Tribute to Pierre Cardin
The celebrated couturier Pierre Cardin, the last of the great names from the golden age of French haute couture, has died. The designer, whose futuristic creations revolutionised 1960s fashion, was 98.
The son of Italian immigrants who became a world-famous businessman, Pierre Cardin was a modern man with many talents and boundless energy.
Before many others did the same, Pierre Cardin opened a concession in a department store, Le Printemps, and used male models. He wanted to make fashion more accessible by creating a “ready-to-wear” department in his workshops while dismissing the notion of elitist luxury.
He was also the first to set up a licensing system for worldwide distribution, attaching his name to products as diverse as ties, cigarettes, fragrances and mineral water.
He was a trailblazer, making a very early move into the Asian market, where he enjoyed a high profile: he went to Japan back in 1957, when it was still rebuilding, and started putting on shows in China in 1979. His ultimate accolade was being the first fashion designer to enter the Académie des Beaux-Arts, marking the recognition of fashion as an art in its own right.
Ready-to-wear pioneer and businessman
A pioneer of ready-to-wear fashion, Pierre Cardin was also a world-famous businessman. The designer, whose collarless suits inspired those worn by the Beatles, was also a man of culture and a patron of the arts, investing in theatre, dance and music, with the Espace Cardin in Paris and the Lacoste festival of opera and theatre in the Lubéron.
Pierre Cardin was known worldwide, and would dress the greatest artists and politicians of his time.
A life, an adventure
Having begun his career with a tailor in Saint-Etienne and having worked as an accountant for the Red Cross in Vichy during the war, Pierre Cardin arrived in Paris in 1945.
Following spells with Paquin and Schiaparelli, he joined Christian Dior, where he was part of the “New Look” revolution, before starting his own fashion house. With a futuristic aesthetic following the example of André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin found success from the start with his bubble dresses (1954). He experimented with innovative materials, colours and geometric shapes, and his designs included “op art”-inspired target dresses, figure-hugging dresses, ellipse trousers, colourful trapezoid coats and men’s Mao-collar suits. The designer was also the first to design clothes in synthetic materials, such as vinyl skirts.
He took inspiration from his fascination with the space race to create his “Cosmocorps” unisex suits in jersey fabric.
How can we describe the style of Pierre Cardin? Experimental, visionary and sculptural would be the words best suited to his creative life. As the designer himself said: “The shape comes first. Then the material, which gives the volumes, the fluidity, the flexibility. The colour only comes at the end”.
Dormeuil and Pierre Cardin: a long history of friendship
Pierre Cardin was a long-time friend of the Dormeuil family, and a loyal customer of the House from the start.
When the House of Dormeuil celebrated its 150th anniversary, Pierre Cardin wrote the preface to the book commemorating the occasion:
“Creation is disturbing. Its goal is to change millions of people’s lifestyle. It is a projection towards future. It is criticised but is finally imitated. After 40 years of creation, I understand now how material and colours are important when it comes to choosing a cut or a volume. For a Haute-Couture garment, the canvas is the beginning but the cloth finishes the whole. Without fabric, nothing is possible.”
At the Dormeuil 150th anniversary gala event, Pierre Cardin told Ashley Dormeuil an anecdote: at the beginning of his career, he suggested going into partnership with the House of Dormeuil to build his company. Xavier Dormeuil did not pursue the project, and Pierre Cardin, with a touch of humour, said to Ashley “perhaps you regret it now!”