In Memoriam: Fashion World Bids Farewell to Pierre Cardin
Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has died at the age of 98.
Cardin was credited with helping revolutionize fashion with his futuristic designs in the 1960s and 70s.
He was also a pioneer in business, licensing his name to be used on a range of products such as sunglasses.
He died in hospital in Neuilly, near Paris, his family told the AFP news agency.
Pierre Cardin was only 14 when he started as a tailor’s apprentice. At 23, he moved to Paris, studying architecture and working with the Paquin fashion house and later with Elsa Schiaparelli. In the French capital, he met the film director Jean Cocteau and helped design masks and costumes for the 1946 film “La Belle et La Bete.”
He moved to Christian Dior in 1946, working as a pattern cutter on the feminine “New Look” fashion of post-World War II. Four years later, he opened his own fashion house, designing costumes for theater.
In 1953, he presented his first women’s collection and the following year, he founded his first ladies boutique, Eve, and unveiled the bubble dress. The garment, a loose-fitting dress that gathers at the waist and hem and balloons at the thighs, won international acclaim. Soon, his fashions were being worn by such bold-face names as Eva Peron, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Mia Farrow and Jacqueline Kennedy.
In 1957, he traveled to Japan, becoming one of the first European designers to explore Asian influences. He later was a pioneer in getting China to break out of its drab, militaristic Mao Zedong look.
Also in 1957, he opened another Paris boutique, this time for men and called Adam, and featuring colorful ties and printed shirts. He later made the iconic collarless suits for The Beatles and helped dress such clients as Gregory Peck. Rex Harrison and Mick Jagger.
“Before me, no designer made clothes for men, only tailors did,” Cardin said in a 2009 interview posted by Agence France-Presse. “Today the image of designers is more focused on men than on women, right or wrong. So I was right 40, 50 years ago.”
In 1959, he shocked the fashion world by presenting a ready-to-wear show at a department store, Printemps in Paris. Following the show, he was expelled from the elite Chambre Syndicale, the French association of haute couture designers. (He was later reinstated.)
With the advent of U.S.-Russia space race in the late 1950s and ’60s, he launched the “Cosmocorps” collection — over-the-top unisex fashions from out of this world. His Space Age look included helmets, google, tunics and thigh-high boots.
“My favorite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow,” he said.
Or as he put it in the 2009 interview with AFP: “Fashion and design are not the same. Fashion is what you can wear. Design can be unpleasant and unpopular but it’s creative. So design is where the real value lies.”
By the 1970s, he became a pioneer in branding, putting his name on practically everything, including cars — American Motors Corp.’s Cardin AMX Javelin starting in 1971 — perfume, pens, cigarettes, even sardines. He was dubbed a “branding visionary” by The New York Times, which noted in a 2002 piece that some 800 products bearing his name were being sold in more than 140 countries, bringing in billion a year.
In 1981, he bought one of Paris’ best-known names, Maxim’s restaurant, reportedly for more than million.
“I’ve done it all! I even have my own water! I’ll do perfumes, sardines. Why not? During the war, I would have rather smelled the scent of sardines than of perfume. If someone asked me to do toilet paper, I’d do it. Why not?” he said in the 2002 interview with the Times.
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