PARIS — There’s no chance of a fashion comeback for retired couturier Yves Saint Laurent.
This story first appeared in the July 23, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But in the latest twist concerning the fate of his fabled atelier and its 150 workers, Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, said Monday they would buy back their fashion operation for a symbolic euro from French tycoon François Pinault.
When completed, the transaction would override French industrialist Patrice Bouygues’s intention to transform YSL’s ateliers into a multi-brand fashion operation.
Bouygues in March offered to take over the house for a symbolic euro, or about a dollar. He outlined a plan to hire five designers to work at the house and put the know-how of YSL’s atelier at their disposal. He also said he would provide services to other Paris couture houses.
But the YSL workers’ committee repeatedly spurned Bouygues’ offer. They said he refused to provide enough financial information and explain how he planned to make the business viable.
Last month, a Paris court ruled in favor of the workers, saying that they could not be forced to accept Bouygues’s plans. The decision was also upheld when appealed.
In a statement, Saint Laurent and Bergé said they would like to work in tandem with Artemis, Pinault’s private holding company, to hammer out a compensation plan that would be ratified in “accord with the workers and respect their legitimate interests.” Artemis has funded YSL’s money-losing couture operation since purchasing it in 1999.
A spokeswoman for Artemis said Pinault proposed the solution to Bergé after the prolonged logjam between Bouygues and the workers.
“Bergé will be free to liquidate the house as he sees fit,” said the Artemis spokeswoman. “When the deal closes, he will be responsible for the workers. Artemis favored Bouygues’s proposition because it saved all of the jobs at the house. We don’t see how closing the house can be good for the workers.”
Bergé, who was traveling on Monday, could not be reached for comment.
But a spokeswoman at YSL couture reiterated that the deal would not translate into a comeback for YSL.
“There are no plans for Saint Laurent to design at the house,” she said. “Instead, this offer represents Messrs. Saint Laurent and Bergé’s wish to take care of us.”
As of Monday, workers were still completing orders on Saint Laurent’s last collection, shown on the runway last March as part of a retrospective extravaganza.