“Fashion design is so diverse. It does not have clear identities as before with Balenciaga, Chanel, Cardin, Courreges. Design is about being recognised without a label. Elegance alone is not sufficient,”
— Pierre Cardin
Cardin’s father, a wealthy French wine merchant, wished him to study architecture, but from childhood he was interested in dressmaking. At 17 he went to Vichy, Fr., to become a tailor at a men’s shop. After World War II he joined the Parisian fashion house of Paquin, where he helped design the costumes for Jean Cocteau’s film Beauty and the Beast. He also worked at the couture house of Christian Dior.
In 1950 he opened a shop of his own and gradually gained a solid reputation as a men’s suit maker. He created one of the first ready-to-wear collections for women presented by a “name” designer and by producing a ready-to-wear collection in 1959, Cardin broke the rules of the top French couture guild. However, by doing this he sold clothing to a wider public and many designers followed his example.
In 1960 introduced the first designer ready-to-wear collection for men. He sold new, informal men’s gear like collarless jackets and roll neck jumpers. He made collarless suits which the Beatles’ later stage costume resembled.
His interest in architecture showed up in the geometric shapes which became his trademark in the 1960s. His dresses were decorated with circular and rectangular motifs. He preferred crisp, supple textiles like wool crepe and jersey, manufactured by the Italian firm Nattier. His stark, short tunics and his use of vinyl, helmets, and goggles helped launch the so-called Space Age look
In the mid-1960s . Cardin later became famous for licensing his name for use on a variety of products (such as sunglasses). The practice of licensing subsequently became common for fashion designers.
Pierre Cardin used his name as a brand, initially a prestigious fashion brand, then in the 1960s expanded successfully into perfumes and cosmetics. From about 1988 the brand was licensed extensively, and appeared on “wildly nonadjacent products such as baseball caps and cigarettes”. A 2005 article in the Harvard Business Review commented that the extension into perfumes and cosmetics was successful as the premium nature of the Pierre Cardin brand transferred well into these new, adjacent categories, but that the owners of the brand mistakenly attributed this to the brand’s strength rather than to its fit with the new product categories. The extensive licensing eroded the brand’s credibility, but brought in much revenue; in 1986 Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) estimated Cardin’s annual income at over US$10 million.
Many asked, at what point do you lose your identity?” and “Cardin’s cachet crashed when his name appeared on everything from key chains to pencil holders”. However, the Cardin name was still very profitable, although the indiscriminate licensing approach was considered a damaging.
Sleeveless coat in double-face wool, 1992
Cardin experimented with designing dramatic, geometric silhouettes in new synthetic fabrics that defied traditionally feminine styles of the era, bringing Space Age–chic to the public pre-2001. He expanded his bold reach into the realms of menswear, home design, accessories, and jewelry, as well as a restaurant (Maxim’s) and a multipurpose arts venue in Paris. At 95, Cardin remains at the helm of his empire, which is honored in Assouline’s recently released book, Pierre Cardin (Legends).
The tome is filled with shots of his vibrant, contorted designs. It includes quotes from celebrities and other designers on Cardin’s legacy, as well as several thoughts from the designer himself, such as: “Fashion is an X-ray of society” and “It was always my intention to be different, because that is the only way to last.”
His business empire extends to more than one hundred countries and indirectly provides employment to almost 200,000 people in hundreds of factories. Cardin’s products are consumed by 150 million people across the world and make his business empire about 12 billion dollars in annual sales. Cardin holds over 500 patents in design, architecture, advertisement, and entertainment. He collaborated with director Mark Zakharov and ballerina Maya Plisetskaya in stage and film productions in Moscow, Russia. In 1998 Cardin created the “Chekhov’s women” collection in commemoration of the Centennial anniversary of the Moscow Art Theatre.
Cardin entered industrial design by developing thirteen basic design “themes” that would be applied to various products, each consistently recognizable and carrying his name and logo. He expanded into new markets that “to most Paris fashion designers, it is rank heresy.” Sbarro Stash, 1974
The business initiatives included a contract with American Motors Corporation (AMC). Following the success of the Aldo Guccidesigned Hornet Sportabout station wagon interiors, the automaker incorporated Cardin’s theme on the AMC Javelin starting in mid-1972. This was one of the first American cars to offer a special trim package created by a famous French fashion designer. It was daring and outlandish design “with some of the wildest fabrics and patterns ever seen in any American car”.
Cardin’s legendary personal modesty has been complementing his graceful generosity. He was appointed UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. He continuously supported World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention programs of UNESCO. Mr. Cardin has initiated numerous humanitarian projects such as campaign for the benefit of victims of Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
He designed the CHERNOBYL medal and jewelery for the benefit of UNESCO. He is a global traveler with a mission to spread the message of brotherhood and unity across the world. In 1995, the Year of Tolerance, Cardin created six flags that were raised over the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Pierre Cardin is internationally regarded as a visionary and leader in art, business, and public diplomacy. He received three “De d’Or” by Cartier for French Haut Couture, in 1977, 1979, and 1982. Mr. Cardin is the elected member of Institut de France and Officer of the Legion of Honor. He is the owner of Maxim’s and Espace Cardin Gallery on Champs-Elysees in Paris. He is living in Paris, France.
Pierre Cardin was among the first to create a designer line that promoted environmental issues, called “Environmental art.” An astute international businessman, Cardin has never borrowed from a bank. He auto-financed everything and reinvested his profits in property. Pierre Cardin’s name is on hundreds of products, including men’s wear, perfumes, watches, floor tiles, furniture, and others.
Pierre Cardin’s Riviera estate built on a rocky cliff on Massif de L’Esterel, the futuristic cluster of semi-spherical residences is nicknamed “Palais Bulles” and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. The entire complex comprises 13,000 square feet divided between ten interconnected domes or 28 spherical rooms, three swimming pools, a 500-seat amphitheatre and several gardens. Asking price for the extravagant terracotta-coloured bubble estate is £300 as it features many improvements after the designer bought it at auction in the early 90s.
It is a house that has become emblematic of Cardin’s aesthetic both on the catwalk and off it with no straight lines present in the interior, exterior or furniture. His love for sensual, natural and curvy lines shines through in the way the estate as been put together, making it truly a sight to marvel.
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– IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov
Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla