Pierre Cardin was born July 7, 1922, in a small town near Venice, Italy. When he was a child his family moved to Saint Étienne in central France, where Cardin went to school and was then apprenticed to a local tailor at age 14.
After the war he moved to Paris where he began working as an assistant at the House of Paquin. One of his first jobs was creating some of the costumes for Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film, Beauty and the Beast.
Cardin then worked briefly with Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior before opening his own atelier in 1953. The following year he launched his ‘bubble’ dress, which brought him to the attention of the fashion media.
In 1959 Cardin made his first pret-a-porter collection for Paris’s Printemps department store – an initiative that got him temporarily kicked out of the Chambre Syndicale. Although he was allowed back in, Cardin eventually split from the Chambre Syndicale to create and show collections on his own terms.
He, along with André Courrèges, Paco Rabanne, Yves St. Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro, reshaped French couture in the 1960s for the younger woman. Textiles with modern art prints and man-made materials were embraced. Tailored mini dresses, pant suits, and car coats didn’t over-emphasize the female form but instead played up a liberated, Space-Age streamlined chic.
By 1970, Cardin was licensing his name and focussing on ready to wear. “The numbers don’t lie,” Cardin said in a 1970 French television interview. “I earn more from the sale of a necktie than from the sale of a million-franc dress. It’s counterintuitive, but the accounts prove it. In the end, it’s all about the numbers.”
Throughout the 70s, as his name began to appear on everything from bed sheets to chocolates, Cardin invested his wealth into a massive portfolio of Paris real estate. Cardin was everywhere – in 1986 Cardin worked a deal in the Soviet Union to sell his clothes made in Russia under his label. By 2009, Cardin estimated his worth at 1.4 billion dollars.
The Fine Arts Academy, of which he had been a member since 1992, announced his death on December 29, but the exact time, place, or cause of his death were not revealed.