would like to be involved in several fields, which in reality are related: costumes and set design, decoration, illustration. I am also very attracted to the world of fashion. My career choice will come from opportunities derived from one or another of my capabilities. Whatever happens, do you still think that I should start at the couture school of the Chambre Syndicale? If you think otherwise, I would be happy to receive your views. As you advised, I am painting a great deal, but I'm also continuing to draw set designs and costumes as well as dresses; which I will send to you soon. [...]

- Letter from Yves Saint Laurent to Michel de Brunhoff, 1954

Anne-Marie Muñoz et Yves Saint Laurent chez Christian Dior, 1955, photo collection privée d'Anne-Marie Muñoz / Anne-Marie Muñoz and Yves Saint Laurent at the House of Christian Dior, 1955, Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Muñoz

1955 Anne-Marie Muñoz

Yves Saint Laurent met Anne-Marie Muñoz when he started working at the House of Dior. She soon became one of his best friends. There was a joyful atmosphere at work. 
Yves Saint Laurent: “There was laughter all the time. Our studio was just above Monsieur Dior’s office. He’d hear us and sigh. What are you up to again ? I wish I could join in.’” 

He is demanding to the point where he demands nothing by authority, but through a mutual complicity. It's in the eyes, in the hands. There's no mistreatment. No desire for power. It does not happen through arguments, but through demands. We are together. The goal is to succeed. There is always a great deal of humility in getting to the goal. 

Anne-Marie Muñoz


Christian Dior (assis) et Christian Bérard / Christian Dior (sitting) and Christian Bérard

1955 Christian Dior

Christian Dior was the world’s most famour couturier when he hired Yves Saint Laurent as assistant modéliste. His client list included international stars such as Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and Margot Fonteyn. Extremely shy, he always wore a white smock when working in the atelier. 
Though his parents had hoped he would become a diplomat after studying at Sciences Po, he opened an art gallery in 1927 exhibiting the likes of Picasso, Braque, Cocteau and Max Jacob. In 1931, his family's business (fertilizers in Normandy) collapsed and he shut down his gallery. 
For next few years he made a living from auctioning off his art collection and selling couture sketches. He became assistant to Robert Piguet. After the surrender of France, he lived with his father and aunt in a farm in the Var area of France, where they survived by selling produce at the market. He then began working for Lucien Lelong before meeting an old friend from Grandville, Jacques Rouët. Rouët was looking for a couturier to start a new line for a clothing company he managed for Marcel Boussac, the Cotton King who owned a slew of companies including the newspaper l’Aurore. 
Broussac endowed the couture house with 9 million euros and a staff of 85, while Balmain for example had started with only 90,000 euros. 
The first collection is the “New Look,” a throwback to the Belle Epoque. It was a sensation after the drab wartime outfits and put Paris back on the fashion map. Accessories accompanied models during the shows. It was the first time a couturier was giving a total look to women. Some favorite models were reinterpreted in every show. 
The Bobby suit was a success eight seasons straight. Jacques RouÎt’s management also became a model for couture houses which used to be small operations making money by selling custom clothes to private clients. Dior set a precedent by demanding a percentage of sales of stockings and this is the norm today.

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1956 Zizi Jeanmaire et Roland Petit

Yves Saint Laurent met dancer Zizi Jeanmaire and choreographer Roland Petit for the first time at a ball (Bal des Têtes) thrown by the socialite Baron Rédé at the Hôtel Lambert. It was to be the beginning of a long and fruitful artistic collaboration. 
"Roland Petit guided my first steps on the stage, when he asked me, in 1959, to design the costumes for one of his most beautiful ballets: Cyrano de Bergerac. 
Ever since, our frequent collaboration has kept us constantly in touch. This collaboration has been fascinating. It has taken us from music halls to the opera, by way of song numbers. It's indicative of the extraordinarily eclectic nature of his gifts and talents that he can create a classical pas-de-deux and direct a gliding string of show girls. Roland Petit is a magician who amazes us with his innovation and elegance"
Yves Saint Laurent

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1957 Diana Vreeland

As the editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazine, Diana Vreeland exercised great influence on the world of fashion from the 1930s to the 1970s. She became a consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and during her tenure, in 1983, Yves Saint Laurent became the first living couturier to have an exhibit devoted to his work. She was a flamboyant figure of New York society, known for her energy, taste and witty quotes:"Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola' "Pink is the navy blue of India'...


" You can never describe allure, it's like the smell of a perfume. But if you want to know a little about what contributes to Yves's allure, I could start by telling you what he was like the first time we met, because - and that's very important - he hasn't changed. It was before he made a hit with the 'trapeze' look and I was still at Harper's Bazaar. he was at Dior. I saw him at his hotel in New York. A thin thin tall tall boy in a thin suit. He was so very young! and not really part of the world. [...] 
He struck me right away as a person with enormous strength, determination and full of secrets. 
- Diana Vreeland

Pierre Bergé et Françoise Sagan, 1958 / Pierre Bergé and Françoise Sagan, 1958

1958 Francoise Sagan

I knew of him, that he was willful, shy, secretive and brimming with talent. I learned that he was also lucid, pssionate, intransigent and generous. These aren't small discoveries to make, all of a sudden, in two hours, on a Sunday afternoon. But they are delightful, reassuring and rare at the same time. 

Françoise Sagan 

Françoise Sagan had already been crowned by the success of her first three novels when she met Yves Saint Laurent. She is only a year older than him. She later encourages him to publish her cartoons featuring La Vilaine Lulu - nasty Lulu.

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1961 Rudolf Noureev

Rudolf was Solar, meaning he shone. His beauty was breathtaking and it is an understatement to say that he was the greatest dancer of his time. He was dance personified, just as Callas was song personified.[...] 
La Bayadère was the last ballet he choreographe at the Paris Opera. Unable to stand up, he sat on a chair, a wool bonnet on his head, to receive the rapturous acclaim of the spectators, who were choked with emotion because they could guess that the end was near. He could not stay long at the ensuing dinner. It was a long walk to his car. I helped him take his seat. We embraced. He waved to me through the window and left forever. 
- Excerpt from Les jours s'en vont je demeure by Pierre Bergé

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1961 J. Mack Robinson

In the early 1960s, J. Mack Robinson owned an insurance company in Switzerland. The managing director of the company was looking for opportunities to invest its profits. One day, Mr. Robinson received a call saying that Yves Saint Laurent who had been designing for the House of Dior wanted to start his own house of haute couture. Mr. Robinson met with Yves Saint Laurent and many people in the fashion industry and decided to make the investment and finance him. As he did not feel it was proper for an insurance company to make such a risky investment, Mr. Robinson made the investment personally. In addition, he worried about how the public would accept a Paris fashion house that was owned by an American, so for two years only a handful of people knew of the investment. As Mr. Robinson's involvement in the business activities of the fashion house increased, especially when he was signing checks, the media eventually found out. 

With his other businesses and his family still in Atlanta, Mr. Robinson became an international commuter. “For about four years, I was in Paris at least every 90 days, and all the flights were from New York City,” he remembers. By 1966, the house of Yves Saint Laurent had grown too large to commute from Atlanta. In one of his hardest business decisions, Mr. Robinson sold his partnership for $1 million because he did not want to move his family to Paris. He is still proud of his early investment in a young Parisian designer, and maintains a friendship with Yves Saint Laurent. 

Yves is truly a genius and one of the greatest designers in the world, and I regretted selling my partnership,” says Mr. Robinson. “But I needed to be here more than there, and it would have required too much time away from my family. 

- J. Mack Robinson

Céline et le chat Bébert / Céline and his cat, Bébert

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

I was overwhelmed when I read Voyage at the age of fifteen. I discovered what writing was about, how you could twist words, shoot out images

- Excerpts from Les jours s'en vont je demeure by Pierre Bergé



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