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Fashion Designer Pierre Cardin Passes Away at Age 98

pierre cardin
Pierre Cardin. Credit: Claude Iverne/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

French-Italian fashion designer Pierre Cardin passed away on Tuesday at the age of 98. Known for his revolutionary styles which did away with the bulky silhouettes of the 1950s, his designs were worn by the likes of the Beatles and many other fashion-forward celebs for decades.

He died in a hospital in Neuilly, near Paris. His family released a statement which said
“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.”

Cardin embodied the thirst for modern design that took over the world in the youth explosion of the 1960’s and 1970s, designing hats for women that looked like astronauts’ helmets. Other creations of his were literally impossible for a human being to wear — but they satisfied his need to push the design envelope.

Pierre Cardin: The inventor of “Ready to Wear” high-end clothing

In an important move, he single-handedly created “ready-to-wear” high-end clothing into a world in which good clothing was often tailored for the individual client. The middle classes of the world were suddenly able to acquire his classic clothing for reasonable prices.

Even doing away with such things as collars, lapels and cuffs, Cardin’s designs were slim and streamlined, much like the home decor, vehicles and furniture of the midcentury.

The fashion maven put his name on restaurants, perfume and furniture– as well as a jet that he designed himself for an upscale client.

Cardin worked into his 80s, putting out fashion lines on catwalks around the world.

He once said “The clothes that I prefer are those I invent for a life that doesn’t exist yet – the world of tomorrow.”

Born Pietro Cardin to French wine merchants near Treviso, Italy, the future designer was the last of eleven children. His parents fled to France before the Second World War.

Having been told by a fortune teller when a young man that he would become famous, he then asked her if she knew anyone at a French fashion  house. She did. After setting off to find the fashion house, Cardin encountered a man walking down the street and stopped him for directions. It was the man the fortune teller had mentioned.

Cardin soon found himself working for French fashion director Jean Cocteau, doing the costuming for his film Beauty and the Beast.

Within several years Cardin was well-known enough to set up shop on Paris’ famed shopping street, the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

A savvy businessman who had his head not in the clouds but on the bottom line, he was once quoted as saying “I don’t want to die without a nickel — then 20 years after I’m dead, see others make a fortune from my name.

“Look at me now, I am patron, artisan, propriétaire,” he once proclaimed to reporters —  not without a little pride in what he had built over the many decades of his career.

“Every day I work at my designs, and I control every cent.”

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