French designer Pierre Cardin dies aged 98

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Renowned designer Pierre Cardin, whose innovative designs helped revolutionise fashion in the 1950s and 60s has died. He was 98.

Cardin, known for his futuristic designs - many inspired by the space age carved his own way through the fashion industry.

The French fashion giant, whose career spanned more than 70 years, broke barriers. He launched "ready-to-wear" collections, bringing high fashion to the middle classes.

In a statement to the press, Cardin’s family praised his “tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life”, as well as his contribution “early on into the flow of globalisation”.

He usher in the post-war "golden age" of couture with his modern style and also expanded into ladies' couture, restaurants, perfume and furniture.

He established global licensing agreements that put his name on everything from pens to watches.

Cardin was well respected, dressing 60s luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot and the Beatles, whose radical, collarless jackets – inspired by the fashion designer and worn on The Ed Sullivan Show – became the new standard for a generation still wearing their father’s suits.

Who was Pierre Cardin?

Pietro Cardin was born near Treviso in Italy in 1922. The youngest of 11 children, his family fled Mussolini’s regime and moved to France when he was a child. Growing up in the French industrial town of Saint Étienne, it was hoped that Cardin would become an architect but his interest lay in fashion.

Moving to Paris, he worked on the set of the film Beauty and the Beast with the poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau in 1947. Cocteau introduced him to Christian Dior, and by 1950 he had established his own label.

He went on to open his own boutique, Eve, on Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and create his 1954 bubble dress – tight at the waist, loose at the thigh and narrow at the hem, and famously worn by Eva Perón.

Cardin’s interest in futurism and the Apollo space programme led him to put models in knitted catsuits and space helmets, as well as men and women in avant garde tunics.

Cardin also set his sights on a new globalised world market, presenting a collection in Communist China in 1979, and Moscow's Red Square in 1991.

Tributes poured in

The fashion world paid tribute, with fellow French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier thanking him for "opening the doors to fashion and for making my dream possible".

Artistic director Jean-Charles de Castelbajac said Cardin was an "a very extraordinary man" who did not set borders between fashion, design or architecture.

"His inspiration boosted my imagination", and that for Cardin, the marketing and promotion of his art "was as important as the art itself," he told AFP.