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Pierre Cardin

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Pierre Cardin
Cardin in 1978
Pietro Costante Cardin

(1922-07-02)2 July 1922
Died29 December 2020(2020-12-29) (aged 98)
OccupationGrand couturier
Years active1945−2011

Pierre Cardin (UK: /ˈkɑːrdæ̃, -dæn/, US: /kɑːrˈdæ̃, -ˈdæn/, French: [pjɛʁ kaʁdɛ̃]), born Pietro Costante Cardin[a] (2 July 1922 – 29 December 2020),[1] was an Italian-born naturalised-French fashion designer.[2][3] He is known for what were his avant-garde style and Space Age designs. He preferred geometric shapes and motifs, often ignoring the female form. He advanced into unisex fashions, sometimes experimental, and not always practical. He founded his fashion house in 1950 and introduced the "bubble dress" in 1954.

Cardin was designated a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 1991,[3] and a United Nations FAO Goodwill Ambassador in 2009.[4]


Cardin was born near Treviso in northern Italy, the son of Maria Montagner and Alessandro Cardin.[5] His parents were wealthy wine merchants, but lost their fortune in World War I.[6] To escape the blackshirts they left Italy and settled in Saint-Étienne, France in 1924 along with his ten siblings.[6][7][8] His father wanted him to study architecture, but from childhood he was interested in dressmaking.[9]

Pierre Cardin dress, heat-moulded Dynel, 1968
Pierre Cardin dress, made from heat-moulded Dynel, 1968

Cardin moved to Paris in 1945. There, he studied architecture and worked with the fashion house of Paquin after World War II. He worked with Elsa Schiaparelli until he became head of Christian Dior's tailleure atelier in 1947, but was denied work at Balenciaga.[10] While at Dior, he contributed the popular Bar suit for Dior's inaugural 1947 "Corolle" collection, already displaying the deft tailoring that he would be known for in later years.[11]

Cardin founded his own fashion house in 1950.[12] His career was launched when he designed about 30 of the costumes for a masquerade ball in Venice, hosted by Carlos de Beistegui in 1951. Cardin inaugurated his haute couture output in 1953 with his first collection of women's clothing and became a member of the Chambre Syndicale, a French association of haute couture designers.[13] The following year he opened his first boutique Eve,[13] and introduced the "bubble dress", which is a short-skirted, bubble-shaped dress made by bias-cutting over a stiffened base.[14][15] He was the first couturier to turn to Japan as a high fashion market when he travelled there in 1957.[12]

As haute couture began to decline, ready-to-wear ('prêt-à-porter') soared as well as Cardin's designs. He was the first to combine the "mini" and the "maxi" skirts of the 1970s by introducing a new hemline that had long pom-pom panels or fringes.[16]

Beginning in the 1970s, Cardin set another new trend: "mod chic". This trend holds true for the form or for a combination of forms, which did not exist at the time. He was the first to combine extremely short and ankle-length pieces. He made dresses with slits and batwing sleeves with novel dimensions and mixed circular movement and gypsy skirts with structured tops. These creations allowed for the geometric shapes that captivated him to be contrasted, with both circular and straight lines. Cardin became an icon for starting this popular fashion movement of the early 1970s.[17]

Inspired by space travel and exploration, Cardin visited NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in 1970, where he tried on the original spacesuit worn by the first human to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.[18] Cardin designed spacesuits for NASA in 1970.[18]

Pierre Cardin and the French composer Régis Campo, from Académie des beaux-arts, Institut de France, Paris, 2017
Pierre Cardin and the French composer Régis Campo, from Académie des beaux-arts, Institut de France, Paris, 2017

Cardin resigned from the Chambre Syndicale in 1966 and began showing his collections in his own venue.[13] He also designed uniforms for Pakistan International Airlines, which were introduced from 1966 to 1971 and became an instant hit.[19]

In 1971, Cardin redesigned the Barong Tagalog, a national costume of the Philippines, by opening the front, removing the cuffs that needed cufflinks, flaring the sleeves, and minimizing the embroidery. It was also tapered to the body, in contrast with the traditional loose-fitting design, and it also had a thicker collar with sharp and pointed cuffs. A straight-cut design was favored by President Ferdinand Marcos.[20]

In 1975, Cardin opened his first furniture boutique on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.[21] In 1977, 1979, and 1983, he was awarded the Cartier Golden Thimble by French haute couture for the most creative collection of the season.[22] He was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Prêt-à-Porter from 1953 to 1993.[23]

Cardin's first American-made, mass produced home furnishing collection came in 1977 when Cardin partnered with Dillingham Manufacturing Company, Scandinavian Folklore Carpets of Denmark for Ege Rya Inc., and the Laurel Lamp Company.[24]

