Feuds in Fashion: Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld

KARL LAGERFELD and YVES SAINT LAURENT are one of fashions most recognizable and influential designers. They’re both legends in their own rights, for better or for worst. From Lagerfeld’s work with Chanel and Fendi; to Saint Laurent work with Christian Dior and his own collection – they’ve both created hundreds of iconic collections. While their careers have distinct differences, they’re personal lives have overlapped at one time or another.

To start from the very beginning, the year was 1954 in Paris, France. There was fashion competition that would later be known as the Woolmark Prize. Even though the competition was still very new, it was the place to be especially if you were a new, upcoming designer. That year, the judges were Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain. Two legendary designers. Also, that same year Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent were top contestants. Two future legendary designers.

Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent at the Woolmark Prize, 1954.

Lagerfeld won the coat category. Saint Laurent, who was previous winner, won the award for dress design.

The competition was a huge milestone for both designers. It lead to Saint Laurent working with Christian Dior and later creating his own collections for Dior after Christian Dior’s death. Which lead to massive success and fame for Saint Laurent. For Lagerfeld, this competition lead him to becoming the assistant to Pierre Balmain from 1955 to 1958.

Their paths didn’t cross again till the 1970s.

Around the 70s, Saint Laurent had already created his own successful fashion house with help from his partner, Pierre Bergé. While, Lagerfeld started working for Chloé and Fendi, which gave him is own success. During this time, Lagerfeld started a non-sexual relationship with french socialite, Jacques de Bascher.

Jacques de Bascher and Karl Lagerfeld.

Lagerfeld adored Jacques de Bascher. It’s said that Lagerfeld considered him the love of his life. In 1973, Saint Laurent would start an affiar with Bascher. Their relationship was described as destructive and chaotic, they were each others worst influences.

It’s rumored that Lagerfeld was an overly jealous boyfriend and that’s how the feud started. That’s not really true. Granted, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know fully. But, from what I can tell, it was actually the opposite. Saint Laurent’s partner, Pierre Bergé, actually called Bascher and threatened him to put an end to the relationship.

It’s not like Lagerfeld wasn’t aware of their affair either. According to Marie Ottavi, Lagerfeld told her,”Of course I knew about the affair with Saint Laurent. I had been close friends with Yves for more than 20 years. We used to go out in the early days with Anne-Marie Munoz and Victoire Doutreleau. Pierre smashed that to bits. He said I engineered their liaison to destabilize the house of Saint Laurent.”

Jacques de Bascher and Yves Saint Laurent

“I didn’t hold him [Jacques de Bascher] accountable. I only wanted to see the bright side of Jacques,” Lagerfeld added. “I was unaware of what he kept in the shadows. He would tell me what he did when I wasn’t around, but I didn’t ask questions.”

This is how the rift began between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. The people around Saint Laurent were convinced, according to Lagerfeld, that Lagerfeld and Bascher were doing this on purpose. While, Lagerfeld had to watch a man he loved cheat on him often with one of his biggest competitors in the Fashion world and former friend.

The affair between Saint Laurent and Bascher ended quickly.

Jacques de Bascher was discovered to be HIV positive in 1984. Bascher isolated and alienated himself from almost everyone. Lagerfeld actually had an extra bed installed at Bascher’s bedside and watched over him till his death in 1989.

Karl Lagerfeld became and stayed the creative director of Chanel in 1989 until his death in 2019. Lagerfeld owned a cat named Choupette, which inherited a good portion of Lagerfeld’s net worth.

Yves Saint Laurent became the first living designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition. He retired in 2002. Saint Laurent died on June 1st, 2008.

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