Fashion Mourns The Loss Of Yves Saint Laurent Co-Founder Pierre Bergé

Industry legend and Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Bergé has passed away following a long illness.

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While New York Fashion Week is now well-under way, the fashion industry is taking a moment today to mourn the loss of Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Bergé, who has passed away from a neuromuscular disorder.

Announced by the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent in a press release earlier this morning, founding president Bergé reportedly passed away in his sleep at 5.39am at his home in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. At the age of 86, his husband Madison Cox survives him.

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Bergé co-founded the Yves Saint Laurent couture house in 1961 along with his then-partner, Yves Saint Laurent, which he ran for four years until 2002.

Bergé often admitted the highlight of his life was meeting Saint Laurent in 1958, to whom he married in a civil union days before the designer died of a brain tumour in 2008.

On meeting the then 23-year-old House of Dior designer, Bergé famously recalled of the encounter: 'I instantly recognised his genius.'

In the years to follow, the businessman worked as Saint Laurent's manager and publicist, helping him exhibit his first collection in 1964 and expanding the designer's haute couture business into the profitable ready-to-wear market, seldom achieved in the fashion industry before.

In 1986, Bergé assisted in the 25 per cent sale of the Saint Laurent business and used the profits to buy former cosmetics brand Charles of the Ritz, which owned several Saint Laurent fragrances.

Three years later, the Yves Saint Laurent Group became the first French design house to be listed on the historical Paris stock exchange, Paris Bourse, thanks to Bergé's business savvy and forward-thinking.

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Though his clients were mostly rich and conservative, Bergé was lover of the arts and shared his eye for detail and luxury with the world, serving as director of the Théâtre de l'Athénée and president of the Opéra National de Paris.

A key supporter of the Socialist Party and activist against social inequality, the businessman was equally as passionate about fashion as he was about politics and in 1992, founded Sidaction, France's leading AIDS research and support charity.

Well before the death of Mr. Saint-Laurent in 2008, Mr. Bergé had become a social superstar in his own right. As The New York Times writes, most of all, 'he seemed to relish the controversy that his wealth, power and prickly personality brought him.'

'People may hate me or love me, but they all want to brag that they once sat next to me at a dinner party,'he once said.

With a shared love of Morocco, Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent helped restore the country's Jardin Majorelle, making it into a cultural epicentre of North Africa.

In 2015, the President of France, François Hollande, promoted Bergé to the rank of Grand Officier of the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur.

A year later, His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite for eminent service to the Kingdom of Morocco.

Most recently, Bergé was to inaugurate two museums dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent that will open next month: in Paris in the former premises of the haute couture house, and in Marrakesh in a new building next to the couple's beloved Jardin Majorelle.

In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, Bergé opened up on the future of the fashion industry.

'The time of Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior and, of course, Yves — well, that time is over,' he admitted. 'To me, that whole industry now — all money and marketing — it is all something like a lie.'

"People may hate me or love me, but they all want to brag that they once sat next to me at a dinner party," he once said.

Speaking of the fashion industry's loss, former French culture minister Jack Lang commented: '[Bergé] was a magician who made his life and those who he loved a symphony of happiness.'

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