French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98

Paris, France – Pierre Cardin, a designer who revolutionized fashion and built a couture empire, has died at the age of 98, France's Academy of Fine Arts said on Tuesday.

Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has died at the age of 98 (archive photo).
Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has died at the age of 98 (archive photo).  © imago images / PanoramiC

With Cardin, France has lost one of the greatest visionaries in fashion, known for co-developing futuristic fashion and marketing his name worldwide.

The designer was born in Italy on July 2, 1922, as the son of a French wine merchant. After World War II, he started to work as a fashion illustrator in Paris at the Paquin fashion house.

Shortly after, he moved on to Christian Dior, where he helped create the legendary New Look in 1947. Three years later, he founded his own haute couture company.

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Cardin continued to design collections into old age.

Along with Paco Rabanne and Andre Courreges, Cardin was considered the inventor of futuristic fashion.

In the early 1960s, he sent his models down the catwalk in astronaut-like suits and helmets. His futurist designs did not win him only friends in the fashion world, but Cardin said he was not bothered by that.

He found his ideas everywhere: Even a vase could provide inspiration, as he once told dpa.

Among his most successful creations were geometrically cut mini dresses with shooting target patterns and skirts with vinyl stripes.

First couturier with a ready-to-wear collection

Models show off Pierre Cardin's creations in a 2016 fashion show in Moscow, Russia (archive photo).
Models show off Pierre Cardin's creations in a 2016 fashion show in Moscow, Russia (archive photo).  © imago images / Russian Look

The industry veteran was the first couturier to launch a prêt-à-porter collection – and the first to lend his name to countless products such as furniture, mineral water, record players, and cars.

Cardin was also ahead of his time in other ways: He put out feelers to the former Soviet Union earlier than anyone else and was among the first to bet on the Chinese market.

His tailoring made Cardin one of the richest men in France.

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He leaves behind a fashion empire of hundreds of factories and licences worldwide.

He never made a secret of his wealth: He could afford anything, as he once declared in an interview. Self-confidently, he once told Radio FranceInfo that he had always looked further than the others.

In 1969, Cardin bought an old theater near the presidential palace in Paris and turned it into a cultural center with a top-notch restaurant. Later, he commercialized the Maxim's brand, selling Champagne and fine foods.

Even in his advanced years, he kept working, creating futurist fashion with a retro angle. He never ran out of ideas. "At night, I see shapes, materials, colours. I wake up, turn on the light, draw and write," he said.

Cover photo: imago images / PanoramiC

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