The fashion world on Tuesday lost one of its legendary and groundbreaking designers – Pierre Cardin died at the age of 98 in a hospital in Neuilly in the west of Paris.

France’s Fine Arts Academy announced the news of Cardin’s passing in a statement on social media. “The members of the Academy of Fine Arts announce with great sadness the death of their fellow member Pierre Cardin,” the elite French arts group Tweeted.

“It is a day of great sadness for all our family. Pierre Cardin is no more,” the family said in a statement. “We are all proud of his tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life.”

The official Instagram account posted the designer’s quote: “I have always worked in my own style, which is different from all others. It was always my intention to be different, because that is the only way to last.”

Fashion World Mourns

Cardin is credited with taking high fashion and some of the first ready-t0-wear collections to  the masses.

“Pierre Cardin designed clothes that were works of art,” posted actress Mia Farrow.

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The House of Dior paid tribute to Cardin, who they called “an icon of creativity and reinvention who continually forged new paths in Haute Couture and ready-to-wear. The Space Age couturier started out his career as the head of our tailoring atelier alongside Monsieur Dior.”

Nina Garcia, Elle Magazine editor and Project Runway judge, said that the fashion world had lost one of our lighthouses”.

“Cardin exemplifies in his designs how fashion has the power to design the future. His curiosity, his vision and his love for the art of fashion helped shape the dreams of many women during the second half of the twentieth century. Even today his designs are truly modern, with silhouettes and fabrics that have inspired many contemporary designers,” said Garcia.

From Italy to France

Cardin was born in Italy near Venice on July 2, 1922. He and his family moved from fascist Italy to France when he was two. 

At the age of 14 he started an apprenticeship as a tailor. At 23 he moved to Paris to study architecture and work 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.

In 1946 Cardin moved to Christian Dior 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 theatre.

In 1953 he presented his first women’s collection. The following year he founded his first ladies boutique known as ‘Eve’, where he released the loose-fitting dress that gathers at the waist and hem and balloons at the thighs. He named it the ‘Bubble Dress’ and international acclaim followed. Soon after this  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.

Cardin traveled to Japan in 1957 where he became the first European designer to explore Asian influences. He later pioneered in getting China to break out of its drab, militaristic Mao Zedong look. 

Also around this time he opened a men’s boutique in Paris, which he named ‘Adam’ featuring colourful 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.

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“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.”

Fashion For The Masses

In 1959, he shocked the world of fashion by presenting a ready-to-wear show at a department store, Printemps in Paris, which opened him up to all people, not just the private clientele he was catering to in the previous years. Following the show, he was expelled from the elite Chambre Syndicale, the French association of haute couture designers. (He was later reinstated.)

When there was the race to space between Russia and the US, Cardin took the opportunity in the 50’s and 60’s, to launch the “Cosmocorps” collection. This was a look that was over the top, unisex fashions from out of this world. The Space Age look included helmets, goggles, tunics and thigh-high boots.

He once said “My favorite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow.”

In another 2009 interview with AFP, Cardin said: “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.” 

Branding Czar

Moving through to the 1970’s, Cardin became a trailblazer in branding, where he put his name on practically everything, from cars – American Motor Corps, known as Cardin AMX Javelin, to perfume, pens, cigarettes, and even sardines. He was labelled 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 $1 billion a year.

A decade later, in 1981 Cardin bought one of Paris’s well known restaurants Maxim for a fee of more than $20 million USD. 

In the interview from 2002 with the Times he said “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?”

With his love of the geometric and strange designs, he designed a fabric named ‘Cardine’ for embossing abstract shapes on garments. 

Cardin owned and restored Marquis de Sade’s castle in Provence, where he hosted theatre and opera shows. In 2007 Architectural Digest said “Cardin has perfect pitch of the eye,” in a story they produced in regards to the restoration to the 15th century built chateau. 

Throughout his life he was a fashion trailblazer, however there was a time where he wanted to be an actor and he did some work on the stage as well as modelling and dancing professionally.

For his latest venture in February this year he teamed up with a designer seven decades his junior.

Even though Cardin was gay and was in a relationship with Andre Oliverm he had an affair with French actress Jeanne Moreau, which caused some distress between him and his life/business partner.

Cardin went above and beyond to be a trendsetter.  “I’ve always tried to be different, to be myself,” Cardin had said.”Whether people like it or not, that’s not what matters.”

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