Pierre Cardin, Legendary French Fashion Designer, Dies at 98
Fashion designer Pierre Cardin, whose name became synonymous with branding and licensing, has died.
Cardin, 98, died on Tuesday morning at the American Hospital in Paris, his family told the Agence France-Presse. The French Academy of Fine Arts confirmed his death on Twitter.
As an haute couture designer, Cardin's futuristic fashions were popular in the 1960s. But he became globally influential for decades past that because he understood, pioneered and created the globalized market for French luxury items, and showed a demand for licensing brand names on items beyond a typical fashion line.
"This is a day of great sadness for all our family," a statement from his relatives reads. "Pierre Cardin is no longer. The great couturier that he was, has crossed the century, leaving France and the world a unique artistic heritage, but not only, in fashion.
"We are all proud of his tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life. A modern man of many talents and inexhaustible energy, he joined the flow of the world very early on in the globalization of goods and trade."
Born in Italy in 1922 and raised in Saint-Étienne, France, Cardin began honing his craft early. At 14 he became a tailor's apprentice and moved to Paris at 23 to study under designers Paquin, Elsa Schiaparelli and later Christian Dior. During his time in Paris, he designed costumes for Jean Cocteau's film, Beauty and the Beast, before starting his own brand, the House of Cardin, in 1950.
His label became known for his avant-garde designs, most notably, the balloon dress, which ruched into a "bubble" at the hemline. He defined space age dressing in the '60s with his geometric creations and was worn by names including Jacqueline Kennedy, his muse Jeanne Moreau, and Brigitte Bardot.
As a businessman, the designer had few equals. As early as the late 1950s, he turned towards the Japanese (and later Chinese) markets, creating a diverse system of product licensing. For decades, he grew and oversaw a worldwide distribution of products bearing his name on every form of product from ready-to-wear to makeup, perfumes, accessories, automotive designs, cigarettes and many, many more.
An art collector and theatre lover, he opened galleries and owned theaters in Paris and in 1981, purchased the city's celebrated Restaurant Maxim's. In a much retold anecdote, when word got out that the celebrated restaurant might be downgraded by Michelin inspectors, Cardin reportedly told the Guide he no longer wanted to be included.
That prompted another merchandising takeover by Cardin. A slew of luxury products — including champagne, chocolates and caviar — now carry the restaurant's branding.
He designed collections well into the 21st century (Lady Gaga was seen in one of his creations), opened the Past-Present-Future museum in Paris in 2014 to display his work, and was last seen out in September to toast 70 years of the Pierre Cardin brand and host a special screening of the documentary, House of Cardin, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
"If it's little dresses people want, I can do them with my eyes closed," he once told The New York Times. "But I am above all of that. My life is on an intellectual level much higher than that of La Couture."