Brigitte Burke Remembered in Paris
Brigitte Burke, wife of LVMH executive Michael Burke, was remembered Thursday as a woman of incomparable warmth, positivity, determination and resilience.
She passed away at home in Miami on Feb. 23 at age 65 after a long battle with cancer, and about 200 people gathered at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris for a tribute event whose dress code was “an outfit in memory of Brigitte’s joyful spirit and sunny disposition.”
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Michael Burke was flanked by Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Sidney Toledano, chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, as two Louis Vuitton employees with golden voices opened the program, singing a rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
A wide swath of LVMH’s top executives attended, and many of the group’s creative directors, including Nicolas Ghesquière and Pharrell Williams from Louis Vuitton; Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi from Fendi (Jones also designs menswear at Dior); Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson; Off-White’s Ib Kamara; Dior Joallerie’s Victoire de Castellane, and Emilio Pucci’s Camille Miceli.
Surrounded by Claude Monet’s majestic murals in one of the oval-shaped rooms that together form the symbol for eternity, guests heard tributes that were sometimes heart-wrenching, and often uplifting.
They gasped with emotion and fought tears when her five sons, the youngest only 16, filed on stage, their comportment, bravery and diction — one read poems by Shel Silverstein — a testament to her fine teachings.
A noted expert on child psychology, Burke advocated and radiated positivity, caring and grace. While she had no official role at LVMH, she frequently welcomed executive committee members for dinners at home, used her dancing prowess and joie de vivre to get many fashion parties started, and was a reassuring, calming presence for the creative teams at fashion shows.
Burke’s twin sister, Fabienne, recounted about how Brigitte fought her disease with great courage, determination and hope. “What luck I had to have you as my twin,” she said.
Arnault spoke of Brigitte’s personal charm and charisma, noting, “She’s the only person I’ve ever met that Michael never criticized,” he joked, prompting some chuckles and a moment of levity.
“They made an extraordinary couple,” he said of the Burkes.
Williams took a spiritual tack at the mic, noting that Brigitte “generated a lot of light” and “that energy is now in the universe.
“I am happy and honored to pay tribute, and to experience the love that is in this room tonight,” he said. “For some, it’s a loss, but to heaven, she’s a gain.”
Michael Burke closed the tribute program, pausing for a long moment at the podium, and then reading from a prepared speech — something he never does — so he wouldn’t choke up. He and Brigitte had been together 50 years.
In her obituary notice, Burke included a quote from Victor Hugo: “You are no longer where you were, but you are everywhere that I am.”
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