Pierre Cardin, the French designer known for his bold and space-age designs, has died at the age of 98 in a hospital in Neuilly, near Paris, as announced by France’s Fine Arts Academy on Twitter.

Well-regarded by the Parisian haute couture set, Cardin dressed 60s luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot and the Beatle. It was Cardin who inspired the radical, collarless jackets that have become the standard in his generation and beyond.

Pierre Cardin starting in fashion in Paris after the war. He was an assistant at Paquin, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior before he struck out on his own in 1950.

A first for a French designer in 1959, Pierre Cardin broke ranks in Paris fashion by presenting the first ready-to-wear collections for both men and women. His name was stamped on practically everything, from silk to cigarettes, pens, clocks, shoes and later hotels, perfumes and restaurants as he became the “Napoleon of licensers”. He brought the inaccessible world of high fashion and with it, a steady stream of revenue for him. According to a report by the New York Times in 2002 said that Pierre Carding was earning $1 billion a year.

In the 1960s, Cardin was recognized for his groovy space-age designs for women. It was his interest in futurism and the Apollo space program that led him to put models in knitted catsuits, tunics, thigh-high boots and space helmets – which he called “Cosmocorps”.

“My favorite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow,” he once said.

In a 2009 interview with AFP, he said, “Fashion and design are not the same. Fashion is what you can wear. Design can be unpleasant and unpopular but it’s creative. So design is where the real value lies.”

But it was his menwear that had a truly lasting impact on his career. He adapted the collarless neckline of India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehur’s jackets for suits, which would go on to inspire the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The Beatles in Pierre Cardin, 1963. (Getty Images)

In 1969, in a career high, Nasa commissioned him to create a spacesuit. “The dresses I prefer are those I invent for a life that does not yet exist,” Cardin said at the time.

In 1979, Cardin became the first French designer to trade with China, and in 1983, he became the first to trade in the Soviet Union. He was also the first designer to hold a fashion show in Red Square, Moscow, drawing a crowd of 200,000 in 1991.

Pierre Cardin was born in Italy in 1922. Growing up in the French industrial town of Saint Etienne, it was hoped that Cardin would become an architect. But he was more interested in fashion than anything else.

Cardin’s family praised the well-renowned designer for his tenacious ambition and the “daring he has shown throughout his life”.

Cardin quit showing at Paris Fashion Week in 1996, saying he didn’t want “to be told when to show my fashion”.

While many lauded Pierre Cardin’s fashion and business strategy, many also got weary of his brand –which has remained largely unchanged through the year.

By the 2000s, the Pierre Cardin brand was no longer getting the attention it used to enjoy. In 2011, the designer put his fashion label up for sale, but failed to find a buyer.

Even so, Pierre Cardin’s impact on fashion was indelible. He built a name, and his name will never be forgotten.


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