The very successful businessman who co-founded one of the world’s most successful fashion line, Yves Saint Laurent, passed away early Friday morning.

Aged 86 Bergé died in his sleep following a long illness.

Bergé co-founded the very influential fashion line with Yves Saint Laurent, who had succeeded Christian Dior on his death. Saint Laurent was later fired from the company in 1960 after he was sent for military service.

Bergé had by then become his romantic partner, and together they created their own company, showing first in January 1962.

With Bergé in charge of the business, Yves Saint Laurent revolutionised fashion in the second half of the twentieth century – democratising the industry by introducing ready-to-wear line YSL Rive Gauche in 1967, reinventing iconic styles such as Le Smoking, Safari dress and the Mondrian dress, and forming lasting partnerships with muses like Catherine Deneuve.

Although the company was sold in 1992 (it is now part of Kering), Bergé had remained involved and was the president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, established in 2002 after YSL’s retirement.

While Bergé and Saint Laurent split in 1976, they maintained a close relationship (“the divorce was inevitable but the love never stopped,” he said in Saint Laurent’s eulogy) and wed in a civil union shortly before the designer’s death in 2008.

Bergé later remarried, and is succeeded by his widow, landscape designer, Madison Cox.

As a philanthropist, Bergé championed gay rights, donating a portion of the $484 million raised from selling the art collected by himself and Saint Laurent to AIDS research. The rest of the money has funded two new museums due to open shortly – the Yves Saint Laurent Museum Paris and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech.