French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98

Visionary designer Pierre Cardin died at a hospital in Neuilly, west of Paris, his family said. He was hailed for designing the era-defining futurist looks of the 1960s and 1970s.

The French fashion designer Pierre Cardindied at a hospital in Neuilly, west of Paris, on Tuesday at the age of 98, his family told news agency AFP.

“It is a day of great sadness for all our family. Pierre Cardin is no more,” the statement said.

France’s Fine Arts Academy confirmed Cardin’s death in a tweet, adding that members of the academy were “very sad.”

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Who was Pierre Cardin?

Born into poverty in 1922 near Venice in northern Italy, his family emigrated to France when he was still a child.

He grew up in the French industrial town of Saint Etienne. At the age of 17 he became an apprentice to a tailor in Vichy and was already specializing in women’s suits.

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Successful entreprenuer 

Born to French parents on July 2, 1922 in a town near Venice, Pierre Cardin was a teen when he started in dressmaking and quickly embraced the idea of “bella figura.” In men’s fashion in particular, Cardin designs have a sculpture-like silhouette. The owner of 800 factories worldwide, a castle, a museum and half a village, Cardin was one of the richest men in France. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN

Retro design 

In the 1960s, Pierre Cardin dressed his models in shiny patent leather, plastic, and tight, shimmering metallic bodysuits – all of which are totally hip at the moment, too. Cardin presented the above collection at the 2012 Barcelona Fashion Week. Cardin fashion is available worldwide in dozens of franchise and privately-owned retail stores. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Futuristic vision 

Cardin always tended toward Italian futurism. Painters and sculptors, architects and designers had a significant influence on his abstract fashion designs. Cardin’s ideas were often breathtaking – but not really suitable for everyday use. Few men would actually go shopping in a “Made by Cardin” outfit like the above. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Couture for men 

Cardin revolutionized fashion: each new collection was different, was more innovative. His creativity appeared to be boundless. He was the first fashion czar to sell affordable haute couture off the rack. The famous Galeries Lafayette department store carried his collections, including the above menswear for the fall/winter season 1983/84. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Quality matters 

Fastidious, Pierre Cardin made sure his fashion was cut from the best material. Fabric was made to his specifications. He was usually ahead of his terms in his choice of colors and texture. Cardin set new textile trends, and other couturiers often followed his lead. Above, the designer inspects exquisite tweed wool fabric.

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN

Icing on the cake 

The designer is involved in every minute detail before the models saunter onto the catwalk to present his latest fashion. Above, he tweaked a hairdo here and a hat there for a show presenting avant-garde fashion in Rome in 1960. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

The socialite 

Famous fashion designers like to be surrounded by rich, beautiful women. Or better still, celebrities, queens, film stars and female aristocrats. As a businessman, Pierre Cardin was fully aware of the promotional effect that stars like “Bond-Girl” Ursula Andress had when wearing his designs in the glitzy world of Hollywood. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

The Cardin brand 

The fashion house that Pierre Cardin founded in 1950 has become both a temple of haute couture and a vast business empire. Cardin has sold more than 600 licenses to produce clothes under his brand name. This discreet leather patch adorns the backside of Pierre Cardin men’s jeans all over the world. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Space Odyssey 

Always good for a spectacular surprise, Cardin let male and female models show his 2008 spring/summer collection striding down a catwalk across a desert landscape in northwestern China. A year later, he sold licenses to China to sell coveted Cardin fashion and accessories. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

True extravagance 

2016 saw the last Cardin fashion show to date. This time, however, it was presented in classic catwalk style in Paris, the fashion capital and the center of Cardin’s business empire since 1944. As always, the colors and styles were modern and distinctive. The nonagenarian still spends hours every day sketching draft designs. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Crafty genius 

His fashion and the Cardin empire have made the Italian-born designer not only rich, but also a legend among old-school fashion designers like Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Pierre Cardin was a match for them all.

He then moved to Paris, where he designed the mesmerizing sets and costumes for the film “Beauty and the Beast” with poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau in 1947.

After a stint with Christian Dior, Cardin founded his own fashion house in 1950. In the following decades he built up a global business empire.

Cardin’s futuristic looks

Along with Paco Rabanne and Andre Courrege, Cardin was hailed for developing the futuristic Space-Age-inspired styles that defined looks in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1954, he showcased the now-legendary bubble dress. A decade later, he unveiled the 1964 “Space Age” collection that remains a landmark in fashion history.

It was defined by cut-out dresses, knitted catsuits, tight leather pants, close-fitting helmets and batwing jumpers.

He was also credited with bringing stylish clothes to the masses, popularizing the turtleneck sweater for men and bodysuits for women.

Both businessman and designer

Cardin was the first designer to sell clothes collections in department stores in the late 1950s, and the first to enter the licensing business for perfumes, accessories and even food — now a major profit driver for many fashion houses.

His business sense was controversial. He sometimes faced criticism, accused of destroying the value of his brand and the notion of luxury in general. But he seemed largely unaffected by such comments.

“I don’t dream of money after all, but while I’m dreaming, I’m making money,” he told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2007.

“It’s never been about the money.”

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