Designer Pierre Cardin poses during the launch of the new Haute Couture collection by Pierre Cardin Paris at Maxim on November 26, 2013 in Paris.
Richard Bord | Getty Images
Pierre Cardin, who in his more than seven decades in fashion brought geometric shapes to haute couture and named everything from clothing to furniture and perfume to pens, died Tuesday. He was 98 years old.
“It is with great sadness that the members of the Academy of Fine Arts announce the death of their colleague Pierre Cardin,” tweeted the French Academy of Fine Arts.
Cardin died in a hospital in Neuilly, west of Paris, his family told Agence France-Presse.
“It’s a day of great mourning for our whole 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.”
Cardin switched from the world of bespoke high fashion for private customers to ready-to-wear designs for the masses.
“You said Pret-a-Porter would kill your name and it saved me,” Cardin once said.
Cardin was born on July 2, 1922, the son of a wealthy wine merchant near Venice. When he was two years old, he and his family moved from fascist Italy to France.
Cardin was only 14 years old when he started as an apprentice tailor. At the age of 23 he moved to Paris, studied architecture and worked at the Paquin fashion house and later at 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 switched to Christian Dior in 1946 and worked as a pattern tailor on the female “New Look” fashion of the post-war period. Four years later he opened his own fashion house and designed costumes for the theater.
In 1953 he presented his first women’s collection and the following year he opened his first women’s boutique, Eve, and unveiled the Bubble dress. The garment, a loose fitting dress that gathers at the waist and hem and balloons on the thighs, has been recognized internationally. Soon his fashion was worn by such bold names as Eva Peron, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Mia Farrow and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Pierre Cardin at the opening of the Musee Pierre Cardin on November 13, 2014 in Paris.
Pascal Le Segretain | Getty Images
In 1957 he traveled to Japan and was one of the first European designers to explore Asian influences. He later pioneered China to break out of its drab, militaristic Mao Zedong look.
Also in 1957, he opened another Parisian boutique, this time for men by the name of Adam, with colorful ties and printed shirts. He later made the iconic collarless suits for the Beatles and helped attract clients like Gregory Peck. Rex Harrison and Mick Jagger.
“Before me, no designer made clothes for men, only tailors,” Cardin said in an interview with Agence France-Presse in 2009. “Today, the image of designers is more focused on men than women, right or wrong. So I was right 40 or 50 years ago. “
In 1959, he shocked the fashion world by presenting a ready-to-wear show at a department store, Printemps in Paris. After the show, he was expelled from the Elite Chambre Syndicale, the French association of haute couture designers. (He was later reinstated.)
The French fashion designer Pierre Cardin opened his own fashion house in 1950.
Reg Lancaster | Getty Images
Over-the-top fashion from out of this world
With the advent of the US-Russia space race in the late 1950s and 1960s, he launched the “Cosmocorps” collection – exaggerated unisex fashions from around the world. His space age look included helmets, google, tunics and over-the-knee boots.
“My favorite piece of clothing is what I invent for a life that doesn’t yet exist, the world of tomorrow,” he said.
Or as he put it in an interview with AFP 2009: “Fashion and design are not the same. Fashion can be worn. Design can be uncomfortable and unpopular, but it’s creative. So design is the real value.”
He pioneered branding in the 1970s, giving his name to virtually everything, including automobiles – Cardin AMX Javelin from American Motors Corp. from 1971 – perfume, pens, cigarettes and even sardines. He has been called a “Branding Visionary” by the New York Times. A 2002 article found that around 800 products bearing his name were sold in more than 140 countries for $ 1 billion in annual sales.
In 1981, he bought one of Paris’ most iconic names, Maxim’s Restaurant, for more than $ 20 million.
“I’ve done everything! I even have my own water! I make perfumes, sardines. Why not? During the war, I would have rather smelled the scent of sardines than perfume. If someone had asked me to make toilet paper, I would do it. Why not? ”he said in a 2002 interview with The Times.
He loved using geometric and strange designs. He developed a fabric, cardine, to emboss abstract shapes on garments. One of his residences was the Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace), a bizarre collection of circular structures – a la “The Flintstones” meets “The Jetsons” – overlooking the Mediterranean Sea near Cannes.
In May 2003, Pierre Cardin celebrated his 80th birthday and 50 years of fashion design in his Palais Bulles.
Alain Benainous | Getty Images
He also owned and restored the castle of the Marquis de Sade in Provence, where he held concerts and opera performances. “Cardin has a perfect angle,” said Architectural Digest in a 2007 story of the restoration of the castle, which was originally built in the 15th century.
Although Cardin was gay, he had a five-year affair with Moreau, “the queen of French new wave cinema”. During the affair, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he had a relationship with longtime artistic director and life partner Andre Oliver. Oliver died in 1993.
Cardin’s fascination with space led him to NASA, where he tried on an Apollo 11 spacesuit in 1971, two years after the first moon landing. In 2019, 50 years after the first moon landing, the Brooklyn Museum hosted a Cardin retrospective. In the catalog he was asked about his vision of fashion half a century in the future:
“In 2069 we will all be walking on the moon or Mars with my ‘Cosmocorps’ ensembles. Women will wear plexiglass bell hats and tube clothing. Men will wear elliptical pants and kinetic tunics.”
Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.