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Life story of French designer Pierre Cardin

May 1, 2022


Pierre Cardin was French designer of clothes for women and also a pioneer in the design of high fashion for men. He was born on 7 July 1922 in Venice, Italy. 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. In 1959 he created one of the first ready-to-wear collections for women presented by a “name” designer and in 1960 introduced the first designer ready-to-wear collection for men. In the mid-1960s his stark, short tunics and his use of vinyl, helmets, and goggles helped launch the so-called Space Age look. 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.

Fashion designer Pierre Cardin was a supreme innovator – for 70 years, he ripped up convention and captured the zeitgeist. His thirst for the new and surprising was never satisfied.

He will be remembered for his futuristic designs – some were inspired by the Space Age, some were even impossible to wear.

He carved his own way through the fashion industry. Parisian haute couture had always been exclusive its high priests believed it should be high-end, individually tailored and eye-wateringly expensive.

Cardin broke the mould. He launched “ready-to-wear” collections, bringing high fashion to the middle classes. His designer peers were aghast, and threw him out of their club.

In the 1950s, men wore traditional suits which made the young look like their fathers. Cardin threw out the boxy jackets and stiff white shirts, creating a revolutionary look for a new, progressive generation.

Gone were the bulky details; collars, lapels, tails and cuffs. Trousers were tapered and hung loosely on the hips.
In an instant, young men had their own identity; smart, sleek and nothing like their dads. The Beatles, amongst others, were quick to recognise Cardin as “one step ahead of tomorrow”.
He expanded into ladies’ couture, restaurants, perfume and furniture. He established global licensing agreements that put his name on everything from ballpoint pens to fancy watches. It brought fashion down from Olympus and gave it to the masses.

By 2018, the man who had once been the youngest designer in Paris had become the oldest. But even in his 90s Pierre Cardin was still putting models on catwalks, seeking new ways to capture the future before it exists.

“The clothes that I prefer are those I invent for a life that doesn’t exist yet – the world of tomorrow”, he said.
He was the last of 11 children.

His parents took one look at Mussolini and fled back to France. They wanted young Pierre to be an architect but, even as a child, it was clear his interests lay in fashion and design.

They found themselves in Vichy, under the heel of the Nazis. Cardin learned his trade as a tailor and worked alongside the Red Cross.

One day, a fortune teller read his cards and told him he would be exceptionally successful; his name known as far away as Australia. He thought she was crazy, but asked her if she knew anyone in Paris where he wanted to work for a fashion house.

She gave him a name. Having nothing to lose he set off, stopped a man on the street to ask directions, only to find he was the man she had mentioned. Crazy, it might have been, but it was beginning to feel a lot like fate.

He showed up at Paquin, one of France’s leading fashion houses, met the legendary film director, Jean Cocteau and began working on his costumes for Beauty and the Beast. Impressed, Cocteau introduced him to Christian Dior.

Within five years, Cardin was well-known enough to set up on his own. Dior helped him open a boutique, called Eve, on the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. He designed a bubble dress; tight at the waist, billowing at the thigh and narrow at the hem. It became an overnight, global sensation. His client list included Rita Hayworth and Eva Peron.
Seeking inspiration from abroad, Cardin visited Japan and taught tailoring at their fashion schools.

[Biography taken from BBC and britannica.com]

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Originally published at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txHNQsYCIXU

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This news story originally appeared at Fashion - on 1 May 2022