PARIS — Was Yves Saint Laurent’s and Pierre Berge’s presence at the Dior men’s show Sunday an act of provocation and treason?
Absolutely, according to the CGT union representing workers at Gucci Group-controlled Yves Saint Laurent Couture. On Monday, union delegate Jean-Claude Lefrancois sent an open letter to Berge, and the media, criticizing Berge’s behavior as a deliberate insult to current management and employees at the house.
“Everyone will understand that in the battle between the groups PPR and LVMH, you have chosen your camp,” Lefrancois wrote, referring to the escalating war between French titans Francois Pinault of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, which controls 42 percent of YSL parent Gucci Group, and Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior SA. “Mr. Saint Laurent and yourself should stand up for the interests of the brand you created.”
But Berge characterized Lefrancois’s allegations as overblown and he defended his and Saint Laurent’s decision to see the debut Dior collection of designer Hedi Slimane, formerly men’s designer at YSL.
“We do our part in defending the brand by producing two couture collections a year,” Berge told WWD. “In no way did we choose Mr. Arnault’s camp by attending the show. De facto, I’m in Mr. Pinault’s camp, because Artemis controls Yves Saint Laurent and the couture.”
Artemis is the holding company of the Pinault family.
“By attending the show, we were in Hedi’s camp,” Berge said. “Mr. Saint Laurent and myself were very sad that Hedi left [YSL] because he didn’t get along with [Gucci Group creative director Tom Ford] — but that’s none of my business. Overall, we wanted to illustrate our admiration and friendship for Hedi.”
It is believed that Saint Laurent has only attended one other fashion show, in the early Nineties, for a YSL fur collection designed by Robert Merloz.
Asked why neither he nor Saint Laurent attended Ford’s debut show on Saturday for YSL Rive Gauche Homme, Berge said they were not in Paris.
“There was no way to alter our schedule,” he said. “By the way, Mr. Ford did not attend the YSL couture show [last week]; I’m sure he was also too busy to attend.”
Gucci, PPR and Artemis declined to comment on the CGT letter.
This is not the first time suggestions of a rift between Berge and the new Gucci regime have surfaced.
Last October, Berge transformed an accessories shop on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore here into an “Haute Couture” boutique, selling everything from handbags to blouses and trousers, which some saw as a direct competition with the new Gucci-controlled ready-to-wear regime.
But, as reported, Berge insisted the boutique was no provocation and Gucci chief executive officer Domenico De Sole said he regarded it as no threat and that he believed Berge would “uphold and respect our agreement: he deals with couture, and the ready-to-wear is ours.”
Gucci Group acquired Yves Saint Laurent for $1 billion in November 1999 and spun off the couture house as a separate company to be run by Berge and Saint Laurent. The two men received a $70 million payout to abandon a variety of control rights and interests in future earnings from the YSL rtw and fragrance businesses.
Meanwhile, on Sunday night, following Slimane’s men’s wear show, hundreds of fashionable young Parisians crowded into the Hotel de la Monnaie for a party headlined by top French house deejays. Among the revelers were Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Cate Blanchett, Arnault and his wife, Helene.

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