Revolutionary fashion designer Pierre Cardin died Tuesday at the age of 98. Born to French parents on holiday in Italy, Cardin took a job as a tailor’s apprentice at the age of 14.
He first came to public attention as a designer when he created the costumes for the 1946 French film La Belle et la Bête. He then helped develop Dior’s famous ‘New Look’. The use of narrow waists and long full skirts revolutionised women’s fashion post-World War II.
Pierre Cardin founded the ‘House of Cardin’ in 1950. He showed his first collection in 1953. Movie stars and celebrities embraced his designs. In 1957, he became the first designer to market designer clothes to men.
In another departure from tradition, in 1959, he began selling ready-to-wear clothing in department stores. Other haute-couture designers saw mass marketing as almost blasphemous.
Years later, Pierre Cardin remembered the shock waves his tactic sent through French fashion.
“They said pret-a-porter will kill your name, and it saved me.”
Cardin went on to break new boundaries when he began to license the use of his name. Before long, the name Cardin adorned everything from aftershave to cigarettes. Often credited for his marketing acumen, he sold aftershave in an unambiguously penis-shaped bottle. Before Cardin, the advertising maxim ‘sex sells’ almost always referred to female models.
Cardin once said he would put his name on anything.
“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?”
The private Pierre Cardin
Cardin enjoyed a long relationship with partner André Oliver, who he also designed with. However, he also had a four-year affair with actress Jeanne Moreau.
Pierre Cardin’s family spoke in a statement of their pride in his ambition and daring.
“It is a day of great sadness for all our family. Pierre Cardin is no more.
“We are all proud of his tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life.”