In 1979, Cardin was appointed a consultant to China's agency for trade in textiles,[25][26] and in March of that year, he became the first Western designer to present a fashion show in China in many decades.[27]

Like many other designers today, Cardin decided in 1994 to show his collection only to a small circle of selected clients and journalists. After a break of 15 years, he showed a new collection to a group of 150 journalists at his bubble home in Cannes.[23]

A biography titled Pierre Cardin, his fabulous destiny was written by Sylvana Lorenz.[28]

A documentary on Cardin's life and career, House of Cardin directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes premiered to a standing ovation on 6 September 2019 at the 76th Venice International Film Festival in the Giornate degli Autori section, with Mr. Cardin in attendance.[29]

Eponymous brand[edit]

Pierre Cardin used his name as a brand, initially a prestigious fashion brand, then in the 1960s extended 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".[30]

Pierre Cardin-branded pen
Pierre Cardin-branded pen

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.[30] 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.

In 1995, quotes from WWD included "Pierre Cardin—he has sold his name for toilet paper. 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 failure.[30][31]

In 2011, Cardin tried to sell his business, valuing it at €1 billion, although the Wall Street Journal considered it to be worth about a fifth of that amount. Ultimately he did not sell the brand.[31]


Cardin interior in a 1972 AMC Javelin
Cardin interior in a 1972 AMC Javelin

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 ... is rank heresy."[32]

The business initiatives included a contract with American Motors Corporation (AMC).[32] Following the success of the Aldo Gucci designed Hornet Sportabout station wagon interiors, the automaker incorporated Cardin's theme on the AMC Javelin starting in mid-1972.[33] 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".[34]

The original sales estimate by AMC was for 2,500 haute couture "pony" and muscle cars.[35] The special interior option was continued on the 1973 model year Javelins.[36] During the two model years, a total of 4,152 AMC Javelins received this bold mirrored, multi-colored pleated stripe pattern in tones of Chinese red, plum, white, and silver that were set against a black background.[37] The Cardin Javelins also came with the designer's emblems on the front fenders and had a limited selection of exterior colors (Trans Am Red, Snow White, Stardust Silver, Diamond Blue, and Wild Plum) to coordinate with the special interiors.[38] However, 12 Cardin optioned cars were special ordered in Midnight Black paint.[37]

Other interests[edit]

Pierre Cardin with the sculptures Cobra Table and Chair, 2012
Pierre Cardin with the "utilitarian sculptures" Cobra Table and Chair, 2012

Cardin owned a palazzo in Venice named Ca' Bragadin.[39] Although he claimed that this house was once owned by Giacomo Casanova, some scholars have argued that it was owned by another branch of the Bragadin family, and that its usage by Casanova was "somewhat unlikely".[40]

Personal life[edit]

Cardin self-identified as being mostly gay,[41] but in the 1960s he had a four-year relationship with actress Jeanne Moreau.[42] His long-term business partner and life partner was fellow French fashion designer André Oliver, who died in 1993.[43][44]


Cardin died on 29 December 2020,[45] at the American Hospital of Paris, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, at the age of 98.[46] No cause of death was given.[47]



  1. ^ Italian pronunciation: [ˈpjɛːtro karˈdin], Venetian: [kaɾˈdiŋ].


  1. ^ "Biography" (PDF). pierrecardin.com. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Biography". pierrecardin.com.
  3. ^ a b "UNESCO Celebrity Advocates: Pierre Cardin". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Meet the Goodwill Ambassadors: Pierre Cardin". The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  5. ^ Myers, Marc (18 August 2020). "Pierre Cardin Sent Fashion Out of This World". wsj.com.
  6. ^ a b Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (2013). World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence. Routledge. ISBN 978-0765683007.
  7. ^ "Pierre Cardin - fashion designer". Itay On This Day. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  8. ^ Hesse, Jean-Pascal (2010). Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation. Assouline. ISBN 978-2-7594-0424-7.
  9. ^ "Savannah College of Art and Design". library.scad.edu.
  10. ^ FashionUnited (12 November 2014). "Eternal futurist of fashion Pierre Cardin opens new museum at 92". fashionunited.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Cardin First Struck Gold with Suit Made for Dior". The New York Times: 22. 27 August 1958. Retrieved 5 April 2023. ...Cardin...designed one of the most successful models...a suit called 'Bar,' which buyers the world over bought.
  12. ^ a b Steinberg, Marty (29 December 2020). "Pierre Cardin, ground-breaking fashion designer and master marketer, dies at 98". CNBC. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "Pierre Cardin, Fetish for the Bubble". Aganutacouture.com. 26 July 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  14. ^ Morana, Virginie; Morana, Véronique (1999). The Parisian woman's guide to style. New York, NY: Universe. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-7893-0372-1.
  15. ^ O'Hara, Georgina (1989). The encyclopaedia of fashion: from 1840 to the 1980s. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 56. ISBN 9780500275672.
  16. ^ "Pierre Cardin: A Trailblazer of Fashion". Indigobluestyle.com. Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  17. ^ Längle, Elisabeth (2005). Pierre Cardin: Fifty years of fashion and design. London: Vendome Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780865651661.
  18. ^ a b Längle (2005), p. 20
  19. ^ Kureishi, Omar (4 May 2003). "Pierre Cardin comes to PIA". Dawn Magazine. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  20. ^ Edwards, Louise; Roces, Mina, eds. (2010). The Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas. Sussex Academic Press. p. 31. ISBN 9781845193997.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Pierre Cardin Biography" (PDF). pierrecardin.com. 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  22. ^ Längle (2005), pp. 199–200
  23. ^ a b "Daring Geniuses: Pierre Cardin". fashionheritage.eu. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  24. ^ Reif, Rita (6 October 1977). "Cardin's Furniture Debut Shimmering Chic". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  25. ^ Prial, Frank J. (8 January 1979). "Business People". The New York Times: D2. Retrieved 14 November 2023. Pierre Cardin...said in Paris that the Chinese Government had named him as a consultant to its textile‐trade agency. Under the agreement with Peking, Mr. Cardin will advise the Chinese on how to style their textile products to make them more marketable in the West.
  26. ^ Hendelson, Marion. "Fashion". Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia 1980 Yearbook: Events of 1979. New York, USA: Funk & Wagnalls, Inc. p. 166. ISBN 0-8343-0034-6. Pierre Cardin of Paris was made fashion advisor to the Chinese government in 1979.
  27. ^ "Cardin Shows Haute Couture Designs in China". The New York Times: C5. 19 March 1979. Retrieved 14 November 2023. Pierre Cardin today gave the Chinese their first taste of haute couture in decades when he showed off his collections of spring and summer fashions for women and fall clothes for men.
  28. ^ Lorenz, Sylvana (2006). Pierre Cardin: son fabuleux destin (in French). Paris: Editions No 1. ISBN 9782846121910.
  29. ^ Zargani, Luisa (6 September 2019). "Pierre Cardin Documentary Screened at Venice Film Festival". Women's Wear Daily. Retrieved 9 October 2022.
  30. ^ a b c Reddy, Mergen; Terblanche, Nic (2005). "How Not to Extend Your Luxury Brand". Harvard Business Review. 83: 20.
  31. ^ a b Dike, Jason (23 November 2015). "Digging Deeper – Pierre Cardin's Demise to "Licensing King"". Highsnobiety.com. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  32. ^ a b "Pierre Cardin Goes Industrial". Business Week: 44. 1972. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  33. ^ "Introducing the Cardin Javelin". New York Magazine. New York Media: 45. 20 March 1972. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  34. ^ Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0-7603-0761-8.
  35. ^ Mays, James C. (2006). The Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction. Indy-Tech Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-7906-1322-2.
  36. ^ Lamm, Michael (October 1972). "AMC: Hornet hatchback leads the lineup". Popular Mechanics. 138 (4): 119. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  37. ^ a b Cranswick, Marc (2012). The Cars of American Motors: An Illustrated History. McFarland. pp. 112, 125, 247. ISBN 978-0-7864-4672-8.
  38. ^ Foster, Patrick (April 2007). "Pierre Cardin Meets the Javelin". Hemmings Classic Car (31).
  39. ^ Remos, Ana B. (16 April 2013). "Pierre Cardin's Magnificent New Building in Venice". Azureazure. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  40. ^ Perrottet, Tony (April 2012). "Who Was Casanova?". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  41. ^ Hélène Guillaume (6 July 2017). "Pierre Cardin, le créateur entrepreneur qui inspire les jeunes". Madame Figaro (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  42. ^ Michael Markus Mvondo (24 June 2020). "Jeanne Moreau: relation amoureuse difficile de 4 ans avec Pierre Cardin, ouvertement gay". amomama.fr (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  43. ^ Mendes, Valerie D. (23 October 2011). "Obituary: Andre Oliver". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  44. ^ Horwell, Veronica (29 December 2020). "Pierre Cardin obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  45. ^ "Pierre Cardin: French fashion giant dies aged 98". BBC News. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  46. ^ "Le couturier français Pierre Cardin est mort". BFMTV. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  47. ^ Ferla, Ruth La (29 December 2020). "Pierre Cardin, Designer to the Famous and Merchant to the Masses, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  48. ^ "Cardin Sig. Pierre". quirinale.it (in Italian). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  49. ^ "Cardin Sig. Pierre". quirinale.it (in Italian). Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  50. ^ Gouvernement de Monaco (18 November 2007). "Ordonnances Souveraines (Décorations) N° 7835" (PDF). legimonaco.mc (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2019.

Further reading[edit]

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